On Site: SAIC MFA Exhibition 2009


It was the Graphic Design graduates at this year’s MFA Exhibit for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago that showcased work which incorporated laser-cutting:


If you ever wanted to know how hard or easy it is to build your own 3d printer, you can learn from these guys

CNET editors build a DIY 3D printer.

In order to understand what it takes to put together a 3D printer, Rich Brown and Matt Fitzgerald of CNET assembled a Mosaic 3D printer over a week’s time, and they documented the process in great detail for the benefit of the rest of us.

If you’re curious how difficult it is to put together a DIY 3D printer, their story should give you a pretty good idea since neither of them have ever done it before. Watch the videos and read all about in in their day-by-day posts.

Day One
Day Two
Day Three and Four
Day Five Wrap Up

Via CNET News


the do-it-yourself little computer-numerical-control mill

A couple of artists/educators out of Chicago have built a low cost, open-source, desktop CNC mill: the DIYLILCNC. And you can really see the educational expertise in the way these guys (Taylor Hokanson and Chris Reilly) have introduced the project. The simplicity and accessibility is just beautiful.

The website introduces what a CNC mill is, how it works, how much their DIYLILCNC costs, and how to get it made.

“The DIYLILCNC can be built for around $700. This cost includes all the stock hardware and sheet material used in construction. CAD files for custom laser-cut parts are distributed along with the plans. Anyone with access to a laser cutter can use these files to fabricate all the panel parts necessary for construction; those without ready laser-cutter access can use local or online laser-cutting services.

Plans and instructions for building the DIYLILCNC are distributed freely and intended for wide distribution and modification with few restrictions. The plans are formatted to facilitate easy fabrication, especially for beginners. The DIYLILCNC can be built by an individual, a student group, or a class. Besides being immensely fun, building the DIY LIL CNC is a great way to learn about motion control and CAD/CAM/CAE.”

WOW, right? If just reading that doesn’t make you want one, then visit the site. There’s a nice little video about the history of the project with a plot test demo using a pen in place of the router, a helpful forum, and a small gallery.

(Plus, I am just in love with how simple and perfect the DIYLILCNC website is. A technical drawing on some legal pad paper in the header with a nice CSS rollover to that classic computer neon green!)

I’m thinking this needs to find a home in the Ponoko showroom.

via SolidSmack

• previous posts on more great stuff from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

UPDATE 10 Jan 2010: There is now an Instructable and open source plans for making your own DIYLILCNC.

On Site: Objects for the Age of Obama

SAIC product design graduate exhibition


Part of SAIC’s Making Modern exhibition, Objects for the Age of Obama presents a variety of living accessories that evoke such mantras as hope, change, and unity.


On Site: Making Modern—the Architecture

interconnected, socially just, sustainable, beautiful, playful: MFA Theses from School of the Art Institute of Chicago


Making Modern is the MFA exhibition for Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This first part of my coverage highlights the work of five recent graduates in the Architecture program.


How To Laser Cut Felt

via Chris Reilly of Rainbowlazer

Felt is an extremely versatile material. It’s non-woven, which means it has no warp, no weft, and no bias; it doesn’t unravel, which makes it an ideal material for intricate garments. However, because it is thick and relatively unforgiving, cutting intricate patterns and structures into felt is difficult to do by hand. Precise cutting is usually done by means of an industrial die cutter, which is costly when producing things in small quantities. Because of the cost of die cutting, using a laser to cut felt is great for prototyping and experimentation. The only downside to this method is the burnt smell.

But do not be too concerned of becoming a ‘mad hatter’ The United States Public Health Service banned the use of mercury in the felt industry in December 1941.

