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A design tip...

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Hambone, Nov 15, 2003.


  1. For you guys laying out your own instrument shape, I've got a neat trick to help you "see" your design in a different light.

    When you do your layout drawings and have the design tweaked to the point that it looks finished - flip your drawing over (mirror image) and look again! You might be surprised at what you see. All the while you've been slaving over the curves, getting things just right, you have been burning the shape into your memory and constantly comparing what you see on paper with what your mind's eye views. That "image" has little flaws, and because you've been looking at that shape so long, these flaws have become part of the design - imbedded and completely invisible to your critical eye. When you flip the image over, you are suddenly forced to assess what seems like a brand new shape only it's not brand new, it's simply rearranged. Now the little problems can be seen clearly - a little long here, more curve needed there. When you've tweaked the "left hand" version of your design to where it looks balanced, turn it back over and see if the design has the features and balance you wanted. Your design is actually pretty complete when your mind doesn't automatically reject the right or left versions when compared side by side.

    This technique was taught to me in art school as a tool for accurately illustrating faces. Faces are the most simple looking and yet most complex subjects for artists to draw. It was also an important tool when we were drawing self portraits because we would be looking into a mirror image of ourselves for reference.

    Hope this helps
     
  2. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    Very cool observation. Thanks. I had never thought about that. A similar thing that surprised me the first time I did it, was how you can design something that looks good horizontal, but horrible vertical or at playing angle. (Or vice-versa.)
     
  3. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Louisiana, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    I've always thought Rickenbackers looked funny standing up, but great when being played.

    Also, I think a lot of basses look much cooler from behind, like Elricks, Foderas, and most single cuts.
     
  4. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    Agreed 100%.
     
  5. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Louisiana, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    :D ;)
     
  6. mslatter

    mslatter

    Apr 8, 2003
    Good one (!) and another good reason to do things in CAD, where seeing mirror or angled views is a breeze.

    Another trick I use: walk away from it completely for a week or more. Coming back with a fresh eye will help you spot flaws that you'd trained yourself to accept during your initial design. The other benefit is that you'll have forgotten how much you've invested in the original design, and will be more willing to make improvements.
     
  7. mslatter

    mslatter

    Apr 8, 2003
    I've thought of the same thing, actually. I think the mind constantly entertains itself by recognizing shapes the eye sees, dredging up images, dragging along impressions, sometimes emotions if the connection is strong enough. So if your upper bout looks like the slope of the dashboard of the Honda Civic you first made out in, it'll be a pleasing shape to you, even if you don't know why. Turn it sideways and it'll remind you of the blade of the scalpel used during your vasectomy. Same shape, different reaction.

    I also believe we use different eye paths when viewing a bass in the horizontal or vertical positions, thus giving more weight (for better or worse) to certain design elements. So, while we might view a particularly dramatic horn shape third or fourth in the horizontal position it might be the first thing we look at in the vertical. What we see first sets up the expectations for what we see next. Where those expectations are met, we accept; where they're unmet in a way harmonious with other expectations, we find interesting; where they're entirely unmet, we find dissonant and unpleasant.

    Well, not having any formal design training, I'm very close to talking out my ass right now. ;) My point would only be that your instrument will be viewed from many contexts, both visual and cognitive. If you try to consider as many of those as possible during design, you'll end up with a shape readily appreciated by more people.
     
  8. Bassmanbob

    Bassmanbob Supporting Member

    This is a cool tip. As are the responces. Thanks guys!
     
  9. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC