Category Archives: Kira Street

Student

Reflection on Crochet

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Free-form crochet and invention. I initially didn’t put these two concepts together, and instead only focused on designing a structural process to generate something that looked organic. I had researched a few free-form crocheters and analyzed their work to see what elements were the most used in free-form work. This initial focus was helpful for me since it introduced me to the world of free-form crochet, a world I had never entered, and gave me the foundation necessary to expand the project.

This semester I changed my focus to be on inventing within a structure. I focused on the questions of how to communicate the grammar to other crocheters and how they could use it to design their own patterns and invent their own free-form pieces. The initial focus of making something organic from a computational structure kept creeping in as I sought to test out those questions; it led me to looking at artificial intelligence and how we design computers to imitate us humans.

Now, with some research frameworks and few rough tests under my belt, I can keep refining my grammar and interacting with more crocheters. I’ll see how they design their patterns and how they approach free-form crochet. I’ll probably change the grammar a bit to fit it into their creative process. Maybe I’ll even develop a free-form crochet machine. Either way, I’ll continue using workshops and other interactions to understand how invention in design happens.

So What?

CATTt visualization-01 CATTt visualization-02

WHAT? SO WHAT?

I’m planning to host a workshop to communicate my free-form crochet grammar effectively. I want to see how this generative form of design will be taken by the crochet community and hopefully inform them of a new creative process. Since free-form crochet is, by nature, an intuitive form of crochet and one that beginners tend not to get in to, I figured that it’d be a good starting point in designing a framework to follow and then later break to foster inventiveness. The grammar has a healthy bit of determinism and indeterminism in order to give the crocheter the space to invent, and possibly input their own creative process in a new way.

To relate this to the field of design, particularly product design, we designers are burdened with the need to be creative and inventive in what we do. Often, “new” products are not truly novel, and may only add features to existing products without changing the whole dynamic or concept. We are in need of innovative and inventive solutions, otherwise, we’ll remain stagnant. Generative Design can help designers awake their inner inventor. Although it has rules to follow (and inevitably, many will only design according to these rules), there will always be at least one designer who will break them and perhaps invent something not previously conceived.

 

3rd PARTY COMMUNIQUE – WHAT? SO WHAT?

INVENT (v) – to create or design (something that has not existed before)

Think of the products you use or see on a regular basis. Think of processes. How many of them, would you say, are inventions? True inventions? Something that cannot be paralleled by anything that came before it, maybe even something revolutionary. I’m contending that the answer is “very few”; modern product designers are actually redesigning things more than inventing new designs. Of course, redesign is necessary as we update our technology and as our sociopolitical structures evolve, but there should also be space for invention. Design informs the world of art, science, and engineering in one way or another, and if we can get designers to invent, these new discoveries will affect these other fields, taking new paths we didn’t think about before.

Now, invention doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s rare to have constant “Eureka!” moments. So I’m proposing that we give designers a framework that can generate multiple different designs. It would be like a computer; you choose your inputs and the order/placement of those inputs, and a final design spits out. It may be novel, it may have been done before. But either way, once those final designs are out, the designer has something to invent on, maybe even change entirely.

I want to test out this theory of invention within a framework using free-form crochet, a fiber art form based on intuition and community. Just as designers, free-form crocheters have their own creative process. And beginner crocheters tend to shy away from more free-form work. If this framework can augment the process of experienced crocheters and bring about creativity in the beginners, I think it can bring invention into the design world as well.

(I feel like I said the same thing in the same way in both. I’m not sure if I got the layperson-speak down yet).

Interesting image showing the connectedness of art/design/science/engineering

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I took a class my last semester of undergrad by a woman named Neri Oxman. She’s amazing, please Google her. But she showed us this graphic during one of the lectures, and it shows the intersections and paths between these four disciplines. We tend to think of them as completely different and separate, but they are really more connected than we think. The graphic reads a bit like a graph and a bit like a cycle. I just thought it related to some of the readings we’ve been doing that talked about how design is like an intersection between art and engineering and that talked about the benefits of a more holistic education.

It was made to promote a new journal with the MIT Media Lab and in conjunction with MIT Press. Check out the Journal of Design and Science. And you can read some articles on the journal and the intentions behind it here and here.

 

Fabrication Musings

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Digital Fabrication is a favorite topic of mine. As someone who’s used these machines and methods many times in my architecture, engineering, and design work, I constantly think of ways to make something. Do I have an idea for a product design? I’ll do a rough sketch and spend some time just thinking about the Rhino commands I’d need to use to make a 3D model. I’m a visual thinker, so it’s easier for me to understand something if I see it or a drawing of it rather than using words.

When it came to physically making a sphere, not just typing a command on Rhino and sending it to a machine, I found that I got more enjoyment and satisfaction out of the fabrication. Spending time whittling or turning made the final satisfaction sweeter.

CATTt Post-rationalization – Free-form Crochet

Here’s the final manifestation of the CATTt framework on my free-form crochet project.

CONTRAST

I’m working against the culture of “reinvention” and “reapplication”, because it can stifle the invention of truly new products. Instead, I’m focusing on encouraging invention among designers

ANALOGY

I’m using the analogy of how jazz is played. Jazz players use similar chords and notes, but rely on improvisation to create new tunes, so that no score is the same. They continually invent based on a set framework.

THEORY

Isaac Newton once said in 1676, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” It’s widely accepted that invention doesn’t happen in a vacuum and is preceded by either a framework or the work of another person.

