Stories

Dependencies

I was once involved in a big theatrical installation for a commercial brand in London. They'd overtaken and entire warehouse to showcase the reveal of their latest product.  

When you're involved in the making and production of these huge events, there's a lot to learn because you're dealing with real, phisical things. Usually, my role doesn't overflow into this stage of the design process, but I find that the combination of having the ability to visualise the real thing and seing it built, multiplies my understanding of so many other things.

In this case, amongst the other great things I learnt, one simple lesson stood out. As always I like to look at these lessons from many different points of views, so the lesson sticks. I learnt about the importance of dependencies.

Right in the middle of the building process, something went wrong, which created a knock on effect on the majority of the build. In theory nothing went wrong, but in reality it did. 

Two crucial elements of the design were misplaced by about a metre, which is big. The two elements had to be installed by to different contractors, who had to depend on each other to place the elements correctly. The first contractor regarded his element as not that important in the grand scheme of things, so he 'roughly' placed it and left the site. The second contractor had to depend on the first element in order place his element correctly. Of course if the first element is misplaced and is the point of reference for the second, the whole thing is wrong. 

This small error took us many painful hours to correct. So the moral of the lesson was, look out for the elements on which other elements depend on. In architecture, structural elements are often the main points of reference. I have heard many stories about deleted structural elements in the design process that lead to disasters.

Of course I can generalise on this point. Many things around us are pillars from which other things depend on, from design, to activities and even stories. So if in doubt, look for dependencies.

 

Threads

 ... When I'm working on a new project, I try to use as many previously learned skill as I can. In other words I try to stretch the boundaries a bit more and look at the project from as many different practical points of view as possible. I don't start project from the beginning. A project idea can come from anywhere. Something I read, heard, experienced or felt. I then pull threads from it and connect it to techniques, stories visions and even to other creative field like music and film. I think the 'Portraits' project is a good example of that. From looking at a series of people considered icons, a whole project started taking shape. Then after testing the idea and getting, I decided to make it a stand alone project, mixing sketches, programming, illustrations and even sound.

The gap

 

In their book 'Made to stick', Chip and Dan Heath explore the principles of making ideas stick in the mind of your customers, clients, prospects, students etc...

One of the stories is about a teacher trying to teach their students about the rings of Saturn. Of course no one knows exactly what the rings are made of although there are many theories floating around.

In order to make his lesson stick, the authors argue that the main technique used by the teacher is to purposefully create a gap in the knowledge of the students, only to be able to make them curious about the answer. Once the gap is made and the students curious, he simply has to close it by giving them the answer.

This made me wonder. It stroke a chord in relation to what I do, and the idea of creating a gap and then filling it.

If you're a 3D designer (a modern one), one of the main challenges you face when it comes to ideas is how you visualise them. The tools you use are irrelevant. However,  how big a gap you create in the minds of your clients or even your colleagues (if you have any) is a crucial element in relation to your creative solution.

 

I've observed this process many a times and the one thing I believe makes or breaks a creative solution is the gap. If you only create a sense of what you're thinking (call it a mood), then the gap is too big. Add a simple hand sketch and you reduce the gap. Make a 3D visualisation of it with colours and materials and you close the gap even more. These are all fine approaches but the crucial question is : based on your solution and your knowledge of the client, how much gap do you need in order to be able to successfully close it once your client gets excited about the direction you're taking to the solution. Doing a hyper realistic render with all the details of your solution may be way too much and therefore the gap is non existent. So your solution clearly stands the risk of being rejected because naturally, people (in general) love to be surprised. If they aren't, they're not impressed, no matter how much information you give them.

So this idea of the gap, I believe, is quite important, especially if the goal is to persuade, inform or impress.