Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Learning the Secrets of Traditional Design

I recently ordered a DVD on furniture design, which came in yesterday's mail. It's Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design, produced by Lie-Nielsen Toolworks and featuring George Walker. Of course I couldn't wait to watch it.

The hour-long production is divided into three parts. The first segment emphasizes the importance of learning to see proportions and design elements in furniture and architecture. Though beautiful and interesting, this is merely an introduction to the real meat of the program, which comes in the second and third parts.

The second part, which addresses the use of proportions in design, makes up the gist of the presentation. The key message I took from it is that most traditional design, in both furniture and architecture, makes use of simple, whole-number ratios of one design element to another. Using a drawing of a 18th Century Philadelphia chest as an example, Walker breaks down the design into a series of squares and rectangles and then shows how the elements of the chest are simple proportions of each other. Through the use of highly effective communication aids, he illustrates how the proportions can be used to establish symmetry, contrast and punctuation in designed pieces.

Armed with an understanding of how simple proportions can be employed in design, Walker turns in the third segment to application of these princples to furniture design . He draws plans for a simple chest, half of it in traditional form, the other half contemporary, with both halves based on the same design elements. As he does so, he shows how to create simple tools to help in applying various proportions to drawings of furniture designs.

For anyone interested in learning fundamentals of good furniture design, this DVD is well worth the $25 purchase price. It is professionally produced and Walker communicates in an articulate and easy-to-follow manner. The program will find immediate application in my own work developing the proportions for the mission-style table I am preparing to build. I highly recommend this DVD.


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