Notre Dame Magazine Spring 2012 : Page 6
NOTRE DAME AVENUE DESIGN@ND Ana Zavala ’12. Serv.it. Passing heavy serving plates around a table can exclude children and the elderly from the ritual of dining, while serving spoons can stain tablecloths with food residue and ﬁnd their ways into kids’ mouths. Spotting this problem, industrial design Professor Paul Down says, Zavala identiﬁed “a brand new market” with Serv.it, a lightweight utensil that can easily scoop and deliver a serving of food — and rest on the table without soiling it. Daniel Yanez ’08. Maple armchair. Blue paint, gold-en upholstery, slats forming gothic arches: “Looks like a Notre Dame chair, doesn’t it?” architecture Professor Robert Brandt asks. It was complex to build, he notes, and the outward roll of its arms and back makes it surprisingly comfortable. SOMETHING TO SHOW FOR IT I t’s easy to lose sight of the fact — especially at universities where theory is a favorite pastime and ideas often remain in the abstract — that design is everywhere. Your cherished heirloom bedstead likely began as a pencil sketch on a sawdusted workbench. The toilet down the hall took shape on computer screens. The car you drive to work represents the concep-tual and practical talents of dozens, maybe hundreds, of automotive designers. Design defines the things we wear, sure, but it’s infused into the ways we eat, sit, sleep, keep clean and keep time, too. Work and play, prayer and ritual, safety, security, shelter. All of it’s shaped for better or worse by the way our stuff’s designed. Fortunately, we have among us a few people who know what they’re doing. We call them designers, inventors, craftspeople, creatives — men and women who have learned to conceive powerful ideas and express them less in words than in the work of their hands. They are hardworking, mystical fusions of artist, engineer and tinkering human-ist whose labors give form, meaning and comfort to products — and to the lives of those who use them. Designers see. “The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way,” Ruskin wrote as if wandering the cosmos. “Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion — all in one.” Ana Franky ’11. Mahogany side chair. Working in a distinctive style such as Mission chal-lenges students to balance the deﬁnitive aspects of a move-ment with their own originality. Franky sifted through “a ton” of precedents before incorpo-rating her classical training into elements such as the shape of the chair’s back legs and its overall proportions. Jennifer Heller ’08. Mahogany writing desk and side chair. The set “was done at a high level from con-cept, design, execution and then ﬁnish,” Brandt says, noting that Heller used a faux French polish — a lengthy process in which multiple coats of shellac and wiping varnish produce a high-gloss surface that here captured the wood’s rich yel-lows and browns. Several students have designed and built desk-and-chair sets or vanities, completing one piece per semester. Brandt insists that each piece stand on its own. Heller’s turned out so well together that they took “Best in Show” from the Washington (D.C.) Woodworkers Guild in 2008.
Ana Zavala ’12. Serv.it. Passing heavy serving plates around a table can exclude children and the elderly from the ritual of dining, while serving spoons can stain tablecloths with food residue and find their ways into kids’ mouths. Spotting this problem, industrial design Professor Paul Down says, Zavala identified “a brand new market” with Serv.it, a lightweight utensil that can easily scoop and deliver a serving of food — and rest on the table without soiling it.<br /> <br /> Daniel Yanez ’08. Maple armchair. Blue paint, golden upholstery, slats forming gothic arches: “Looks like a Notre Dame chair, doesn’t it?” architecture Professor Robert Brandt asks. It was complex to build, he notes, and the outward roll of its arms and back makes it surprisingly comfortable.<br /> <br /> Ana Franky ’11. Mahogany side chair. Working in a distinctive style such as Mission challenges students to balance the definitive aspects of a movement with their own originality. Franky sifted through “a ton” of precedents before incorporating her classical training into elements such as the shape of the chair’s back legs and its overall proportions.<br /> <br /> Jennifer Heller ’08. Mahogany writing desk and side chair. The set “was done at a high level from concept, design, execution and then finish,” Brandt says, noting that Heller used a faux French polish — a lengthy process in which multiple coats of shellac and wiping varnish produce a high-gloss surface that here captured the wood’s rich yellows and browns. Several students have designed and built desk-and-chair sets or vanities, completing one piece per semester. Brandt insists that each piece stand on its own. Heller’s turned out so well together that they took “Best in Show” from the Washington (D.C.) Woodworkers Guild in 2008.