Last session, I experimented with cutting into materials which have not previously been used, pushing the boundaries of what the laser cutter is capable of and testing out what would happen as a result. Things such as leaves, bark and other pieces of natural resources were primarily what I was working with. At the time, there wasn’t necessarily a conceptual drive behind this experimentation, but instead was more a matter of “I wonder what would happen if I did this”.
Interestingly, this made me begin to consider the relationship between the incredibly high tech capabilities of the laser cutter, and the very simple and natural aesthetic of leaves and bark. The designs that are cut by the laser cutter are incredibly precise and formulated, yet when cutting into an uneven surface or within a windy environment created by the extraction fan, the finished product often became corrupted or deformed in one way or another, which was a very interesting result.
Unfortunately, I was unable to entirely complete this project last semester, so for the next 6 months I am hoping to revisit this idea and develop the concept even further to hopefully produce a conceptually strong final work with a unique aesthetic.
Cobanli, the founder of OMC design studios argues that “great design is the iteration of good design” (2019). Iterative design can be implemented at any stage of the artistic process, and when executed effectively, should be of a minimal cost to the user. This is to say, the iterations and experimentations with a medium need not be necessarily at the same high standard of the finished product, but should instead give an indication of the successes or failures of a particular medium. As Stein explains, practice is essential in any iterative design process. “Fundamental to the design process is prototyping and producing mock-ups of the design. Imagination can only take you so far” (Stein, 2014).
In my experience with prototyping this semester so far, I have used some successful iterative processes to expand my tactile knowledge and skills with the medium of the laser cutter. Early on in semester, I began to experiment with cutting generic designs into leaves, in order to examine the effectiveness of the process. As shown in the images below, I began by cutting into a leaf which was more green, and eventually working my way through to fully dried leaves. Along the way, I became aware of significant challenges with using the laser cutter in such a manner. This included the fact that the inbuilt extractor fan made for a windy environment – blowing the leaves around and resulting in some failed attempts (shown below, where an entire design was cut in half). As Stein argues, this is all an important part of the iterative process, with persistence and focus a central part of prototyping and experimenting (2014). He states that “designers must be self-aware and not afraid to take risks, improvise or exercise aesthetic judgements” (Stein, 2014). These experimentations have also been highly cost-effective, as the use of the laser cutter is free and unlimited, as is the availability of fallen leaves.
Interaction Design Foundation 2019, ‘Design iteration brings powerful results. So, do it again designer!’, Interaction Design Foundation, web post, viewed 12 August 2019, available at: <https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/design-iteration-brings-powerful-results-so-do-it-again-designer>
Stein, E 2014, Fostering Creativity in Self and the Organization : Your Professional Edge, Business Expert Press, New York.