Centerview: Maria Lalli + Nate Lynch


Chicago designers Maria Lalli and Nate Lynch met with me in Maria’s beautiful apartment. (That’s a Charlie Harper illustration behind them.) Having all three served time at the Bullseye, we briefly reminisced on those fast, fun and friendly days when speed was life. Today, Maria is working at a Chicago design consultancy (and possibly releasing some personal jewelry designs in the future!) and Nate is founder of theNate.com, a strategic design consultancy. With my recent bargain, a Griffin iTalk for eleven bucks off Amazon, Maria and Nate shared their experiences and thoughts on being a designer.
Me: So just for some background information; where did you go to school?

Nate: University of Cincinnati, industrial design.

Maria: Same thing.

Nate: That’s how we know each other.

Me: How long has your design career been going?

Nate: Since birth… No, actually, I count at when I started interning. So 7 years I guess.

Maria: Our school has a co-op program; each year in school you also have a job.
Nate: Yeah, you spend three months at school and then three months at work. So you end up with six three-month internships.

Me: Wow. What do you think was the most invaluable thing you got from those internships that you wouldn’t have learned in school?

Maria: I was able to compare a corporate design experience to a consultancy environment and found where I felt most comfortable. Also, just knowing what goes on in the workplace, how designers interact with other members of a team, the variety of ways ideas become products — those were the kinds of things they can’t teach you in school.

Nate: A year before I was set to graduate, the economy took a dive and the job market began to crash. Much like it’s doing right now. I was working for a firm in Boston, and they had to lay off a handful of people. I didn’t lose my job as an intern, but it was an eye opening experience talking to my now-unemployed coworkers. I no longer had an idealized view of my profession. I think it prepared me more for the realities of my soon-to-be post graduate life than any of my academic experiences. From that point forward I made it a priority to have a greater understanding of the business of design, something that has helped me maintain a balanced approach to every project I encouter with my own strategic design consultancy.


(above: portable projector from theNate.com)

Me: What results do you really strive for with your design?

Nate: I’m very user focused. I’m not a form wizard, but I’ll try to make things look aesthetically appropriate. If something doesn’t need to look super-futuristic, then I don’t think it should.

Maria: My work is almost always tailored the clients needs. But for myself, sustainability is very important. So whenever I can bring that to the project I do.

Me: How did you find out about the Deceptive Design show?

Maria: I taught for a year at the Art Institute, and Helen Marie Nugent told me about it. Then it was listed at IDSA.

Nate: I saw it on IDSA, and I’m always looking for ways to collaborate.

Me: What was the process like while working together?


Centerview: Andrew Peerless


Just a couple days after the election celebrations in Chicago, I went downtown to meet with Andrew Peerless. Andrew greeted me on the 12th floor of a high rise near Grant Park, housing the School of the Art Institute’s Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture and Designed Objects. A former student of architecture at the University of Michigan and public relations professional of six years, he is currently a Masters candidate in Designed Objects and designer of the Herd table featured at the Deceptive Design exhibit.

After touring the school’s wood shop which housed a CNC router, laser cutter and fabber among other equipment, we sat down and discussed design – from process to paradigm.

Me: What was the most difficult obstacle in coming from your background in architecture and PR to coming for a degree in product design?

AP: Obviously there’s a relationship between architecture and product design, but I’m seeing a perhaps closer relationship between marketing and product design. In marketing you’re figuring out what people want to hear and how to get it to them which is not that different from giving people the products they want, products that are solutions to their problems.

Me: Is there a unifying theme in your work?

AP: I didn’t set out with a theme in mind, but I’ve noticed that a lot of what I’ve done has picked up elements of things generally considered mundane and tried to elevate them.

With my table for the Deceptive Design show- a cow is, at best, sort of a kitschy motif. You know, cookie jars and cows holding signs that say ‘home sweet home’. And to me it was really interesting to try to elevate that motif to something serious. People enjoy that piece because it’s something familiar, but the finish I think is what makes it a serious piece of furniture.


(The cow legs on Andrew’s table are actually sanded and lacquered wood; I thought they were ceramic!)

Me: How do you work through process; do you sketch, go to the computer or like to get to work with materials?