<br /> <br /> Alisa Rantanen, junior. Triv/It. Imagine putting a cup of coffee down on an uneven surface and expecting it not to tip. Triv/It adds enough stability to cups and mugs that users in Rantanen’s control group were able to use it in bed. “You don’t think of a coffee cup sitting on a bed amidst all your blankets,” Down points out. “So it’s basically being able to take your cupholder wherever you want.” Triv/It’s tacky foot also keeps it from sliding too easily on a table or countertop, which along with its elevation reduces the danger to smaller children. Plus, it looks cool and stacks well. A beautifully simple solution? Says Down, “That’s what she was going for.”<br /> <br /> Gina Paietta ’12. Walnut table. Paietta’s first project started with the carving of the corners and her preference for working with wood by hand has become more prominent with each piece. The understated art-nouveau elements in this table have surfaced in Paietta’s subsequent projects as well. This semester she served as one of Brandt’s teaching assistants.<br /> <br /> Ryan Geraghty ’12. Herban Garden. Apartment dwellers complain about the difficulty of growing herbs, flowers and vegetables even on a small scale. Standing nearly 2 feet tall, Herban Garden offers a portable environment that allows a user to take advantage of the best-available indoor or outdoor growing conditions. The clear shell provides access to sunlight and protection from wind, the removable beds make cultivation easier and wooden pegs enable the training of small climbing plants.<br /> <br /> Jennifer Heller ’08. Walnut and rice paper mantle clock. Only three clocks have emerged from Brandt’s Bond Hall workshop in 20 years. With no local clockmaker to work with, Heller first purchased the mechanical movements and face and designed the cabinet, with its Chinese ornamentation, around it.<br /> <br /> Waylon Chen ’12. Clip-it. It’s easy to over-trim fingernails and cause pain and infection in the process. Metal clippers can be slippery, especially for a parent trimming a child’s nails. Clip-it offers manufacturers an easily gripped plastic shell that puts just enough space between finger and blade to reduce the risk of injury. Children may also find its bright colors a calming alternative to the standard metal.<br /> <br /> Clayton Rokicki ’06; Walnut side chair. Christopher Eiland ’06; Mahogany side chair. As fifth-year students, friends and classmates Rokicki and Eiland fashioned possibly the two most complex chairs Brandt’s workshop has produced. Rokicki cut the tenons 5 degrees off perpendicular by hand for the joints of his Federal chair (far right), practicing joinery at a level of difficulty rarely seen outside a majors program or furniture school. Eiland studied broken pieces of American Empire chairs Professor Thomas Gordon Smith brought in so he could learn how 19th century craftsmen drew and then shaped and torqued the wood to get it to twist inward and flow outward.<br /> <br /> Jacqueline Hull, junior. key2lock. Unlocking and turning conventional doorknobs can present a problem for anyone, but particularly for individuals with a neuromuscular disease. One solution, door handles that stick off to one side, can snag straps and belt loops. Key2lock assembles over standard knobs and resolves these problems with a generous key guide for shaky hands, a vertical orientation and a compression grip that allows the user to push the handle with either hand in either direction. Down says Hull even came up with “a very distinguished way” in which injection-molded pieces like these could fit together and lock in place. “Actually, she’s thought through everything,” he adds. “Even the interface material [around the keyhole] is slippery, so when you turn they key, it turns easily.”<br /> <br /> Lacey Cochran, junior. Core Time. Existing apple corers require a lot of downward pressure, have exposed blades that can injure fingers and often don’t slice through to the bottom. Most won’t cut anything but apples. These problems are especially discouraging to children who want to help prepare healthy snacks. Cochran placed a deeper housing around a pair (i.e., fewer than normal) of wedge-shaped blades that slice and then release apples and other fruits and vegetables more easily. The concave cutting base holds the food in place and is notched to help users guide the blade housing to make second, crosswise cuts.