Last week we launched our Advent Calendar online, a site that reveals, one day at a time, an object that someone from MB holds dear. These objects are presented in both their original 3D form and as a little printed chocolate – not a traditional material to 3D print in. The project’s light in tone, but the reasoning behind it fell into place very quickly; get people across our studios (that had any interest!) to start toying with software that they wouldn’t otherwise use. And by setting a brief for something that’s ‘close to the heart’, there’s a stronger inclination towards assembling something that has a specificity to it, rather than because the software generates it easily, readily and generically. SketchUp might not be the natural choice to build a seagull, for example, but that didn’t stop one individual. Nor using Excel to produce the co-ordinates necessary to realise a bowling pin.
Camilla from our London studio asked a really pertinent question the other day – when Malcolm from RepNap came in – which was “Why are half the things that you see printed by way of demonstration, toys or trinkets?” (I paraphrase; she’s more eloquent than that).
This is a good point, and one worth keeping front of mind. When people visiting our site, walking past our window or reading this in print come across this internal project, it’s an easy reaction to think of this as another Shoreditch-based studio toying with an emerging technology that is deemed as being something that’s ‘neat’ to be associated with. We don’t see it quite like that, but it’s easy to get that impression when the end results from this project is a bunch of comedy chocolates.
The toy element – the trinket, if you will – is an important one. There’s a cracking book by Marina Warner, titled ‘Scaring, Lulling and Making Mock’ that traces the cultural history of stories told to children, to prepare them for the realities that they may face upon growing up. We, as designers, are constantly learning, refining and adapting, noting what’s new, discarding things that, with gut instinct feel like ‘a bad idea’ (albeit on occasion noble). If that first instance of encountering a new technology is something that we can have a frame of reference for, and can pitch a relevance, then all the better to get under the skin of it later on. Daniel and I were talking around this notion the other day, of tech masquerading as ‘toys’, and what the standout examples were over the years (50’s chemistry sets with actual nuclear material came to mind). Regardless, they’re all examples of dressing something that is fundamentally engineering or technologically driven, and presenting it in a fashion that draws an individual in – it scares, it lulls and it makes mock.
What does this mean? It means that after this project, we have designers here working on unrelated workstreams that are turning up with 3D renders of scenes, objects and proposals, in a form that they never would have thought of tackling before. It means that we have people clamouring to make physical objects; odd brackets, fixtures and models to fix, represent or iterate designs that are kicking around their heads.
Let me put that another way: irrespective of what ‘role’ they serve in our studio, or where they’re based, people have learnt new techniques and ways of thinking around producing stuff that can be picked up… and are embracing it. That can only be a good thing.
What does it mean for you? It means that we have some delicious looking chocolate that you’re more than welcome to sample if you pop by the studio. Assuming you’re prepared to eat something that’s had a hefty amount of Maplin’s freezer spray applied during it’s construction.
Daniel and Ben here in London have been toiling away to get this off the ground here in London and they’ve promised me they’re going to talk later about the steps taken. There’s also a lovely film that Nick and Jimmy are working on and even Jonny’s rolled his sleeves up and crafted some lovely artwork. Oh, and Martin built the little site, taking great pride in hiding some easter eggs in there too. Nice.
Lastly, we really couldn’t have done this without the help of Malcolm and Hannah over at RepNap. Thanks guys!