Reflections on reflections

February 09, 2010

So we had one of our famous brown-bag lunch-and-learn sessions today – sort of group training / design philosophy / technical-chops-throw-down all rolled into one. 

Today’s topic was a fairly esoteric design technique known as curvature continuous surfaces. I know… I can hear the yawns. Curvature Continuous surfacing is a fairly sophisticated computer modeling technique used for creating highly stylized product forms and shapes on certain products– particularly ones that are highly reflective or feature flowing lines. Think shiny car bodies on a wet road under streetlights and you’ll get the picture.

Anyway, I found myself reflecting on a few things (no pun intended). The first was the range of employees and backgrounds that were enthusiastically and actively participating in our session. It used to be that the subject of highly esoteric computer modeling skills was relegated to the land of a select group of designers and perhaps computer geeks. If anything one could expect some fairly traditional battle lines to be drawn – industrial designers arguing that engineers didn’t understand or appreciate the subtleties of form and aesthetics. Engineers complaining about designers who obsessed over picayune and meaningless details. Blah blah blah blah…

We’ve done a lot of talking and work about trans-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary skill sets and I really see that coming to life.

Rather, at today’s session there were product designers of all stripes – industrial designers, engineers, mechanical designers, even members of our prototyping staff passionately advocating for the value of highly sophisticated exterior form development. The relative merits of Honda cars and Apple’s I-Pod form were contrasted and products we’d designed and engineered were critiqued. I was once again proud and impressed by the nuanced eye today’s product development specialist brings to their craft… and left with a couple of impression… First, a continued respect and realization for the erosion of typical barriers and stereotypes in product development. We’ve done a lot of talking and work about trans-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary skill sets and I really see that coming to life. I was also struck by the level of design prowess and sophistication being brought to a remarkable range of products. Call it the ipodification of our products but as consumers we have a level of expectation for finesse, refinement and elegance that continues to test the mettle of those who practice design as their craft. I, for one, find this exhilarating to be around.

Oh, and if you care about curvature continuous surfacing and want a copy of our notes from the session just drop me a line.