Angela May

Exploring Product Design

October 2011

Rapid Visualizing Practice

I’ve been taking a course on Rapid Visualization and Product Rendering through Emily Carr. I have lots of drawing experience, but I know that industrial design has its own “style” that I need to learn, and there’s always more to learn!

So far we’ve mostly been working in pencil and chalk. I’ve learned a lot about perspective so far that I’m excited to practice with, and I’ve been picking up great techniques with regards to rendering different materials and shapes.

We started with perspective drawing, this is a perspective model of my HTC Touch Pro:

Simple pencil light and shadow. Did some additional practice with a USB key I have:

Drew this robot just for fun and lighting practice :)

To enhance light and shadow, we then started working with chalk and grey paper. The exercise below is by my instructor, Ying-Chiu Chan, I’ve just reproduced it:

Further practice rendering, this is based on a walkie-talkie by Cobra:

Looking forward to learning more in this course!

Posted: October 27th, 2011
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Early Experiments with Arduino

I picked up a great Arduino starter kit from Maker Faire in June. This is something that I’ve been wanting to experiment with every since I first heard about it (which I think was only a few months ago). I have some good theory under my belt from Engineering, and some good programming experience, but I this post documents my very first interaction with Arduino ever!

This is the kit that I got:

A pretty good kit, I think, it comes with all of the necessary components for a good batch of experiments (including motors and actuators), and the booklet has good beginner experiments to follow. The booklet is what I’m using for the rest of this post.

(It comes with stickers! Things are looking up)

Step one is to attach everything down to its holder assembly. The breadboard is easy, comes with and adhesive backing, but unfortuntely I got a bit happy with it and it’s too close for the bolt to sit in its intended location.

D'oh!

D'oh!

EVERYONE STAY CALM this is nothing I can’t fix!! I just used some alternate bolt-hole locations and it’s secured down just fine. I wish these bolts were a *bit* longer, but it works fine :)

Next step is to download the software. (The website is adorable!)

The instructions were very much required at this part, I wouldn’t have been able to fumble my own way through installing these drivers, I think, but the instructions were very clear and I got it done.

OK, first project time!!
Blinking LED… basic enough :) :)

Blinking lights are truly the 'hello world' of Arduino!

Blinking lights are truly the 'hello world' of Arduino!

First project success!! Played around a bit with changing the pins, setting the LED to different brightness, and even played with the fade program. Also confirmed my suspicion that the 2 pin diodes in the diagram were only there to hold the paper down! >:| not cool, that is way confusing! (not punching through the paper anyway, that is for lame-os.)

Next project involving eight LEDs.

When I plugged in the arduino again, pin 9 was blinking with my old code! New code worked like a charm – very satisfying to have something work the first time! :)
Wrote my own little program to make the lights blink two by two.

Finished off the evening by getting a little motor to spin.

All in all I think this is a very promising start. I know I’m very late to the Arduino game, but it’s exciting and fun and I’m looking forward to working with this platform.

Posted: October 15th, 2011
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Progress Update

I haven’t updated this particular journal in awhile but it’s not for lack of working on Exploring Product Design! Quite the opposite in fact!

Spring is convention season, and I spent the spring months promoting my first book, We Are The Engineers. Conventions are always a ton of work – coordinating flights and accomodations, getting all of my display in order, making new merchandise, promoting the event itself… I’ve cut back on conventions significantly compared to last year but those first few months are still packed solid with work.

The Summer I spent completing my Professional Engineering application. This was a huge goal of mine for the year, and meant taking my Law and Ethics course, studying for and taking my professional practice examination (I passed!), and completing my Work Experience Report – a 24 page report detailing all of the work I’ve done since I entered the world of professional work. I just finished wrangling the last feedback form from my managers and colleagues (8 total!) so I am DONE… it’s just a waiting game now.

In between all of that work I still managed to make make time for self-directed product design education.

Three mini projects that I spent time working on (none of which are that big of a deal, but I want to use this space to log ALL the little things that I end up making).

1. Improved Fly Trap

This one was an easy build from existing components, but I have been ‘testing’ it throughout the summer and it works great! The best fruit fly trap I’ve discovered so far was this shallow mixture of vinegar and dish soap (to reduce the surface tension of the vinegar). There are fruit fly traps of similar design for sale, but I couldn’t find one locally and it was less effort, I figured to just make it myself!

This is the prototype – easy enough for anyone to make, a water bottle with the top cut off and inverted. You need to tape the seam so flies can’t escape out the sides, however, so disassembling it for cleaning is a bit of a pain. I wanted a similar assembly with an easy to remove lid for cleaning.

