My work is most satisfying when I’m using both sides of my mind on a project: the design engineer and the artist. The product designer and the graphic artist have played equal parts of my almost forty years as Linea Forma Design. I really can’t separate them.
Back in the pre-digital era, my first opportunity to use both sides was during my years at MMI, a high-end office furniture manufacturer in Oakland, CA. As head of design/engineering, any custom product orders went through me. At one end of the process, I interfaced with architects and interior designers, translating their custom furniture concepts into products we could actually produce for them. Then, I created design drawings the craftspeople in the factory could easily understand to build the designs correctly. At the other end of the process was construction. As the custom furniture moved through the factory, I checked in with the different artisans involved in its construction, asking questions, learning from production pros, and making sure the end products were perfect. I learned a ton, and started building my own furniture designs with the plant’s scrap wood.
Today, my full product design through graphic artist process is, of course, digital. For my original product designs, after developing a range of design sketches, I rough up 3D models in Maya and explore them. Once the design is workable, I can export a model to use as a template in Fusion or Inventor to create CAD models for making prototypes and production parts.
If I’m working on a client’s existing products, I can receive CAD files from their engineers, refine them, texture and light them and develop them into photo-realistic models for their website, marketing tools or animation/demonstration. For manufacturers, creating a perfect sample of every size and variation of the product line for photography is costly and time consuming, requiring special handling throughout the process so it looks perfect for the camera. I recently spoke to a maker of ceramic kilns who said they wanted to switch from photography to 3D models for all of their marketing going forward to save time and money. He gets it! And if a company’s engineering department can supply me with complete or partial CAD files, the process gets even easier. I speak reasonable “Engineer” and am happy to work with them to make a better end product.
Once my 3D models are made, the artist side takes over again. If the final product is a series of photos for brochures and catalogs, I’ll build a custom photo studio with lights, set up the model, focus the lights, finalize all materials and textures including accurate readings on instruments and gauge faces, if required. If animation is needed to tell the story more deeply, then animating parts or assemblies is the next step, then batch rendering everything. The final step, post-production, is bringing the animations into After Effects and Premiere Pro, adding any text, motion effects, transitions, and building the final movies.
So, this is who I am now! Some graphic artists are happy to collaborate with me rather than learn complex 3D programs themselves. Conversely, engineers and industrial designers don’t usually touch graphic design. Learning and growing is what I enjoy the most: I like mastering the full spectrum. And for smaller companies with limited budgets, the big design studio is out of reach. This is the Linea Forma client.
The digital age has leveled the playing field to some degree, for providing access to a level of sophistication that was unthinkable to the individual designer 20 years ago. The fact that I can create these images in my own studio amazes me every day. And, for smaller manufacturers today, this levels the playing field as well. I have all the tools and talent to tell a unique story for your growing company. Let’s talk about how I can enhance your story. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get creative solutions. I’ll make some magic for you!!Share this:
I’ve seen that magic countless times, Bill! And it’s pretty obvious, even to a novice like me, that you function in both hemispheres on a regular basis. A little jealous….
I just need a little bit of both hemispheres to fully be in my comfort zone.
For some reason i’m drawn to that seating design…
Hugo & Dean! I can’t believe how long it’s been since i heard those names, thanks for the memories dad and teebee.
I wish we each still had one of those chairs, Travis. Nice flashback, eh?
Very interesting to hear how the two sides of your mind work together! Both graphic design and art are way over my head- it’s so valuable to see how other brains work. Thanks for teaching this teacher.
Learning goes on every day, if we’re lucky enough, right?
Nice read! I still have that MMI jumping on both sides around in my brain. Remember sitting under a table during a photo shoot holding a light because we could not clamp or tape it in place. Hugo and Dean loved it. Those computers took than fun away…..but not the memories.
TeeBee, you were one of my greatest mentors. I love you, man! Thanks for so many great times working together at MMI! And thanks to Hugo and Dean for originally sending me your way.
Very interesting as usual! Wish I had a project to hire you for!! Love your work. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and process.
I write ’em for you, Gayle. Thanks for reading them.
Always on the edge of creativity-meets-technology! Love your work!
Right back at you, Jeff. Your work always inspires me.