<br /> <br /> Kaitlin O’Brien ’09. Walnut and cherry wall mirror. O’Brien was one of those students especially interested in carving and having her hands on the wood. Here, the machined walnut frame sets up the flowing, hand-carved vines inspired by O’Brien’s interest in Art Nouveau.<br /> <br /> Karla Hernandez. Maple table. Hernandez, who took Brandt’s class as the spouse of a Notre Dame graduate student, had worked as a designer in her father’s factory in Mexico. This table was the first piece she’d built on her own. Her idea was to create a line of furniture that would help clean the air inside the home — here, Kentucky bluegrass you could mow with a pair of scissors grows from a container recessed into the tabletop. The Danish modern-influenced design shows how the table was built, another idea important to Hernandez.<br /> <br /> Breanna Stachowski, senior. WINTURN. Snow-shovel makers have long sought to relieve the strain that shoveling puts on users’ backs. Stachowski, a native of Buffalo, New York, who knows a thing or two about snow, designed an elbowshaped, revolving handle attachment that minimizes bending, lifting and rotating like other ergonomic products. But WINTURN has real advantages for manufacturer, retailer and consumer. Unlike models on the market, it ships flat, shelves flat and hangs flat in a shed or garage. The best part, Down says, is the elbow coupling that can flexibly link two shovels together, meaning lighter snow on flat surfaces like driveways can be cleared twice as fast. Stachowski demonstrated the push technique on sawdust in the workshop. “It’s really clever,” Down says, and the International Housewares Association jurors agreed, giving WINTURN honorable mention in the IHA’s 2012 student design contest.<br /> <br /> Stephanie Jazmines ’11. Maple and walnut stool. Jazmines, a former student who “thinks like an artist,” wanted to work in zoomorphic forms and brought the design for this piece to Brandt on the second day of class. “I always teased her and said that this should be at Graceland in Elvis’ Jungle Room,” he says. Jazmines left the maple of the tusks rough so it would go dark when oiled and filed the trunk to give its folds an aged texture. She sculpted the seat, too, so “it’s pretty comfortable.”<br /> <br /> James Levy ’09. Maple chair. Levy chose a lighter wood not typical of the Eastlake style, which Brandt describes as a kind of “stark, toneddown” late Victorian movement known for its clean lines. “He just hit it,” Brandt says, praising the chair for its solid design and straightforward construction.<br /> <br /> Dominic Corsaro, junior. Set Escape. More than 2,500 people died in house or apartment fires in the United States in 2010 and many more were injured while jumping to safety. Corsaro found that while market solutions like rope ladders exist, many homes are without them. His idea: An attractive piece of folding furniture that could hook onto a window and become an emergency escape.<br /> <br /> Abigail Courtney ’12. Mahogany side table. In another superficially simple first-semester project — and one evocative of the heavier “pillar and scroll” designs of the early 19th century — Courtney forced herself to focus on balancing the legs’ front and back lines. “These two lines have to work in unison,” Brandt points out. “If they don’t work together that piece is lost.” Courtney nailed it.<br /> <br /> Airi Kobayashi, fourth-year senior. STORIE. Expired meats and produce pose a threat of foodborne illness, a problem often traceable to disorganization in the refrigerator. STORIE is a portable storage unit that reduces clutter, records ambient temperatures and tracks expiration dates. A special insulation system allows it to serve as a cooler as well.<br /> <br /> Elizabeth Slaski ’12. Walnut window bench. Benches of this sort for reading or talking under natural light aren’t as common as they once were. Slaski’s achieved a classic symmetry and a harmony of line in which the arms flow both into the legs and toward each other.<br /> <br /> Yacintha Fanardy ’08. Walnut-frame stool. As if lifted from Bilbo Baggins’ study, Fanardy’s stool evokes the cycle of the four seasons with a whimsical naturalism and rounded arches. The panels here show winter and spring in multiple hues of wood. Charming, yes, says Brandt, “but also you understand the sophistication behind it as well. It works on so many different levels and has such a broad appeal.”