AcD: The Human Element

I spent the past few days doing more experimentation with Modo and quickly learned that the latest version includes sample meshes and textures.  While I typically don’t like use pre-built elements, they do allow one to focus on the core creative vs. being concerned with every discrete element within the piece.

Fortunately for me, one of the collections contains human figures and busts.  I decided to use and replicate a few of these meshes to start moving away from traditional hard-edged designs (buildings, spaces) and towards a design composition that is more personal and “real.”

Coincidentally, this is perhaps one of my first digital designs, if not the first, where people are explicitly included in the scene. Even though these are virtual humans, it is the human element that I think allows for a stronger “connection” to these pieces – at least, that’s how it feels to me.  The human element is definitely something you will start to see more of in designs to come.

Below are a few sample renders, but you can see the entire collection here.

Nike Design: The KDIII and the Kobe VI

In a desire to break out of my typical exercise routine, I joined a basketball tournament at the gym where I am a member (Note: It’s always helpful if you know how to play before you join a tournament :-) .

Ironically enough, my new sneakers led me to further explore Nike’s web site, where I was surprised to find videos of the industrial designers who work at Nike.  The videos are really interesting because they go into the background behind the shoe, calling attention to the unique design elements that make these shoes truly unique.

Nike Zoom KD III: Leo Chang Discusses the Nike Zoom KD III

Nike Zoom Kobe VI: Eric Avar Discusses the Nike Zoom Kobe VI (The Black Mamba)

AcD: City of Gold (Masters)

Advanced Concept Design, or AcD, is the title surrounding my newest portfolio.  The City of Gold series that I created this past weekend was expanded upon and further refined.  The result of which is the first entry into the AcD portfolio.

What is interesting is that these designs are all based upon a single rectangle in three dimensions.  The simplicity of the model allows for a greater focus in composition, palette exploration and image refinement.  I am very pleased with how these ultimately turned out and very encouraged for further work in this space.

Check out the entire collection on Ink.

Digital Sculpture: City of Gold

If you have ever seen any of the Star Wars movies, you’ll see a consistent theme regardless of film: immense and seemingly infinite spaces.  In earlier episodes, the Death Star is perhaps the largest “space”, while Coruscant is the equivalent in more recent episodes.

I have always been fascinated with large scale settings such as these.  This is perhaps why I have always been fascinated with cities such as Tokyo and other large metropolitan centers.  The design and complexity of these areas is nothing short of staggering.

To create a digital matte painting of such a space takes considerable effort and planning.  To start an initial exploration process, I created several renderings which I call the “City of Gold.”  You can see the entire collection here.

Immersion: Mental Framework

In one of my earlier posts I called attention to a book by Martin Seligman entitled Learned Optimism.  In it, the author presents a useful framework for being successful (*) using the following analogy:

“A composer can have all the talent of a Mozart and a passionate desire to succeed, but if he believes he cannot compose music, he will come to nothing.  He will not try hard enough.  He will give up too soon when the elusive right melody takes too long to materialize.  Success requires persistence, the ability to not give up in the face of failure.  I believe that optimistic explanatory style is the key to persistence.”

He then goes on to list the three characteristics that determine success:

  1. Aptitude
  2. Motivation
  3. Optimism

Of course, this framework is missing the “X” factor; an encapsulation of circumstances and random events that can positively or negatively influence one’s “success” at any given point in time.  Independent of this, I’ve found the framework useful enough to incorporate into Immersion:

While the Immersion concept began nearly one year ago, the “mental” underpinnings became clear only recently – and ultimately through Seligman’s unique insight.

(*) – In the spirit of building/maintaining self-esteem, it has been said that one does not strive to be successful – she/he already is successful.  However, I believe the framework described above is valid regardless of one’s position.

The Green Zone.

Design: “Evolution”

7: Concept Vehicle – Initial Sketches

Right now I’m unsure how many sketches I’ll post on a daily basis, but here are a few from day 1.  Prismacolor pencil is, I think, the best way to get some initial ideas on paper; doing a similar exercise in digital just isn’t the same.

As you can see here, I’m leaning towards a vertically-oriented cockpit and am exploring the use of various power / transmission mechanisms.  (Click on the images below to enlarge)

(Click on the above image to enlarge)

Seven Days.

After some brief thought over the past twenty-four hours, I’ve decided to spend the next seven days designing a new vehicle concept.

Given this type of experiment, I am not going to spend a lot of time developing a creative brief because my goal at this point is pure creative focus, and less so on adherence to a specific need (fabricated or otherwise).

This journey will start with some exploratory sketches using traditional media (pencil, markers, etc.) and will ultimately conclude with a final 3D rendering using Modo and Photoshop.  While I’ve done several designs and models, these efforts have been separate and distinct – thus, I think it’s going to be a challenge (at least right now) to incorporate both into one project, particularly within such a short duration.

The benefits of this challenge are many.  Two that immediately come to mind include the following:

  1. Be able to independently start and finish a design void of any external forces (clients, instructors, etc.).
  2. Develop techniques to accelerate creative thinking.

If this experiment proves successful, it’s entirely possible you’ll see other seven day challenges appear on the horizon throughout the year.

Immersion: Operating Framework and “Post Digital” Concept

The concept of an operating framework is to organize your time and effort into specific areas of focus.  In theory, and with appropriate discipline, an operating framework can accelerate one’s development in one or multiple areas.  The very nature of writing down one’s goals (or visually representing them) can plant these ideas and objectives into one’s subconscious, and this becomes a very powerful motivator even if you aren’t explicitly thinking of the framework on a daily basis (you shouldn’t be).

For example, here is an example of a partial framework from 2007 (Plane 6 – “Foundation”):

(Click on the image to enlarge)

While I listed electronics and software development within this framework, I didn’t end up spending a lot of time in these specific areas.  And that’s where the evolution of an operating framework becomes relevant; where are you focusing your energy?  And if you aren’t spending your time in certain areas, is this necessarily a problem?

In the Immersion (Plane 10) framework shown below, there is now a clear separation of what I’ve focused on in the past and what I ultimately need to focus on in the future.  This is a radical shift given that I’ve typically had to justify and take on multiple, parallel tracks that had little relationship to one another – other than the fact that one path was for survival, and the other more aspirational.  By logically separating these skills from the “core”, they will eventually become dormant and by default, the skills that I want to develop will have developed due to this increased focus (i.e. a self-fulfilling prophecy).

(Click on the image to enlarge)

Layered above these “dormant” skills are multiple layers of activity – all leading to a radically advanced portfolio along with an increased level of interaction weighted more heavily in the real-world than in the digital realm. What’s truly important here is that this increased interaction ultimately stems from a broader range of experiences.  Not surprisingly, this has a dual purpose; the greater one’s experiences, the greater one’s ability to learn, identify challenges and design solutions to those challenges.  Experiences represent a designer’s playground.

Finally, one concept that perhaps serves as the basis for this framework is John Maeda’s concept of “post digital”:

[Post Digital] is a term that I created as a way to acknowledge a distinction between those that are passed their fascination with computers, and are now driven by the ideas instead of the technology.  [...] the “post digital” generation refers to the growing few that have already been digital, and are now more interested in Being Human.

Ultimately, this is exactly what Immersion is all about – I’m less interested in the technology for technology’s sake.  Rather I am interested in using technology to increase idea generation to make people’s lives better.