Design development through model making is one of the fastest ways to find out how good your idea is. If your idea can be cut and folded out of paper than you can hand cut balsa or thin plywood and with a few simple tools get the first testable object in your hands. Each one of the models above took less than two hours to make. Photograph it against a white wall, force the perspective a little and you have a believable concept. A model also speaks to our childish side which loves the simplicity and clarity of the little object and is therefore really good when you want to talk to someone about the idea.
I begin like most makers with a few sketches and some folded paper models. Then I do some simple 2-D “Vellum v.8” sketches like you see above, create three views and cut them out in paper. I use photo mount spray glue to fix the 1:6 evolved plans onto some plywood and cut it out with a scroll saw. Since my form language often involves soft curves I also work with a belt sander and Dremel tool. I drive my development process by giving names to each idea which tells me what experience the form brings to light. So for instance the drawing second from the right is called stretch and was the core concept behind my “stretched cloth” table from 2005.
With tables it’s important to get the feel of the form and proportions right at scale 1:1 before you invest in materials, so I went so far as to make one in honeycomb “Swap” sheet material, as you see in the photo here.
This model was too wide in the ends and too heavy feeling. The final table I built with solid wood legs (on the left) to prove that I could make a strong leg using the forms that were cut from the corners of the table top. It was first exhibited at the Form Forum exhibition on the Muba08 Basel and won a prize from the “Vorstand Jury”. Refinements to the connections were made when I made the pearwood table seen on the right that was sold to a Basel client on the MUBA. Since them I have sold a few more, mostly in plywood and linoleum.
Working from idea sketch, through models in wood or foamcore helps one quickly solve the major points. A scale model is useful to prove that the idea is good and the full sized model is made to check proportions, fit to the client and their space as well as to inspect how it will go together. At the moment I am working on a chair to go with my tables which follows this development cycle. We will see if the first 1:1 model works out on the weekend. It is always interesting to do the dance with design process, work hard to make a good product and then go out and sell it.
Please let me know how you find this summary.