Archive for the ‘Design Lab’ Category

When you spend a considerable portion (ok, almost all of it) of your waking hours by your computer, the comfort of your work station becomes important. The angle of your chair has to be just so. The phone has to be reachable. The background music can make or break your day. It was therefor incomprehensible that I let my mousepad bother me for so long. It had served me well for many years, but the corners had ripped, the edges scratched my wrist and some kind of plastic residue seemed to collect under the mouse. It was clearly time to let go.

Commercially available options didn't appeal to me. They just seemed, well, too commercial or at least impersonal. As a crafty designer, I needed to tackle the issue hands on. For materials, I chose felt and leather and got them laser cut to size. The beauty of laser is that you can also cut the holes for stitches. It is then easy to glue and backstitch the pieces together.

Even if my waking hours are mostly spent with the computer, there is something incredibly satisfying to touch needle and embroidery floss. It made me miss my knitting. It is also nice to look at and feel my hand stitched mouse pad every time I work.

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When designing and wearing jewelry, I like to go with selected statement pieces.  Same seems to be true with graphic design work, or even interior decoration. One big bold piece with lot of negative space keeps it clear and simple. However, when I mean bold, I really mean bold. So, no wonder I ended up experimenting with  a statement bumper sticker.

Although I try to keep my bumper stickers to bare minimum, I enjoy reading them. Sometimes political,  often funny and occasionally outrageously obnoxious, they reflect car owner’s personality and provide infinite entertainment on long car rides.  But really, are these people being paid for advertising ski resorts or local coffee shops? I thought your own car (and bumper) should remain the free zone for expressing yourself, not promoting some random business.

If it wasn’t clear to everyone who’s reading my blog, I row. I row competitively. I love rowing. Rowing is now build into my core with such force that being out of the water for longer than a day causes physical withdrawal symptoms. One big bold statement word on my bumper should naturally be ROW.

The bold statement sticker (or in my case, magnet) should of course be in-your-face, metallic and 3D.  I modeled it with Rhino and got it printed in strong nylon. After adding the magnets and giving it many (many, many) coats of spray paint, it was done. The material turned out to be rather porous and the final color wasn’t as chrome-like as I would have liked. The next step will be to experiment with different materials to achieve better finish.

PS:  Adding a little bit of gangsta bling to my preferred sleek European car definitely appeals to my screwed sense of humor that I so proudly nurse and cultivate.

This is the first post in the upcoming sporadic series of DESIGN LAB. I will experiment with new manufacturing methods and techniques. Results and pictures, good or bad, will be posted here. Some of these sketches may eventually find themselves in production and the web store, but mostly I’m just playing around.

For the longest time, I’ve been wanting to try laser cutting. Though the laser cutter is pretty old technology, the price point is still very high. It is not in my radar to purchase my own machine quite yet. So, I turned to a service bureau; Ponoko.

Ponoko carries a vast catalogue of materials from leather and wool felt to acrylics and plywood. The prices for materials are reasonable, but price for an individual design may hike up fast, if the design is complicated and specifically if it includes lots of engraved details. This makes balancing between designer’s and consumer’s happiness tricky. Seemingly simple designs may end up carrying a hefty price tag.

This time, I chose to work with white melamine MDF, Cherry Veneer MDF and natural cardboard.

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Cherry veneer has a nice sheen and works quite nicely for jewelry. Here, I made a simple pendant by utilizing a ready made silver setting and designing a piece to fit in. The lesson here; Fonts need to be bold. Otherwise, the result is too subtle with the natural wood grain. The “CHILL” text on the bracelet below is barely visible.

chill I was particularly excited with trying the “live hinge” method. Stiff material, such as wood, can be made flexible by cutting  a pattern of vertical lines. Each thin part will give in a little, just enough to for a nice bend. However, for jewelry purposes and heavy usage items, this is just too brittle. It might be possible to use some kind of enforcement. For the bracelet below, I used duck tape :). For this to work, it needs more R&D.

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Laser cutting is essentially flat design. With some construction, one is able to expand it to 3d. Here is a simple egg pendant which can be shipped flat and assembled when received.

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The white melamine picks up detail really well. Even the thinnest lines will read clearly. Also, the material  tolerates high heat pretty well. Therefor, it was my material of choice for this trivet.

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One last material I wanted to experiment with was cardboard.  These earring display cards will easily fold flat for gift boxes.

packagingOver all, much fun to play with and definitely a learning experience. Next, I will try leather and felt for some bags and cases.

Oh, and a word of warning: All natural fibers and organic materials such as wood, leather or felt will be smelling like smoke. Laser cuts by burning. Eventually, the smell fades, though.