<br /> <br /> Patrick Grannan ’07. Mahogany table. At first glance, Grannan’s table is one of those “simple” first projects — meaning light on the ornamentation — that allows students to learn their way safely around the tools and materials. But Grannan didn’t make it easy on himself. An experienced woodworker would be justly proud of the skirting and the rounded corner blocks, not to mention the lathe work on those long, delicate, tapered legs. “Do it once, big deal,” Brandt says. “Do it four times.”<br /> <br /> Rebecca Sigman ’08. Walnut side chair. Take the back off this chair and you’ve seen something like it in a fine art gallery — they’re not meant for long-session sitting. Inspired by old Roman campaign chairs, which were used both by military officers and early Christians because of their easy portability, Sigman incorporated compatible Chinese influences into her design. Her attention to detail makes this one of Brandt’s favorites; she even carved the arms and feet to echo patterns in the upholstery.<br /> <br /> Eras Roy Noel III ’12. The Pop Out Ironing Board. Space efficiency is important in most laundry settings. Noel designed a pneumatic lift ironing board that fastens into the storage drawer located beneath the drum on many contemporary clothes dryers, providing an adjustable- height surface for folding and ironing.<br /> <br /> Yacintha Fanardy ’08. Maple side chair. Brandt, a sculptor by training, considers the “sculptural, expressive” qualities of Fanardy’s design a successful break from the symmetry that is so fundamental to the architecture school’s classical principles. While preserving the visual balance of the piece, Fanardy’s use of curves and lines makes for “an interesting and complex composition.”<br /> <br /> Cy Bennett, junior. Spigot Saver. When people leave their garden hoses attached to outdoor spigots through the winter, water trapped inside the system can freeze, expand and crack the pipe, even when the valve inside the house is turned off. Countless homeowners discover this problem the following spring — after they’ve flooded the basement. Once the water is turned off indoors, Spigot Saver solves this problem by draining the spigot and a wall-mounted hose with a flip of the red lever that turns a ball valve and siphons dangerous water out of the system.<br /> <br /> Becca Huffer ’12. HangOver. The messy tangle created by the age-old power strip is hard to access when it’s out of sight and can be both ugly and dangerous out in the open. HangOver preserves all the traditional benefits of power strips, but it securely lifts wires off the floor while taking up little surface space. Socket covers pull back to create loops that keep cords organized more efficiently and elegantly. Simply put, Down says, “It’s a great idea.”
SOMETHING TO SHOW FOR IT
<br /> It’s easy to lose sight of the fact — especially at universities where theory is a favorite pastime and ideas often remain in the abstract — that design is everywhere.<br /> <br /> Your cherished heirloom bedstead likely began as a pencil sketch on a sawdusted workbench. The toilet down the hall took shape on computer screens. The car you drive to work represents the conceptual and practical talents of dozens, maybe hundreds, of automotive designers.<br /> <br /> Design defines the things we wear, sure, but it’s infused into the ways we eat, sit, sleep, keep clean and keep time, too. Work and play, prayer and ritual, safety, security, shelter. All of it’s shaped for better or worse by the way our stuff’s designed.<br /> <br /> Fortunately, we have among us a few people who know what they’re doing. We call them designers, inventors, craftspeople, creatives — men and women who have learned to conceive powerful ideas and express them less in words than in the work of their hands. They are hardworking, mystical fusions of artist, engineer and tinkering humanist whose labors give form, meaning and comfort to products — and to the lives of those who use them.<br /> <br /> Designers see. “The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way,” Ruskin wrote as if wandering the cosmos. “Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion — all in one.”<br /> <br /> Back on Earth, in a Riley Hall basement office near the studio where student workbenches teem with things like ball valves, dissected kitchen appliances and the plastic prototypes of their latest visions, Professor Paul Down of Notre Dame’s industrial design program equates design with organization. “It’s just about ordering things for a particular purpose or service,” he says. “Whether you’re getting on board a jet plane or just unlocking the door to your house, it’s all about solutions that weren’t naturally growing on the trees when man arrived on the planet.”