Blog 15: Reflections on Product Design 1A: Fundamentals

Reflections on Product Design 1A: Fundamentals

Undertaking this course for the last three months has been a genuine learning experience and, for me, an exploration of the real basics of the field. Whilst I have previously overlooked many of the skills that we have focused on (eg. Composition of rectilinear forms, drawing in perspective and the study of compound curves) I feel as if my skills as a designer will have greatly improved from this experience.

Being a good designer involves having a solid foundation of the ‘fundamentals’ which we have studied and having the ability to relearn what you already think you know. An example of this for me was where we studied primitive form at the beginning of the course and then compound curves later on. If I had not studied primitive form then my appreciation of many of the products with compound curves would be greatly diminished as it made me really interrogate the internal skeleton of the product. The form of every product can be broken down incrementally into it’s most basic structure and the ability to see this helps you to understand the shape you are looking at.

The basic structure of a form is important and once we had studied it my classmates and I could not stop seeing the structure embedded into everyday life. An example of this was in our rectilinear forms. This exercise taught us composition in the most basic format possible compiling three cuboids together to make something ‘elegant’. In George’s Blog he discusses how the outline of the shape can be visible in negative space in the city skyline as well as the architectural design of some of the buildings in ECA.

Below you can see how, after studying these fundamentals, my perspective on 3D form has changed.

Above I have highlighted the outline of the building which is reminiscent of our rectilinear form task. Composition exists both in simple exercises and in the real world of products and architecture.

Finally the course has also taught me to enjoy exploring the basics and to be humble in the progression; this is important because it is only through repetition and iteration that your skills as a designer will improve and enjoying the process is just as important as completing it.


Blog 14: Two-Point Perspective & Subtractive Drawings

Two-Point Perspective & Subtractive Drawings

Earlier in the semester we learnt to draw in two-point perspective which is a method of drawing three dimensional objects. This is particularly effective when using crating as the method relies on creating boxes where the lines of the boxes go towards a vanishing point. In the future this method can used in a more complex way and the boxes can be used as a skeletal model for a drawing


The drawing on the left also uses reference geometry to ensure that all the cubes are evenly spaced even though they are on a vanishing point. The second is an exercise where we were asked to draw a number of cubes together, I found that it became more interesting when the cubes are placed on the ends of the vanishing point as the level of distortion becomes much greater.

This is a three point perspective which is more interesting as it also affects the vertical lines in the cubes. This is usually applied when drawing buildings or large structures especially from an arial view.

Here I was asked to draw a number of cubes in two-point perspective and then subtract shapes from within them. This is a good exercise to prepare for when this technique is used for drawing actual products (or shapes which are more complex shapes than simple cubes).


Blog 13: Drawing Circles & Curves in Perspective

Drawing Circles & Curves in Perspective

As a class exercise we were asked to draw some physical items which included compound curves. This was the in-class exercise which corresponds to the compound curves drawing task in Blog 08. Our first task was to recreate two items infant of us: a pringle and a bar of soap.

I personally found the pringle much easier as it could be treated as a 2D shape being bent over a frame. The bar of soap however had more depth and so needed more attention to the dimensions as well as the shapes of the curves.


The next task was to draw circles in perspective. A way of tackling this is to draw a frame around the circle and effectively use the box method. By creating a three dimensional frame for the circle to fit in you give the shape constraints to give yourself a rough idea of how it should look.

I tried the various methods and found that using a 2-point perspective, which we learnt earlier in the course, was the easiest way of creating an accurate circle in perspective.


Blog 12: Wax Casting and Aluminium Pour

Wax Casting and Aluminium Pour

With the two part mould that we created last week we can begin the next process which is wax casting. This is done as an intermediate medium between plaster and, eventually, aluminium.

The plaster mould needs to be prepared by being soaked in a water bath for roughly 10 minutes. This allows the air to escape the mould. The wax is also prepared by being purified and then melted. Below you can see how the melt and pouring temperatures of wax are different, the melt setting being 100OC and the pour being 60OC. Once the mould has finished soaking it is tightly secured with bike tubing to make sure that no wax gets through the cracks.

After my first pour I found that I was happy with the outside finish of the wax cast. However it did have a plaster residue on the surface which I tried to take off with a scalpel but this didn’t work. I also noticed that I had poured the wax too quickly and so whilst it was solid on the outside it was still molten on the inside. This meant that it was less dense on the inside so it felt squishy and weak. I should have continued pouring because as the wax cooled it shrunk and so there was not enough wax in the form and it lost it’s shape easily.