TARGET

For this free-form crochet project, I’m targeting advanced beginner crocheters who probably have not yet designed their own pattern and have mostly followed given patterns. I want to challenge them to invent their own piece.

TALE

The tale will be told through a workshop (or two). I’ll teach the crocheters this method and see how they use it. Hopefully it will give them the space to invent in their own projects.

Prototyping and Politics

I’m taking a class in the Architecture building on Design Firm Leadership on Tuesdays, and yesterday, the professor brought up an interesting thought. He was comparing the Architecture/Engineering/Construction field to other design fields, saying that the process is different. For example, if the process for Architecture were replicated in other fields like aerospace engineering, in order for Boeing to start building a plane, they would gather a group of people with different skillsets who had never worked together before, build the plane, load it with passengers, fly it, and then the engineers would go through the plane as it was flying checking off what went wrong and how to fix it, while it’s up in the air. There’s no full-scale or beta prototyping in Architecture. Sure there may be models, but nothing that the end-user can actually use to iron out any kinks before the building is put into use.

That got me thinking about how Product Designers use prototyping and various modes of fabrication. Because, we primarily work on a smaller scale than Architects, we can afford to make multiple iterations of product. We can 3D print a looks-like model, maybe use Arduino to prototype the electronics so it works how we want it to, use Rhino or Solidworks to render the product and show others how it can work. We can build multiple full product prototypes, even using the final materials, and test them with potential users to work out the kinks. I just thought it’d be interesting to compare the two different design processes.


When I went to SXSW, I went to a lot of different panels and discussions and they, of course, had different topics of discussion. However, there was one common thread in all of them: involve politics and policy. Those who attended SXSW Eco are passionate about sustainability and issues relating to them, whether from a humanitarian standpoint or from an environmental standpoint. For example, it’s obviously a horrible thing that clean water and adequate food are not available to everyone in the world, but it’s wishful thinking to think that it will be solved simply by giving people food and water, or even telling them how to find food and water. Sometimes, we need to get into the politics and culture of the people, meet them where they and change viewpoints if necessary.

One example that stood out to me was in the talk on the broken food system. The speaker highlighted Malawi, where he worked with the farmers to grow more food for their families, and share both the food and the work fairly among the men and women. Because the patriarchal viewpoint there, the women did most of the household work, including harvesting food and preparing it. In order to change this viewpoint, the speaker had worked with a female Malawian grad student who helped empower the women in the village and improve the food system at the local level.

To scale this kind of success to an industrial level will of course be difficult, but it helped me broaden my view on how to fix certain problems. Sometimes we need to look wider. Various aspects of our lives rely on policies and culture and politics, and the problems with our systems can’t be solved in a void.

A Different Framework on Crochet

FORM

There are several forms that this project uses, the most obvious of which is the final crocheted piece. The current medium being used is yarn, but what if I were to change it to paint? Or fabric? Or a collage? The grammar would still hold, I think, in almost any artistic capacity just by changing the meaning of the symbols and their relations. Could it be applied to something non-artistic? I think the reigning metaphor of creating chaos from order may make it difficult to apply this method to, say, medicine. But I think the concept of working within a framework to invent can still be used.

There are also the forms of how the grammar is presented to others. It includes the booklet, my explanation, any physical examples I include. I chose those ways to relay the information because I thought they would be easiest to understand the whole process. But what if I changed or removed one of those ways? It may hinder or help the understanding. I could form the presentation as a video or animation or app. It could be an essay/article for publication (and I do plan to publish the findings from this project at some point, or at least write a paper on it).

OBJECTIVE

The objective is to create a free-form-looking crochet piece from a set algorithm

VISION

The vision behind this project was to put the human in the role of a computer. We have the ability to program computers and robots etc. to do what we want, but can we also program the human? This leads to the next part…

CHALLENGE.OPPORTUNITY

Humans naturally look for patterns in the world, even if something is random. Even the “random” code that we generate is only pseudorandom with a pattern that can eventually be predicted. But the awesome thing is, we humans can be quite unpredictable. We can work with a pattern and generate something predictable, but we have the ability to drift beyond that pattern, to break the rules and maybe invent something new.

I can give someone the grammar and they can generate a crochet pattern, but the way they interpret and fabricate it is beyond my control. Then can there be invention.

IMAGE OF THE WORLD

In the discipline of design (as well as others), there are several rules that we are taught as beginners. Often, we feel that we need to follow these rules for our projects, but if we want to be creative, we sometimes need to break those rules and find something new. A new application, a new method, a new audience.

Free-form Crochet Grammar Booklet

I’ve finished a draft of my Grammar Booklet. It’s meant to distill the information into a handy booklet that (hopefully) people with a crochet background can read and understand the general grammar. Take a look and feel free to give feedback.

I mostly want to know if it’s easy to understand, even by people who have never crocheted or seen shape grammars in use before. Is there anything that needs to be added or removed? The booklet will be given in addition to me talking about the grammar and showing crocheted visuals, but I’d like to know if it’s comprehensive enough to be understood on its own.

I’ll also try to print out a tester to bring to class.

Still in email contact with the Stitch Lab, and starting this IRB -_-

Velocipedia and Japan’s Word of the Year

Velocipedia – Project where the artist asks people to draw a bicycle and then renders the drawing to make it look like a real bike.

https://www.behance.net/gallery/35437979/Velocipedia

 

Japan’s Word of the Year

From 2015 – http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2015/12/15/japans-word-of-the-year-really-grows-on-you/

From Wikipedia 🙂 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanji_of_the_year