To extend upon our form and meaning topic, where the form of my iron represented the meaning of military stealth, we started to look closer at the form we created and try to understand how it could be broadened into a wider range of products. First, we did some readings;
We then picked out the explicit features and implicit values that make our brand.
Part of the project was to communicate our brand; namely, a presentation poster and a video.
As a professional filmmaker, I was pretty confident in my abilities to produce a high quality video. I enlisted the help of a friend, and since he was due to go overseas, I had to prioritise the shoot in my timeline.
I began by writing down everything I wanted to cover in my video; aesthetic features, functional elements and implicit values. The story my film followed was the act of ironing – plugging it in, turning it on, turning the heat up, etc. I made sure that each shot telling this mundane story, would tell the greater story of the implicit design.
The iron is on the attack, therefore it will always be moving forward, not backwards or sideways. The iron is black so it can hide in the shadows, so the lighting and set design will allow it do blend into its environment. The iron is cool as all hell – so anything else that isn’t does not belong in the film.
My storyboards were incredibly simple, but I have enough of a film vocabulary that I’m able to communicate what I want from each shot with my team and understand how we will achieve it.
I spent the same time designing the set as I did shooting the film. I wanted every element in the frame to relate to the meaning of my design. I looked at my set dressings through a lens to understand accurately how they would show up on screen. I connected a vacuum-cleaner-hose to a smoke machine so that I could aim it with complete discretion and tested different thicknesses of material over the ironing board so that I could refine the effect of smoke coming out of the iron itself.
While I controlled the special effects, I had one friend operating the camera and another modelling the iron. In some shots, we had lighting effects, and needed a fourth set of hands.
My housemate is a sound designer. He helped me source some sound effects and record the ones we couldn’t find. We recorded the faint slosh of water in a plastic bottle because the visuals of the water container aren’t enough to explain what they are and how they work. I also added a ‘powering up’ sound effect because I wasn’t confident in the glowing light’s ability to that story on its own. Most of the clicks and thuds we found were from firearms, to convey the aural and tactile feedback that the militaristic iron provides.
The only visual effect I needed to add was the change of colour on the glowing light as the heat setting is altered. This was a masked colour correction that was super simple.
I tested the grade and sound on the uni’s projector setup before making some final tweaks and then submitting.
For the presentation poster, it would need to demonstrate the design in a vertical banner format. I looked at the 3rd-year examples for inspiration.
We had free choice on how to display our final designs, whether we used sketches, CAD renders, photographed models, a mixture, or something else all together. Not only did we have to present our irons, but two new products; a handheld vacuum cleaner and a toaster.
I already had a Solidworks model of my iron, so I learnt how to use keyshot to assess if this would be a good avenue to take for my other models.
I figured out how to paint the lighting scene to mimic the lighting setup I’d used for my original photographs.
I liked how freely this workflow allowed me to compose images. This could definitely be an avenue for my poster design.
Time to get started on those new concepts.
I knew my brand super well. I had put a lot of effort into the meaning behind each physical aspect of my iron, so I thought it would be easy to translate that meaning to a similar object like a dust-buster. My main fear was for the toaster. How could I put sharp angles on a product that holds rectangular pieces of bread. Furthermore, how was I going to make it look like it was ready to attack?
I spent a lot longer on concept development than my peers. I was worried that I was falling behind, but more worried about getting the concepts right.
I was fairly confident in the dustbuster, so I only drew a few concepts. I spent much longer labouring over toasters designs.
After drawing enough angled, faceted, layered toasters that still looked like docile cows, I went back to simple side profiles to try to figure out what an aggressive stance could look like in a toaster.
The bear-trap style toaster was exciting for me. It was something that looked like it could actually be dangerous, not just shaped like a dangerous animal, especially when in use.
I took the Seething Monk, Bear Trap and Mantis Bull to present, along with my handful of dustbusters.
My lecturer recommended a combo between the the Mantis Bull and Bear Trap would be best for the next stage of the toaster. He could tell that I hadn’t spent nearly as much time on the dustbuster, so my next step was to rigorously research dustbusters to enable me to disrupt the common form while keeping the mechanical requirements intact.
I broke down the vacuum to its elements and realised that a lot of the weight and bulk is created by the battery. If I could move the battery to the end of the handle, I could lengthen the handle while maintaining even balance. I experimented with a stealth chopper shape, using metal detectors as my inspiration for ergonomics.
Although I liked my side-profile drawing, I felt that my foam model ended up looking like a duck. I needed to work with paper to create the sharp angles I was looking for with my family style.
I had a similar problem with my toaster. It felt needlessly bulky and complicated, while my iron had slim, smooth, large surfaces prominent and hid the complications at the bottom and rear.
The folded cardboard came much closer to my brand identity. I radically changed the style of the front, while maintaining the long handle idea. I found that an articulating handle would enable the menacing posture to be maintained while the vacuum is in its resting position.
I simplified the toaster design a great deal and fully merged the Mantis Bull back into the Bear Trap by making it open at the top. This felt like an imperial shuttle from Star Wars, and since my iron had gotten a few Star Wars comments, I thought I might be on the right path with this.
The overall posture for the vacuum was working, but I needed to make the face look scarier. I messed around with the cardboard and with some graphics in photoshop to work out what I needed to change.
The plan was to bulk out the gills and sharpen the eyes. I did some iterative sketches to reach a point that I was happy with.
Because I think better with my hands, I used model-making as the final process to figure out the finished design. The tail turned into a charging dock rather than an articulating handle.
I’d been really nervous about how I was going to present my final designs. I’d ruled out CAD pretty early, as my skills aren’t good enough yet to experiment quickly and dynamically with new ideas. I was also apprehensive about hand-drawing as I knew it would be difficult to draw multiple angles of the same object from my minds eye accurately.
Now that I had a good looking cardboard model of my dustbuster, I knew I’d be able to pull off the same thing with my toaster. This way I’d be able to refine the idea as I built it and use my high-level photographic and editing skills to produce great looking images of the final products. Since I was going to use these models for photography, I put extra thought into material selection, colouring and finishes. Inspired by the grilled frame of an outdoor fireplace, I threw out the standard thin metal bars that regular toasters use and laser-cut a diamond pattern in some cardboard to represent the inner plates that would hold the bread.
Finally, I fastened the bread with a harness akin to one you might find on a pilot-seat or roller-coaster.
For my poster, I took the same approach as the video. I worked out what I wanted to say, then put it in a story-like order. For my video, I had made sure that each frame represented my product intrinsically. I had neglected to do this on the first draft of my poster, which looks very linear and blocky.
I photographed my cardboard models in the same style I’d done my iron. They needed a lot more cleaning up in photoshop. I copied the switch knob and trigger from the iron photos onto the new models wherever it would work. In a lot of instances, I used the photos as a base and then layered solid colours and gradients on top of them, to smooth out the final image.
I had shot the photos with hands to show the interactions, but the brightness of the hands stood out against my dark products, so I made them into single-colour, semi-opaque graphics.
For my final poster, I structured it in the same way as my products. Clear and open with the single image of the iron near the top, then getting progressively more complicated toward the bottom with four images explaining the toaster interaction. I used angular sections to separate images, rather than square boxes. Finally, I kept it dark and black at the top with the highlight colours at the bottom.