A quick trip to the Daiso next door and I picked up these beauties… simple glass jars with a soft plastic lid top.

Quick integration with a funnel and… presto! DIY Fly Trap.


2. Improved Button Display

At conventions I sell buttons with my art on them – individually and in packs. I’ve experimented with various methods of display for these buttons… bowls, dishes, clips. The most advanced that I’ve come up with so far is an old picture frame covered up with black fabric. This way I can pin all the buttons on and people can easily see the designs that are available.

There were a few problems with this display. The first is that it wasn’t tall enough. At conventions it’s best if you can keep your display at attendee eye-level. Second, over time the fabric was getting worn out with holes all over it. Third, setup (pinning all the pins to the board) was a bit time consuming.

Finally, for some reason, the second people see buttons pinned to this board their first instict is to pull them off. Of course it is very tricky for people to get the pin off the fabric, and it’s a pain for me to replace. I decided that I wanted to facilitate this behaviour.

My design criteria for the button display were (in order):

1) Lightweight, compact and easy to set up and disassemble. My entire display kit needs to fit in a rolling suitcase, and the suitcase needs to be under 50lb or I get charged overages on airlines. The more weight taken up by display, the less merch I can bring! Assembly is also critical because I have to tear down and be out of the hall as quickly as possible – minutes matter.

2) As tall as possible, bringing the merchandise as close to eye level as possible

3) Easy to pin and remove display for button singles AND packs

4) As clean elegant as possible.

The major epiphany for this project came when I realized that pin-backs stick great to MAGNETS. I forget how I discovered this, but I have yet to see another convention seller using this technique to sell their pins. What I needed was a GIANT MAGNET! This was probably the most difficult part of the project. I found an 8.5*11 sheet at Michael’s but it wasn’t thick enough to hold the pins reliably. In the end I had to go with an online source and get the thickest magnet sheet I could. This thicker sheet works like a charm.

The display itself is just a piece of wood board (thinnest I could find) painted white. Works fine, but I might move to a lighter acrylic. The prototype feet are foamcore and this arrangement (two feet + stabilizer) worked really great.

The display was very stable and quick to assemble and disassemble. Next I’ll re-make the base in another material. The racks at the top are re-purposed folder hangers attached with hot glue. With this arrangement I can feature up to 9 different button packs.

Here is the button display in action. The magnet works GREAT, people grab the pins without thinking about it. When it comes off they think they are magnets but quickly realize they are pins. At the base is a small basket of pins (yet again for unknown reasons, people LOVE running their fingers through bowls of pins). People want to take the button packs off the racks, too, which is a pain, but at least it’s replaceable. So far the biggest problem has been the racks snapping off in transit.

There are definitely improvements I’d like to make to this display for next season, but I’m probably going to discontinue selling button packs at shows… maybe buttons altogether. They seem to have fallen out of fashion.

3) SOLAR SALT LAMP

I have an old salt lamp with an incandescent bulb that I wanted to convert to solar. My first attempt was the coward’s way out (gotta start somehwere!) – repurposing a cheap solar garden lamp. Disassembly of the old lamp was easy, but the lamp is VERY cheap (only $3 I think?) and while I was trying to solder longer connections, I damaged the board. My experience with electronics isn’t good enough yet to figure out how to fix it, or how to best salvage the remaining components, so my next step is to try to build the circuit myself from scratch. I’ve bought all the components and gotten a good set of instructions, I just haven’t had a chance to sit down and do it yet.

During the summer I also made it down to Vancouver’s inaugural Mini Maker Faire! I really enjoyed this event, it was awesome meeting vancouverites making amazing things. I used the opportunity to pick up my very own Arduino kit, and I’ve started messing around with it. Next post!

I’ve been amassing a good collection of Industrial Design books that I plan to go through to teach myself the principles of good design and sketching. In my collection so far are:

The last design book I finished was “Change by Design” by Tim Brown, founder of IDEO. I really enjoyed the book! I want to re-read it and write up a mini-review.

Finally I registered in a few more Emily Carr Industrial Design courses. Starting immediately: Rapid Visualization and Product Rendering, and later in the winter: working with Rhino.

Whew! Reading that list you can hopefully understand why my life is a constant battle with exhaustion. I’m really trying to move forward with product design as best as I can but the full time job and my webcomic audience of 10,000+ can be very demanding :)
Posted: October 11th, 2011
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