Friday, April 21, 2017

Design Avatars

live lecture
Figures do so much more than indicate scale! They serve as avatars for the end-user, exposing non-optic features of any design, including those that address plant, soil and water management. Chris Grampp, author and co-chair of the Landscape Horticulture Department at Merritt College invited me to discuss my approach to using figures at Merritt's design forum. Keep it practical was his direction. 
For a spring afternoon, live watercolor sketching on the document camera and inviting folks to draw-along seemed appropriate. I had a lot of fun. During Q & A, someone asked how to draw dogs. I could only answer in relation to a human figure. (Proportion is so fundamental.) Fortunately, someone in the crowd knew dog anatomy and informed us that curvy part is the dog's knee. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Matchstick Men and You

figures for design workshop exercise
weight-shifting of matchstick figures

A good group of designers has signed up for Figures for Design this month! My challenge is to identify and preserve each person's stroke style and give guidelines for proportion and level of detail. Everyone possesses a stroke style, whether they identify as being able to draw or not. Like other behaviors, stroke style can be discerned and incrementally modified. Above is one phase past paperclip people on the workshop's path toward identifiable figures that communicate ideas without drawing attention away from the design itself. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Gullible Travelers

from bluff overlooking top of Alamere Falls, Point Reyes NP

Sunday. I persuaded a friend to do a 7.5 mile hike in Marin. I wanted so badly to get out after the rains and try these Daniel Smith pigment sticks that I mis-read the distance to Alamere Falls: yes, 7.5 miles --one way. I also failed to register the meaning 
of a dirt road lined with cars on the satellite picture. There would be crowds. 
We ended up picking over muddy trails, single-file with every other politically-traumatized and rain-fatigued local. More than enough hours had passed, yet we had no sense of being anywhere near the shore. I consulted the map and realized my error: we'd be taking our wintersoft bodies twice as far as anticipated. Deal! Doubling-down is in these days. As we neared what just had to be the descent to the falls, some of the earlier-risers were heading back, toward us. Our file stood aside and asked, How far to the falls? 
It's closed, a big dude answered. For a tired nanosecond, we long-marchers believed him! After all, for the past 4 months, we'd been sheltering indoors, hearing bad-upon-bad news. It's a National Park; could they...?? The landscape colors and the sounds of the Pacific beyond pounded sense into us. We chuckled sheepishly and marched on.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Visibility and Virtuality

Lorenzo Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise, 15th c Florence, cast bronze

I get to geek out on linear perspective for Whitney Davis' proseminar in Art History. The first time I covered linear perspective among art historians, I suggested there may be no deeper reason to omit the more distant floor grid in this panel of Florence's baptistry doors than Ghiberti's lack of tinier tools. Tool size limits the depiction of spaceIn today's burgeoning visual culture, glitches in spatial depiction arise, and we lack shared vocabulary to describe the effectsDavis sets out to provide terms we can use to talk about how people depict and relate to images and ideas of 3D space. He is deep into it. 
Today my goal is to persuade academics to draw simple perspectives and hope they sense the perceptive constraints one must accept to participate in this illusion...not unlike the beliefs we suspend when we pull on an Oculus headset. Regardless of tools & equipment, Ibn al Hazen10th c scientist and unwitting parent of linear perspective says the act of seeing may begin with light, form and eyes, but is only completed by the mind. That idea makes linear perspective more an interim translation of desire and less a stand-in for a deliverable product. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Above It All


This classic Sesame Street video is a good plan-view earworm. Looking at a project in plan puts the viewer above it all. So do satellite pics. In paraline drawings, such as plan oblique or elevation oblique, their third dimension is added diagrammatically, without any convergence of depth lines. The lack of convergence gives the illusion that the back plane is bigger than the front. Figures can be placed in these paraline drawings, but constructing the context is onerous, with little payoff. On one project, the production team was persuaded to track their design process by means of plans and paraline views. There were some awkward surprises a year later when those who approved the project based on perspective presentations saw the final product. How frequently do we experience a space from above, anyway? Like plan views, paralines don't take you INSIDE. At the most they provide a superior, detached point of view. 
The blue wall is equally as wide as the orange wall in this elevation oblique
from Kevin Forseth. Optically, it appears larger.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

People in Design 5.0 - Paralines - between orthographic and perspective


western drafted elevation oblique        Japanese gyaku enkinhou visual narrative 
Some visual cultures embrace a different relationship to dimensionality. The gyaku enkinhou depictions of 3D space are like super-rich elevation obliques! I am very fond of this Japanese spatial depiction on scrolls, particularly with the device used to show interiors, fukinuki yatai, meaning blow the roof off. A scroll: what a thrilling means to unfurl an intimate story about very private figures in a highly stratified society! As early as the 10th c., such voyeuristic experiences accompanied spatially-depictive poems on scrolls and folding screens. They dwindled by the late 18th c., perhaps after heavy saturation of European linear perspective. See Suzuki Harunobu, who used fukinuki yatai, often with an isometric paraline structure in his many intimate ukiyo-e, popular 18th c. one-page poster prints.  

Friday, March 27, 2015

People in Design 3.0 - Try it on for size

materiality study at user touch-points
Master a believably proportioned, gestural figure, and you have a tool that does a LOT of work. Viewers more easily project themselves into the scene. Studying design ideas in elevation broadens the visualization process. It's efficient at showing depth via overlap. Rapid visualization by hand incorporates a different brain engagement than digital imaging, including sensed vibration of pen/pencil/brush across the page. I like to explore how a design fits together this way. Although I love perspective sketches, I use figures and annotations frequently to communicate with colleagues while a project is in process. The sketch conveys an informal, temporary state, encouraging continued participation of interested parties. 
rapid visualization of space plan variant in elevation