Computers are everywhere now—in our offices, cars, and literally in hip-pockets. They are intended to make our lives and jobs easier, but they have limits. In this post and the next, we will explore how computers affect the design and construction of any object. Let’s first look at designing by computer vs designing by hand with pen and paper.
There is a time and place for using a computer in the design process. CAD, which originally stood for Computer Aided Drafting, has taken the place of the old-fashioned drafting table in many businesses. If you are creating a building, for instance, CAD can be invaluable. CAD can calculate structural loads and other engineering variables. As things change during the design (and sometimes the construction) process, walls move which means mechanical systems and so forth are rerouted. It’s often faster to redraft and recalculate these changes in CAD and then hit print than it is to redo it all by hand.
Those benefits aside, the limit to CAD appears in the initial design process. Although CAD was rebranded to stand for Computer Aided Design, it is a bit of a misnomer. The strength of CAD is still in drafting—engineering, infrastructure, the inner workings of a building or a vehicle.
We have all seen objects designed from scratch on a computer—dorm room furniture, the sedan, cookie-cutter housing, or most any other object that is mass produced. Certainly, there is a place in the world for all mass production, but if you are looking for something unique, you generally will not find it in a big box store.
The true creative design process still has to happen by hand. Great architects start a project, no matter the scale of the building, with hand sketches. The same is true of car designers, fashion designers, or anyone who is creating a unique object. Designing an object by hand brings life to an inanimate object. Designers experiment with shapes, play around with crazy ideas, and bring their sketches to a cohesive form. Once they have that idea formed, they can switch to CAD to figure out the nuts and bolts of the project.
For us here at Lambkin Studios, designing (and even drafting) by hand is the only option to achieve the uniqueness of a piece. Sometimes it only takes one drawing. Sometimes it takes 10. For us to design a piece to fit your space, aesthetic, and needs, the only mode of inspiration is drawing by hand on an old-fashioned drafting table.
Laura Lambkin is co-owner and assistant maker at Lambkin Studios.