Constellation – How Things Are

During this year in my studies, following My Life as a Spacecraft, I shifted my written focus onto the course entitled How Things Are: Embodiment, Matter, Ecology. Some of the works we examined and read include Aristotle’s hylomorphism and Tim Ingold’s book “Making [Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture]”. As supplementary reading material I also read the article “From Seduction to Fulfilment: The Use of Anthropomorphic Form in Design” by Carl Disalvo and Francine Gemperle to learn more about general affordances in design that could potentially aid our studies in matter and form.

Over the course of this topic I realised just how similar what I took in from it was to my life as a spacecraft in terms of the concepts it described, the use of embodiment and how both could closely blend in with my product studies and the way in which I can utilise what I learn in them. While I didn’t end up writing too much about embodiment itself save form its practical use in anthropomorphic design, I figured out quite early on that this study into matter and embodiment could link with my product design studies in general affordances – how things are designed to be used by humans, often taking on anthropomorphic qualities to appeal to our own set of personal and cultural expectations.

One of the things we learned about in a later session was “hylomorphic world view”, a form of thinking prevalent for most of recorded history, pioneered by the likes of Aristotle in ancient Greece. This view highlights human importance in matter and form, how man is at the forefront of creation. This didn’t sit right with me in this day and age, since I have no cultural or religious reasons to feel like humans are superior in any way to the rest of life itself.

The more I read into the subject of anthropomorphism, the more it seemed to flow from the same vein of Ingold’s animistic views (wherein all products are matter, grown rather than made) despite being almost polar opposites. Where anthropomorphism would see things designed for human use, animisticism would see that humans are only a small part of the chain of events that lead to the construction of products. And when I put the two together, I came to the realisation that these affordances didn’t apply to just people of different cultures and backgrounds, but could apply to animals, plants, forces in ways unexpected. I struggled for a while to find a way to link these ideas in written form, and I spent a lot of time going back and adapting my words in a way that clarifies my points. I think in the end the idea of man-made design became more of the antithesis of my essay, the villain of the story so to speak.

I wanted to explore what products meant to life other than human life. And in doing this I found my first major link. It was hidden in plain sight the entire time. When we create things for human use, they become an agent, an influential factor in the creation of something else later in time. As Ingold states, tools aid us in creation of items. But the same is true for the items themselves, they aid the world around us in infinite ways with each passing instant. Even though we think we use tools to create products, and use products to satisfy our needs, we are still contributing to a global time-lapse of creation and transformation of matter that started at the beginning of the universe and will end if it is ever no more. The system of creation expands in complexity and reach over and over and never stops. Nature’s application of the mathematical principle of chaos theory.

In chaos theory, the “butterfly effect” describes the phenomena that a single seemingly-inconsequential event could have world-altering effects on a much grander scale than imaginable. This is a trope of time-travel science fiction, where the hero would already know the outcome of events from personal experience, but something they did in the past would drastically alter the outcome of the future – leading them to their conflict, their tragic mistake that they need to fix in order save the day in the end. See: Back to the Future. In my context of breaking down hylomorphism and pushing my idea that world is working in unison it takes a slightly different and more profound meaning. It describes a world in which, as Ingold states and as previously mentioned, innumerable complex systems (forces, agents, tools, humans, animals) all contribute to the transformation of matter. This became my thesis, to explain my thoughts on animisticism and how creation is a worldwide collaborative effort.

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A part of my essay (not final).

The idea of bringing together everything I had learned into this essay title came about in one of the final study group sessions, where we were asked to present ideas for essays on sticky notes. I had written down about the studies and disciplines that I had learned over the weeks on a few different sticky notes and I hadn’t realised exactly how they could all come together at the time, save for the points previously mentioned. I showed my ideas to the tutor and he immediately made the connection between my points, and so I used these notes to come up with the thesis and antithesis of my title:

Matter, Creation and Product Use from an Animistic World View

This essay will focus primarily on the influence outside forces (agents) have on the creation (or growth) of a product, describe my thoughts on why nature and man-made design are not inherently different, but work in unison, and subsequently aim to explain my ideas that the world is an infinitely complex collaborative effort that sees us working with active materials in order to further the evolution of all matter in time.

Summary:

In light of my written work in animistic views and natural collaborative creation, I am motivated to try and create a product in the future that factors in more outside influence from these agents than would contribute in a controlled environment. For example, I would like to try and create something outdoors on a windy day and examine how it influences the form, the matter of the resulting product. I think this could make for an interesting learning experience for me.

 

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Year One: A Reflection

Over the course of this year I’ve had so many fun creative challenges and gone through so many new and unique ideas that shaped my learning experience. I came into this year hoping to pick up new skills and enhance the skills in design I already had.