<br /> <br /> Each year a group of Down’s industrial design students — juniors mostly — enroll in the Product Design Research Project course he teaches with the help of such colleagues as Ann-Marie Conrado and Michael Elwell and shop technician George Tisten. They learn the language of materials and mass-production manufacturing processes, identify household problems that may be most acutely experienced by children, the elderly and the disabled, and then benchmark, brainstorm, think, draw, build, test and re-test their way toward product designs that offer innovative solutions.<br /> <br /> While their peers meet educational epiphanies in London, Rome or Uganda, product designers’ eureka moments come on field trips to places like the JMS Plastics Inc. factory, about a mile from campus, where they get their first serious exposure to processes from injection molding to profile extrusion.<br /> <br /> Across campus, in the similarly subterranean Bond Hall workshop of Professor Robert Brandt, furniture designers have received the same sort of illumination — sometimes even personal guidance on a project — from the staff of Cole Hardwood in Logansport or Johnson’s Workbench, a South Bend lumberyard and woodworking supply store.<br /> <br /> For Brandt, design may lie somewhat closer to Ruskin’s artisanal predilections for hand tools and the earthier glories of wood. Students taking his four-semester Furniture Design concentration in the School of Architecture start with a “simple” table. It may be their first step from the two-dimensional drawings of their studies in classical architecture toward the work of genuine understanding that is the act of building in three-dimensions. They explore precedents — the Shaker style or the neoclassical American Empire and Biedermeier styles of the early-to-mid 19th century; distinctive later movements like the Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau and Mission; or even standout contemporary designers — but Brandt reminds his students not to bind themselves up in tradition. “We don’t make antiques in here, so it’s got to be an original design.”<br /> <br /> Each student presents Brandt with three to five ideas, and soon they’re machining their wood and reaching for the rasps, files, saws and sanders. “Craft to me is just expressing your idea with clarity,” he says. “If you look at something that is poorly crafted, you can’t get past that. You think, well, this isn’t much. But if something is crafted well, then you’re drawn into it. You start to understand the idea, the intent, clearly.”<br /> <br /> Process and product make for quiet drama in the days and nights of the student designer, each year germinating some of campus’ most heartfelt accomplishments. Down thinks of the grin on a former student’s face after a breakthrough led to a design for a baby stroller that could both climb a curb and support the weight of an elderly or disabled pusher. Brandt recalls one student for whom building just “didn’t come easy.” At 3 o’clock on the morning of the review, she stepped back from her first project with tears of joy streaming down her cheeks.<br /> <br /> Down’s students emerge with process books that anchor their portfolio and, not infrequently, earn honors from the International Housewares Association’s annual Student Design Competition. Brandt’s students, most of whom pursue careers in architecture with a sharper eye for the relationship between buildings and furniture, keep their finished tables, chairs, desks, mirrors, cabinets or clocks. For architecture student Cristina Gallo ’12, the sense of satisfaction is incomparable. “It’s great to have something you can show people and say, ‘I can do this.’”<br /> <br /> More at the web<br /> “What these students show is a fraction of what they have done to come to terms with this,” Professor Paul Down says, speaking of the 20- to 40-page process books his students create for their Product Design Research Project. Over the years, Down says, these books have persuaded competition juries, earned their authors graduate school placements and scholarships, or simply opened the door to satisfying careers in the field. They demonstrate the capacity to identify real problems in daily life and show a student understands “the logical sequence that usually leads toward groundbreaking innovation.”<br /> <br /> While we can’t share a whole book, we can show the composite sketches that represent several students’ best effort to explain their design in a single page. Check them out at our website, magazine.nd.edu, and in our digital edition, accessible from our home page.
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