Subtraction Midterm: Drafting Stand

Getting Bent out of Shape

This semester I’m taking an architectural drawing class in the Art History/Urban Design department. I’ve spent more than a few weekend nights awkwardly hunched over a small, low table sketching and drafting. If I felt like I was suffering for my art at first, after a few weeks of painfully unfolding myself after a drafting session, I’m now cured of that psychosis.

I needed a permanent solution. This midterm provided me with a perfect opportunity to avoid spending money I don’t have on a drafting table I may never use after this semester.


I didn’t have the material (or space in my apartment) for a fully upright drafting table design. Instead I decided to use what material I did have + my kitchen/crafts table to get the job done.

I designed a break-down-able stand that would fit on top of the kitchen table.

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The inset distance at the bottom (denoted with a 20″) is what sits on the top of the kitchen table. The tabs that drop below that rest on the folded down leaves of the table.


The design went through several iterations as I worked on building something robust enough for continued usage and…would fit onto the one sheet of plywood that I had at my disposal.

3D Modeling

Just for kicks I decided to 3D model the design in Rhino. These  aren’t strictly accurate. They were just to push myself to make the model and for a view of the object in digital space.

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I broke the CNC processes into individual parts (stands, struts, and holder) just in case something went wrong. I kept the origin point the same on all of the paths while creating them in MasterCam and when I set up the CNC machine. I had measured exactly how each cut would fit on the material, so I needed the CNC to be measuring from the same origin each time.

Finished Project

…coming soon to another post near you…

Tiki Me Two

I wanted to up the tiki-ness of this one. So I created more complicated shapes, more layers, and a more exaggerated facial structure. I even started with a photograph and used contour lines to determine which elements would be layered and where.

After the CNC

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Tiki Me

Subtraction: CNC


Per usual, I wanted to make something functional so as to not waste material and aside the skills learned, get something tangible from the project. But a combination of builder’s block (?) and slim picking in the materials department forced my hand. I had to think creatively.

I remembered a really cool project by a design studio called Hey. They’ve been posting minimalist illustrations of pop culture figures, real and fictional, on Instagram.  I love the self-imposed constraints, clever designs, and brilliant use of simple shapes. For whatever reason, this got me thinking about tiki masks which lead me to a pretty excellent tiki-version of a Chicago restauranteur named Paul Mcgee. (He owns a tiki bar called Three Dots and a Dash. I highly recommend it.).

I wanted to create a tiki-style portrait of myself using simple shapes, adding dimensionality by stacking layers of material. 

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My initial sketch.
Illustrator file


After a few false starts, Ben schooled me on the most efficient workflow for the Techno Router CNC. The key is to separate each feature into it’s own Master Cam file (and eventually into its own G-code file). This allows you to reset the origin point relative to each individual tool path. Which is super helpful because you’re able to CNC each shape at will, and by re-zeroing the CNC you don’t waste nearly as much material. In the first image below you can see that I was reset the origin point, just outside of the previous cuts, for each shape.

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I decided to paint each layer in varying shades of one color. I think it looks killer. And the monochrome will help make the layers pop. (One caution is that that the acrylic paint I used added a few millimeters of thickness on the sides, so the pieces next to each other on the same layer don’t fit as well as they should.)


Tiki Me




Popcorn Monsoon


If it was possible to fall deeply and madly in love with a mechanical object, this would be my Juliet.

This is a clever, delightful, and elegant solution to a common problem – un-popped kernels messing up your otherwise delicious bowl of popcorn. What’s even more important is that it’s a re-imagning of what this machine traditionally looks like and what the experience of making air-popped popcorn is. The unexpected change in form creates a new way to experience something you take for granted.

Project by Jolene Carlier

Sketching a Novel Ui Concept: QUAD

For my Design Tool Studio project I was initially interested in exploring digital organization. I wanted to think about and maybe re-imagine the traditional folder/file structure. What follows – a conceptual user interface (Ui) I’m calling QUAD – started as a tangential thought.

Thinking about organizational structure lead me to how we visualize organization and finally to how we interact with that visualization. In my thought process, I abstracted out from the system itself to how we visualize and interact with the system, just as a computer abstracts from machine language to an organizational system capable of interaction. (I’ll be returning to the root at some point to consider several other interesting ideas I hit on as I meandered down this path. Including, how different modes of thought reflect the need for different methods of organization, a multi-dimensional, coordinate-based file structure (shades of which can be seen in QUAD), and alternative flexible organizational patterns.)

On a Mac, Finder is the explicit default for exploring files and folders. But often times the “desktop” becomes the de facto place for organizing and interacting with files. I’m curious as to why we still use a desktop at all? It’s not particularly useful. It’s a lot of unused or misused space. An inelegant dump for the things we don’t want to deal with right now. It’s not like we spend a whole ton of time on the desktop, but still, I can’t help but feel that there’s a better solution to this wasted digital “space.” At least, it’s an opportunity.

Touch screen devices have moved away from the traditional organizational system in some ways (e.g. multiple “pages”) and not at all in other ways (e.g. icons). We can push the design and interaction way further in order to make the system more flexible and more customizable.