I then tried a second pour which meant that there would be less surface residue on the wax form. I also made sure to pour it much slower, this meant it cooled as it was poured which leads to a much more solid form but it also creates layers where the wax doesn’t quite bond properly. I felt that this was still preferable as it felt stronger and so it was less likely to collapse into itself like the former pour.

For the Aluminium pour the wax casts, with the runners still intact, are connected to a central wax pole. The individual forms are then attached onto this as branches. The must be on a downwards angle so that the aluminium can run down into the cavity. The red wax is attached on any upwards draft angles to allow air bubbles to escape. Everything that is currently wax will be melted and turned into aluminium. Finally the tree is secured to a coffee cup and coated with wax, this acts as a basin for the alluvium to be poured into.

The wax tree is then coated with an aggregate which is painted on until the mould is fully covered. This dries and solidifies until it can be used as a mould suitable under the heat of molten aluminium. Eventually this will be broken open to reveal the cast underneath.

The aluminium is poured in and fills up each runner which will then be removed later on. The mould is broken open and the tree is taken out. Each form can then be removed and finished individually. This is the finished product of the pendulum project.



Blog 11: Creating a Two Part Mould

Creating a Two Part Mould

To transform the plaster form into a different material, a form must first be made. The pendulum is designed to be made using a two part mould which is because of it’s simplicity and lack of undercuts. To make the moulds I am using plaster as it is very quick to make and also it turns from liquid to solid, it’s fluidity is very important to allow it to flow into all the crevices of the design. When it hardens the form can be removed from the mould.

I started by building up a base of clay around my form. This gives the shape of one side of the mould and then the plaster poured over will make the negative of the shape that is created. It is important to use soft soap in this phase on the form and on the edges of the wooden panels. The wooden panels are placed around the outside of the mould to keep the plaster from pouring out.

You can see here how the pour is set up and how the clay makes up the positive half of the mould. In the clay I also included a runner to allow the wax to be poured in later and also keys so that the second half of the mould would fit into it.

Once the clay was removed I was left with the mould shown above. This process was then repeated to create the second half of the mould in the exact same way. It is important to remember to soft soap the piece or otherwise the plaster will bond and all your work will be lost.

I found that my plaster form was difficult to remove from the mould and so it broke in the process. This was not a problem as I was able to rotate it to ensure that the second half of the mould was still complete. It is essential that the moulds are good quality to ensure a quality wax pour.


Blog 10: Pendulum Design and Plaster Turning

Pendulum Design and Plaster Turning

This week’s brief was to design a pendulum and turn the form in plaster on the lathe. The form should be able to hang so this needed to be taken into consideration. I initially started by designing some 2D forms from the cross section of the piece.

For these fifteen designs I tried to draw them three at a time in columns so that each column included shapes which were iterated from the forms above. I also tried to refer back to what I had learnt in the primitive form brief by using simple shapes and merging them together to create a more complex pendulum.

Note that the grey parts on these designs are where the design features undercuts. These are possible to create on the lathe however would be difficult to create in a 2-part mould. In industry this problem could be resolved by using a more complex mould with more parts.

I liked using the primitive forms so I continued along this route by giving myself a basic skeletal model and then creating the form around it. In this way I could reverse engineer the final outcome from the basic shapes that it is made up of. I started with a triangle and a circle (which in 3D would be translated into a cone and a sphere) and then focused on subtracting and adding parts to or from it. This is similar to an exercise we did earlier on in the semester.

I then chose my favourite design, one from the first page, and then translated this into a 3D form using a comic marker to indicate the shadow. I liked this design because of it’s simplicity and how I felt it would behave as a physical object. It is composed of only two primitive forms.


Plaster Turning:

Turning the plaster was an interesting experience especially when trying to create a form that has already been designed. This meant that I was cautious not to gouge too deep in the rough stage of shaping it. As Big Z said ‘It’s already inside there, its somewhere. Now what you’re doing is trying to find it, reveal it. Every carve counts.’

What I found after shaping it was that I had air bubbles inside the plaster. This is not a problem as these can be filled with clay during the making of the form. The quality of the plaster piece is essential as this will determine the quality of the form and therefore the quality of the final cast.

Overall I was happy with the outcome of the piece and happy that I chose this design as I feel that it’s lack of ability to stand on it’s point lends itself to be a hanging object.


Quote from Big Z from “Surf’s Up”, 2007


Blog 09: Individual Rectilinear Forms

Individual Rectilinear Forms

I wanted to make this blog post to highlight the individual forms that I made as part of the week 2 brief. I felt that this would be an interesting distinction from my previous post (Blog 06) where I presented the compositions as a whole and then focused on some of my favourite ones. I really fell in love with the task of making them and I love their uniqueness and individuality.

