Join Jonathan Racek for an in-depth discussion in this video Questions that drive form, part of Rhino: Furniture Design.
- So let's consider form as it relates to function. To begin, we can ask some questions to help inform our initial direction when we're designing something. I find that the best questions to get to the heart of determining form relate to things like, what's the structure? What are the materials used? And what's the function of the piece? So our first question. The designer needs to decide how a chair will address structure. Will the chair emphasize lightness or an absence of structure? Like how this chair emphasizes lightness with its thin points of contact with the floor.
Or will it be light in area, like this chair that barely seems like it's there? Will the chair feel heavy and substantial, like this big, thick leather arm chair. Or like this granite stool. Will the chair feel heavy and grounded, like this wood stool? Or this concrete bench? Or will it float, like this lounge chair? Or like this fabric chair? Or have a feeling of warmth and softness, like this leather seat? Or a cold, hard feeling, like this wood chair? So on to our second question.
Will the materials used be traditional or nontraditional? Will the material have qualities that the designer wants to highlight, like the heaviness of this carved bench? Or will the material have some sort of contradiction? For instance, like the form of these lounge chairs that look light, but they're actually made out of heavy concrete. Or will the chair embrace imperfection, like the irregular quality of this wood bench, where the form of the wood is determining the form of the chair? Or will there be tension, like these plastic chairs? They look glass-like, and they seem delicate and fragile, but they're actually made out of a tough plastic that would be difficult to break.
Or how about this chair made from vinyl tubing? Seems like a surprising choice of material, the fact that it would seem so delicate, but the tubing works together to provide a comfortable and flexible seat and one that creates an interesting pattern of light and shadow. What about this chair that's made out of leather, yet it appears so light? Leather is traditionally associated with big, heavy chairs, like the arm chair we looked at before, but this is essentially a piece of leather strung over a thin wire frame.
Interesting how this choice can turn around accepted conventions. So the important point here is that materials are conscious decisions, and they contribute to what the designer is trying to say with their design. Our third question is, what is the social function of the furniture, and how does that social function influence form and shape? Maybe another way to phrase this is, does the furniture shape create opportunities for new social uses or interactions, maybe like this bench? What about this continuous bench that snakes through the space? How might this create new opportunities for interaction? What about a picnic table? How does sitting at a picnic table create social opportunities? Have you ever sat at a table with people you don't know? What about an arrangement of chairs in a circle? How does this arrangement change social dynamics? So the design of the furniture can influence how social interaction can take place.
What about social status? How does furniture talk about social status? Historically, stools were typically used by the lower classes, and chairs were used by the upper classes. Chairs, they still indicate status today. Chairman or chairperson, to chair a meeting, all of these terms indicate status. People sitting at the head of a table often indicates the most important status of a group. Alright, so back to our key question. What information, what questions help determine form? We've seen that questions like what kind of structure does a designer want to articulate? What kind of materials does the designer want to use? How will the piece be used? And does that piece help articulate social status? The answers to these questions, they help determine what form the furniture might take.
Start by framing your work and exploring big questions such as "What is furniture design?"
Next you will learn by doing, modeling some of the important pieces of furniture history (such as the Thonet café chair and Eames DCM chair) to gain a better understanding of the masters of design.
Explore the furniture design process by following along with the research, schematic design, design development, and documentation of a brand-new furniture design.
Extend and translate
Last learn how to translate your furniture design to other software by exporting assets for 3d printing, rendering, and game development.
The training is focused on the creation of complex organic surfaces while you maintain precise control of that geometry's accuracy. Packed with tips and timesaving strategies, these tutorials will not only make you a better furniture designer, but a faster one as well.