I feel I’ve achieved what I set out to do in this regard, having learned new skills and techniques for sketching, rendering, shaping and sculpting many materials into tangible 3D models. The ability and the resources to take my ideas and manifest them in a physical form is something that I’ve always wanted. Though I had previous experiences in design at college and school and even at home, nothing I created ever had an intended real-world purpose, to solve a problem or fit in a real-life context.

However, there were things I wish I’d done more of. Real world time constraints and external pressures prevented me from getting as much done as I had intended. In contrast to this, in some areas of my work I’ve shown out-of-the-box thinking and drive to do more than was expected of me. I feel this is demonstrated best with my early digital models, which were not made with CAD. I had applied my pre-existing knowledge of 3D modelling using design/animation software Blender, which I was taught to use way back in College, to create a digital representation of a few ideas in the earlier projects, as well as to demonstrate function and form to group members I’d worked with.

My favourite thing this year was re-learning digital modelling from the perspective of Product Design rather than Game Design/Animation. The fundamentals of the tools used are vastly different, while many processes and basic functions are shared. I found that with CAD modelling, shapes are formed far less organically in a calculated and mathematical manner, whereas with Game Design and Animation in tools such as Blender and Maya most of the creation of models is based on perception and far more free-form than CAD.

I look forward to continuing to learn new skills and better communicate my ideas in the next academic year. I hope to substantially improve my sketching ability and my rough modelling, as I struggled with confidence in these areas, and subsequently missed out on a lot of potential work in the ideation and concept stages of design.

An early version of the CAD model I created for my end of year presentation. Based on my first project at the start of the year.

Speaker: Development

Here is a quick collage of a few of the designs I took to the CAD modelling stage:

The first is my original model, showing the basic shape of the project. The second is an example of one of the ideas I had for an alternative shape. The final models show the proposed internal structure and the tilting mechanism I had intended to use. I also made a few renders demonstrating the context of use for my presentation.

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I am very happy with how my CAD skills have progressed in a short time, and I currently feel like this is my strongest and most confident area of work so far. I think I should allocate more personal time to developing CAD models for more ideas in future projects to play to my strengths a little bit.

Speaker: Concept

During this stage I had decided to narrow my work down to only a few ideas. These included the simplistic “hourglass” figure and the aero-inspired design. I took both of these into modelling. Eventually I settled on the latter. The basic shape is inspired by an existing product Mission produces, which is a large speaker system.

Internally, the structure is minimised to allow the sound to travel through the cover/filter from all directions. Externally the shape is designed for as much speaker area as possible. The stand is tilt-able, allowing even more control over sound output, and the form itself is as minimal as possible based off my peer/tutor feedback.

In retrospect, I feel I should have worked to make the basic shape of my concept idea more distinct from the product I was inspired by. I spent a long time thinking about this shape and I was struggling to find an alternative that had the same wide area of output and visual appeal. Given more time I would revisit this and make something more unique and unusual as I had originally planned.

Speaker: Ideation

To kick off the ideation stage this time around, I started by producing a number of very basic line sketches to try different forms and shapes that came to mind based off my mood boards and my brand’s existing products. Each new page traced elements from the first to expand on previous ideas using layout pad and fine liner.

Rough Sketches

The products that stood out from this stage were the more unusual and unorthodox shapes, so I made a mood board based on this idea of designing something unusual.

Some unusual speakers.

Speaker: Brand Analysis

We started off this assignment by analysing the brand we have chosen. From this we all printed out many pictures of our brand’s existing products. From this we looked at everybody’s brand and gave them single words based on our observations of the products.

Using this feedback I produced 3 mood boards, to set the tone of my project. The words I have chosen are “Traditional”, “Industrial/Professional” and “Monochrome”.

Speaker: Brand Alignment

Today we started a new assignment, Speaker Project. The aim of this assignment is to align myself with an existing technology brand and design a portable speaker solution in their style and form.

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The company I have chosen as my brand is Mission Electronics, an audio tech company based in UK, a very popular brand amongst music enthusiasts which doesn’t seem to have much of an online presence.

On their facebook page they describe themselves as follows:

“Mission is a hi-fi speaker manufacturer and through an engineering-led approach to product development, is an industry leader in loudspeaker reproduction.”

Their slogan is “Music is the master; Technology is the slave.”
“Mission’s Ethos has always focused upon bringing audiophile performance down to an affordable level.” This speaks volumes about the brand’s identity and their mission when they create their products. They set out to produce hi-fi speakers of professional quality, sleek design and affordable price.