In our class there are thirteen of us and we all made a minimum of fifteen rectilinear forms. This totals almost two hundred forms and none of which were identical. This really interested me as initially I had thought that with such a simple brief it would be a real struggle to have much creativity. This was not the case and I really enjoyed making them and beginning to understand Rowena Reeds ‘Language’ of composition.

This exercise is composition in it’s most basic form.


In a couple of the pieces you can see where I have explored floating elements in the pieces. This was achieved either by placing a larger element on top of a smaller structural piece or by allowing the form to overhang to a degree where it appears to float.

I was also interested by using cubes in the composition as this eliminates any randomness as all the vertices are all the same length and so gives the piece a more ordered and thought through look. Whilst I like this I think it would have been more effective if all of the pieces featured cubes as this would make them look more intentional and so drive home the effect of precision.


Blog 08: Compound Curves in 3D Form

Compound Curves in 3D Form

This week’s brief was to look for and document compound curves in functional objects at the national museum of Scotland. After documenting the form it was our task to draw the form and then change it’s shape by changing the curves that it’s made up of. By accident I went to the national gallery of Scotland but decided to stay to look at the sculptural pieces which might exhibit more interesting forms than seen in normal products. However to make this work with the brief I looked for forms which also, in my mind, could be turned into products whilst maintaining their form.

“Beehive”- Gordon Munro, 2000

I initially found a piece by Gordon Munro called “Beehive”. This is a bronze sculpture made in 2000. Munro said of the piece:”it is celebrating the positive nature of community and how much more can be achieved by collaborating rather than existing in isolation.” This is a message which seems to be becoming evermore relevant especially during the current climate crisis to which the symbolism of bees seems almost ironic.

What is interesting about the form in this sculpture is although there are compound curves of different sizes there are repetitive breaks along the outline of the shape. This broken-up nature would make the curves interesting to draw as there is a contrast between the soft outline of the overall figure and the angled channels. It would be interesting to vary the distances between channels and the softness of the curve.

“Autumn Studio”- James Castle

My favourite piece ended up being “Autumn Studio” above which is a pair of sculptures made from painted jesmonite. I focused more on the sculpture on the left as I was drawn in by it’s asymmetry and unusual form. Whilst it does not have any rotational symmetry it gives an illusion of perfection when, at closer look, it is deliberately misshapen.

Whilst looking at the piece I felt that the form would make an interesting household item so I experimented with the idea of it being a vase or jug.

I first started by drawing the shape to get a better understanding of it. I found that by starting with it’s skeletal structure and building it up I could really understand the mass of the object.

Next I attempted to turn it into a jug by giving it a handle and a spout in a way that I felt was in keeping with the tone of the piece.

*I adapted the brief in this way to my interest as a personal exploration to branch the gap between functional and sculptural art. It was interesting to see whether form, in this case, really did dictate function and whether some forms are suited only to sculpture and have no place in the design of a product.

Firstly I started by repeating the initial silhouette of the product multiple times to allow myself to to design through iteration and push the boundaries of what could be considered a handle. The last exercise I did was to change the body of the jug by changing the skeletal elements. The silhouette is comprised of three circles so in the last page I changes the shape, size and number of circles along with the distance between them.

I really enjoyed the process of adapting existing shapes to try to create a product and when designing in future I will make sure to pay more attention to the internal skeleton of the form.


Gordon Munro- Beehive, RSA Diploma Collection Deposit, 2005

James Castle- Autumn Studio, RSA


Blog 07: Grading & Shading to show 3D Form

Grading & Shading to show 3D Form

In this class exercise we were given some exemplar 3D forms to try to emulate to give the viewer and idea of how the form would look if it was a physical object. Translating 2D form into 3D for is a critical skill to communicate an idea.

The top row shows the exemplar forms, the second and third are my recreations of the forms however in the second row we were given the outing of the object.

Given Example:

In the depiction of this volume the shade was created by using singular dots and their density created an illusion of depth and shadow. Note the highlighted regions on the cylinder which give the object a sense of realism, in the centre of the shadow you can see where light is being reflected off of the table and towards the right edge you can see where light is being reflected off of the back wall.

Attempt 1:

Here I experimented using the same technique as the above example, this technique worked well for curved surfaces like the cone and sphere but didn’t work as well for flatter surfaces like the cube as the dots must be placed with such regularity that it is hard to show that the surface is completely flat.

Attempt 2:

In the bottom row you can see where I have tried to use a marker pen to communicate the form. This is harder to do with a marker as there is no gradient between light and dark so the contrast ends up looking quite jarring. If I had a range of marker colours this could be a more eye catching method to use in the future.