Sufficiently Advanced Design


Thinking out loud

Sketchbook page: Witch Lights Harness

Trace paper is where I always start

At World Maker Faire last Sunday, an absolute highlight was being able to see Laura Kampf and Sophy Wong talk about design and making.

I sat with Alex Glow, and was totally thrilled with the presentation. I was especially happy when they showed their notebooks, because I, too, had documenting and sharing my sketchbook drilled into me in design school.

So that's why I'm so happy that I was able to find this photo of the most critical sketch for the Witch Lights, the paper copy of which is in one of about 6 boxes in my closet. This is where I started at one end of a roll of trace paper, and just outlined all the chain of components and elements I'd identified so far. That’s where I realized I could create a unified harness and LED structure with 3D printing.

When I started the sketch, I was considering using polypropylene chinese food containers for the junction boxes. They're recyclable, tough, water-tight, and inexpensive. But my experiment with a hole-saw and the conduit fittings had proved frustrating and laborious.

The conduit I had was 3 times the diameter of what I'd thought I was ordering at 2am the other week. But I liked the way I could make it form shapes in mid-air, and so here I was trying to lay out how using it would change the design.

Note on the left there’s an actual fitting for the harness. I had just found a solidworks model of these online, so I knew I could use my Solidworks assembly context skills to very quickly design hardware to fit it.

At the time I was thinking of printing lids for Chinese take-out containers.

In the upper left, you can see I started a marker sketch of a take-out housing, and then sketched a simpler, streamlined housing that allows the diameter of the conduit to say roughly the same all through the chain.

In the lower right: I figured out I could put sensors in the housings too, reducing another complexity

And you can also see the cable glands and 4-pin waterproof cables for the NeoPixels, which I had already figured out at this point.

It's so cool to find a moment where you pulled it all together and made a design decision that worked out. I'm excited about this!

So yeah... this is basically how I draw. It's not the best. But it gets the idea across I hope.

Next up: building an enchanted notebook so I have shots like this of all my in process work. Because I’ve lost another goddamn notebook.