QUAD is based on a flexible grid system. There are two “views” which have different properties – Quad View and World View. Quad View viewport divides the screen into four flexible areas defined by one vertical line and one horizontal line. Their point of intersection is essentially a handle, which allows you to resize the quadrants. Once you zoom out of Quad View you’re in World View. In this view you can see many Quads, each of which could be holding a document or program. Quads can be linked (creating groups of similar or related documents) and rearranged at will with simple gestures.

I haven’t thought through all the use cases or, probably, even half of them. This is a thought exercise and my only hope is that there is one good (or interesting) idea for every few bad ideas.

Gestures & Interactions

These are rough ideas of how gestures might work in the conceptual QUAD interface. Consider these digital sketches of an idea – a visual exploration of the possibilities, rather than diagrams of the right answers.  


Resize on One Axis



Create / Remove Links

Reveal Links

The Othermill

Full Metal Jacket

The Othermill is a desktop 3-axis CNC router. It’s quiet and it packs a lot of power and precision into a small footprint. It’s basically the Makerbot of CNCs. It comes with its own software, Otherplan, which reads SVG files output from any vector-based software–think Illustrator or if you’re a poor student, Vectorworks.

The Othermill is tiny, but it can charge through a variety of materials. This week we were given aluminum. Or al-lu-min-imum if you’re a Brit, Aussie or just pretentious.

Two and a Half Plan

2.5D is a term used to describe a lot of what comes out of ITP’s CNC machines. It’s not 2D but it’s also not true 3D. It’s what it’s called when you design a two dimensional object on a flat surface plane then cut perpendicular to your design lines through the depth of your material and/or engrave partway through it.

So this sketch for a bottle opener…

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…gets turned into several vector files that, together, complete the design…

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…which gets placed into Otherplan and milled, section by section…

…and ends up looking like this…

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Food Systems Concept Exploration

The full title of this course is “Food Systems: Interventions and Remediations.” Our projects are meant to explore ways we can affect positive change in the system. Some potential areas of exploration include education, policy, agriculture, awareness, and technology. To go along with that partial list I have a list of partially-though-through ideas. While the ideas themselves may not be complex, the way they overlap categories is a reminder that we’re trying to intervene and remediate a complex system.

It’s important to me that each idea is trying to achieve something specific. The scale of the idea is less important to me than an achievable, theoretically scalable prototype or proof of concept. This isn’t because of the truncated class length but rather because overly-lofty ideas with vague ambitions to solve the coming food crisis do nothing to help. You could say they provide inspiration or give us an ideal to strive for, but I think an idea that approaches a problem like a key does a lock is more inspiring, more thought-provoking, and more tangible to the audience that needs to understand it.


Build familiarity with alternative food sources such as crickets and educate/raise awareness that food trends are, in some sense, manufactured by designing a hypothetical brand of alternative food source products, including messaging, packaging, and website.

Develop an interactive infographic that reveals the invisible structure of the food system and helps sift through the overwhelming amount of information. This educational tool maps the complex connections between policy decisions, economics, trade agreements, the stock and futures markets, food production, consumption, and trends.

Create a series of food science-based art pieces/”products” that reframe the way we think about food and make a statement about the dearth of general knowledge about food. (E.g. DNA jam, iron trinkets made from fortified cereal, bottled pure chlorophyll, etc.)

Resource management game in the style of “Drug Wars.” Players are tasked with managing the production, trade, and distribution of food resources across different regions of the US. It’s an educational tool that reveals the complexity of the US’ food structure through game play.

Develop a prototype grey water management solution base on sustainable aquaculture–using oysters (or other bivalves) as a bio-filter to reclaim grey water from home usage and building runoff in urban environments. This could be particularly impactful on costal cities. Oysters literally helped lay the foundation for New York City. Can they help sustain it?

Create an algae bloom in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool as a show of solidarity for the underrepresented alternative resources lobby in Washington DC.

My Problem with Solutions

This is in response to week 2 readings for 'Food Systems.'

I have a problem with “solutions.”

Specifically the ones proposed in articles written by journalists who get home and wash the dirt out from under their fingernails after a couples of hours on a farm or in food start-up accelerator videos that double as business plans or “innovative” Kickstarter products are designed for lifestyle-blog aspirations rather than ecological impact.

It’s an issue with generality and vagueness. If I hear anything similar to the phrase “…we’ll need to feed nine billion people by 2050…” one more time, I’m going to smash an heirloom watermelon, Gallagher-style.  This overused soundbite is supposed to strike fear into the heart of the public?How is someone supposed to grasp gravity of that statement? Most people in the demographic you’re trying to reach have a hard time imagining numbers over whatever their Instagram following is. Good…repeat it, use it in every communication you make. That won’t render it completely and totally meaningless.

It’s fantastic that people are designing $400 countertop aquaponic kits. I love the idea of inspect-based tofu. You eat out of dumpsters? Cool! But these aren’t solutions. They’re not short term solutions. They’re not long term solutions. They’re experiments at best and start-up ideas at worst. Go ahead say it…say “but we’ll need to feed nine billion people by 2050.” Yes. But no one is going to feed 9 billion people with the four springs of basil growing in their glorified fish tank. People still don’t eat regular tofu. And eating waste isn’t going to help anyone who lives where they don’t have food to waste in the first place.

Any of these ideas could be the seed of something great. Something that’s going to save us from what’s coming. But first, we need to figure out HOW the thing gets implemented. Then we can call it a working model. It won’t be a “solution” until it feeds…you know.