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Shawn Pixley

Finding the logical conclusion

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When designing something, there are two common challenges that most of us face. In the process of design, the sweet spot is somewhere around taking the central idea to its logical conclusion. The challenge is that this point is somewhere between under-designing the project and over-thinking / over designing the piece. Under-designing is typically better than over-designing. So let's take a look at over-designing first. This is of course this is a matter of individual taste. I'll use Rococo pieces as an example (my apologies to anyone who is really fond of Rococo)

Rococo sofa.jpg

The designer of this piece took some good ideas / elements and thought, "if a little ornamentation is good, more must be better." The flaws in this piece are in my opinion not one of craftsmanship or even general aesthetic content, but a lack of single focus. These are often a factor of evolution of a style. Renaissance beget Mannerist, which beget Baroque, which then beget Rococo. At some point in time, there is a rebellion in styles. We saw that in the last ~150 years in furniture and architecture. In Victorian architecture and furniture, there were several distinct phases - Italianate, Gothic Revival, Eastlake, and Queen Anne to name a few. But eventually someone grows tired of this and proposes a new aesthetic. Victorian styles beget Shingle, Stick and Arts & Crafts styles, which in turn leads to Art Deco and Art Nouveau. Eventually these ornamented styles were rebelled against by others leading to Modernism, Bauhaus, etc... This, in turn, will spawn Post modernism, etc...

So why do I go down this bunny trail that seems unrelated to the piece I am building? I am not trying to be pedantic and teach an art history survey course. My point here is the a successful piece or body of work is one that takes the concepts / style / intent to a logical endpoint but not too far.

In the piece I am making, my central concept was to do a deconstructed Display Cabinet. The legs are separated from the carcass. The top floats above the carcass and so forth. There are other elements involved with my aesthetic choices (contrast and harmony, thick and thin, curved and straight, stability and tension etc..) but my example will focus on the deconstructed elements. When I initially designed the piece I had a very clear idea for the base elements (leg structure, drawer carcass, and top. they would appear to float or be unconnected to the other elements. I had ideas for the top as well but they were very less well defined.

While I worked on the carcass I thought about the top. when working on the top, I thought about the display structure. This is where I noticed an issue. The bottom was deconstructed, but the top was much more integrated. My feeling is that this would not be taking the aesthetic choices to their logical conclusion, and as a result the piece would be less successful as a whole than one that explore deconstruction in all its logical aspects. This lead me to think that the display component would be better if deconstructed from the legs. I drew a revised sketch in fat marker of a new top piece and started building.


The glass display cabinet will float over a second leg structure.

The purpose in my continuing blog was to document / explore my process of design. This rose from passionate discussions in forums over a year ago. The discussions centered around design tools (Hand vs Sketchup) and Aesthetic "rules" or absolutes. The building will go slower now, so I think the next step is to backtrack a bit and document / illustrate the choices I made to get here.