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Understatement of the Year

American firm takes a modest approach in Renault 4 remake

Allen Zadeh and his partner Robert Foote approached the Renault 4EVER challenge as they would a suitcase design.

This exercise was intended to free them from conventional automotive thinking. Car culture has accumulated a lot of unwritten design rules. For instance, vehicle forms feel compelled tell us what is under their hood: this car is fast, or this truck is muscular. The exterior must be reflective with a metallic finish and chrome edging. Particularly in the U.S. market, vehicles are careful to stay within a narrow band of emotional expression, between flatly serious to moderately aggressive.

The design of a suitcase, on the other hand, doesn’t carry nearly so much baggage.

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Fake it before you make it

quirky, keyshot, luxion, solo, product rendering

Renderings drive sales at Quirky’s social media design site

Growing product ideas out of social media is just one of the unconventional aspects of the business model at Quirky (www.quirky.com). Another is the speed of development. New marketable designs germinate at an unbelievable rate.

“We can build two products per week. It may seem radical, and it is,” says Quirky’s head of engineering, John Jacobsen. “Although the designs are not fully developed at that point, we are still taking the community ideas to a certain level of refinement.”

Rendered images of these designs incubate on the Quirky website for further input. Its community members are typically ordinary (if not slighty more opinionated) household consumers. These photorealistic previews spread through members’ social networks and attract cool-gear shoppers to Quirky’s catalog page, where they can pre-order Quirky inventions at a discount rate. The items that meet a given threshold of advance sales go to the factory first.

“The visual feedback is definitely a necessary component. The better the imagery and higher the fidelity, the more compelling the product is to consumers,” says Jacobsen. “People can appreciate the idea behind the innovations, but it is really the image of the design gets the customer excited enough to follow through with a purchase.”

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Storytelling through Rendering

Pensa and the new art of explaining products

There’s a good reason firms are getting more creative with photo-real rendering output: Now there’s a lot more of it.

“A few years ago, the processing time used to be a limiting factor because if it took four hours per image, then forget it,” explains Pensa principal and co-founder Marco Perry.

“To show 16 to 20 concepts or multiple views would take forever. With the new technology, anybody in the office can literally just drop the CAD in, take a snapshot, change the view, and then grab another one. It makes rendering a non-event. As a result, we now generate a lot more images and have higher quality presentations.” […]

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PolyPlaneThe best way to learn 3D modeling? Forget about the software.

For the moment anyway. That’s part of the philosophy at PolyPlane, a new instructional site that emphasizes the broader concepts of 3D graphics before delving into the dashboard of a particular CAD application.

“People just starting out in 3D modeling are forced to wrap their brains around a lot of unfamiliar concepts all at the same time,” says Gabriel Mathews, principal of Portland’s Con Cor Design Group and author of the video series. “At the outset, stepping back and understanding the process of modeling in general actually makes learning an application a lot less frustrating.”

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Turning on Smart Ideas with KeyShot

How have recent advancements in visualization impacted international product development houses like Smart Design? The award-winning firm, known for its reinventions of the commonplace like OXO kitchenware, now relies on raytracing for the exchange of visual ideas. According to John Jacobsen, Senior Design Specialist in Smart’s New York studio, changes in the profession due to technology are happening on three levels

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Photographing the Impossible

“If God is in the details, we all must on some deep level believe that the truth is there, too,” writes novelist Francine Prose. Good storytellers, she says, know that it takes just one vivid detail to make the tallest tale come across as a truthful account. Once the fisherman describes the hook caught in the bloody gills, we are somehow more apt to believe the big fish story.

The same holds true with images. Michael Tompert, Designer-in-Chief at the Palo Alto-based Raygun Studio, has made a career out of presenting the impossible, straight-faced, as photorealistic truth. We know that carnivorous chocolate, luminescent lather, and winged whales don’t exist, but Tompert’s convincing details require us take a second look.

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Use Your Illusion

“I shot the backplate and HDRI at the same time and at the same location,” says London photographer David Burgess of his colorful ad images for the Ford Interceptor. Seconds after taking the shots, he found a piece of shade from the Nevada sun and processed the rendering on a laptop.

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From Top Down to Bottom Up

Bottom-up conceptual approaches are found throughout other art disciplines, but it is still rare in architecture. But Woo JaeSung sees bottom-up as up and coming. Sung recently taught a workshop at Cornell, where architectural students experiment with generating highly complex 3D forms by automatically repeating patterns of components.

“In my perspective, the generative design process is not a sub-discipline in architecture, but rather another paradigm,” says Sung. “Traditional design tools prohibited us from thinking bottom-up, while parametric or generative tools are broadening our design perspective.”

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Stadium Elastique

Breathing Room

The gill-like openings of this architectural model widen or narrow in response to changes in roof and wall dimensions. The automated model of the sports stadium cuts out the many hundreds of manual changes the curves would have required during the development phase.

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Remixing in Grasshopper


The Birds’ Nest Remix is an example of how a small conceptual shift in 3D modeling is now producing a mother lode of innovative forms for studios like Noiz in search of the unexpected.

The experiment in generative modeling “samples” a work of another: the Beijing National Stadium by Herzog & de Meuron. His rendering shows the Bird’s Nest of the 2008 Olympics strapped down by what appear to be tens of thousands of steel cables, which shoot up to over twice the height of the stadium roof.

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