Often times, and usually as a compliment to an architectural design, we are asked to design in another idiom—a furniture piece, a graphic design, a concept or art piece, or perhaps a combination of all three. As we have been trained as, first, Designers, and as subsets of design—Architecture, Interiors, and Landscape—it naturally follows that a holistic extension of these subsets is Product, Graphic, and Concept Design. To us, design is a universal language that can, with skill and discipline, be beautifully translated into multiple disciplinary dialects.
What differentiates Product Design from, say, cabinetry design or sitework design, for us anyway, is the notion that Product Design implies replicability, and/or the ability to reproduce a component independently, outside of the context or constraints in which it was (perhaps) originally designed, and in quantity. We design 'objects' all day long—with kitchen or bathroom cabinetry design a perfect example. Elements of that cabinetry layout, especially something like a custom pedestal sink—a good example of this is the 'Shirai Sink'—might be be replicated and reproduced outside of the original project for which it was intended, and thus elevated to the status of 'Product.'
Graphic Design places further limits on a particular design problem in the sense that the answer is usually two-dimensional versus three—and thus, graphic. Well-trained architects are comfortable in a graphic medium—notably, plan, section, elevation, and perspective—and so the skillset necessary to translate a design problem into a two-dimensional (or graphic) vocabulary is a natural component of their design process. It naturally follows that graphic design skills are a logical extension of vigorous architectural training.
Architects practice Concept Design when they initially commit to respond to an architectural design problem—and The Concept (or The Idea), if responsibly determined, can lead to almost infinite design permutations while still maintaining a palpable truth and integrity to the original concept, and thus, the original problem. As Concept Design is often the 'first step' taken to translate a design problem into tangible form, architects are naturally skilled and practiced in the endeavor of Concept Design.
As part of the final touches to our Mission Tile West Warehouse project, we were asked to design a custom wrought-iron entry gate. It serves as the main entrance for Mission Millworks and GeorgeArchitecture, as well as pedestrian access for the Mission Tile West warehouse and tile glazing facility.
Although the adjoining buildings are contemporary, exposed poured-in-place concrete (and exposed splitface CMU) warehouse buildings, the entry walls were designed to create a sense of entry, and provide a walled landscape screen in front of the parking area. A large entry portico was created, completely tiled in a highly decorative 8x8 quarter-pattern tile (when set properly, creates a 16x16 design), into which was set a framed pedestrian opening. The tile pattern dictated a more traditional, Mediterranean theme, and we knew we wanted an open, classic, yet original design that complimented both themes.
An early sketch, comprised of simple verticals and horizontals, proved too ‘jail-like,’ and so an exploration of proportions and repeating decorative elements ensued. In the sketch below left, the original gate design (top) and the beginnings of the primary proportioning (below) and design elements (picking up off the tile design). In the sketch below center, more proportioning exercises (working with fifths, thirds, and spacers), and an exploration of various decorative designs that could be developed using only two basic shapes (c-curves and circles, with knuckle ties). Below right, another sketch furthering the proportioning and design ideas, now with a bit more finality (along with a bathroom sketch for another project!!).
Coming to Fruition:
Another sketch, below left, showing the nearly complete design. All that was missing was final proportioning, and details for the lockset and signage. Photo below center shows the two design elements, full-scale, made of hand-hammered wrought iron and hand-made knuckle ties. Photo below right shows the gate, just prior to completion, arriving on site for final sizing and adjustments.
The finished sketch, below left, showing gate proportioning, hinge and strike-side details. The key to the component sizing was the initial vertical “EQ (equal)” proportion, as 1/3 of the gate width (minus metal), and the spacer dimension (“Variable”) at the top and bottom (as the height was not a whole factor of the width). Each curve was (1) EQ high and 1/6 open width of the gate, and each circle was ½ EQ in diameter. Another finished sketch, center, shows the gate design, frame, section details, and sizes. Both sketches were the only drawings used to actually build the gate. Below right, the installed gate (exterior view).
The completed, installed design (below center) with detail photos of the beautiful craftsmanship (below left, below right).