Practical Tools and Wise Quotes on All Matters Creative
2.4.4. Inventing in Space
When inventing with space, consider how space could be added to or taken away from your device. How will space changes affect its strength? How will it affect its aesthetic qualities? Architects and top designers make great use of space to create elegance and style, for which they can charge high fees. Quite literally, they are selling nothing (although it is a rather nice nothing). Figure 2.11 gives some space attributes to consider.
Many shapes are as they are because it is easy to make them that way, rather than because of how they behave. Edges are straight because it is easy to cut straight edges. Holes are round because it is easy to drill round holes. Plates are round because of the rotation of the potter’s wheel. A simple way to invent is to look at the things around you and ask why they are shaped that way. Is it is because it was easy to make it that way or because works best that way?
Why is a cup shaped like it is? The edge of the cup from which we drink is round. Beyond the ease of manufacture and the way that this fits our mouth quite well, this is also a good shape for controlling the flow rate of the liquid we are drinking. To get more flow we simply widen our mouths and the flow rate increases quite quickly. So we can use this shape to drink just a little sip or to take big gulps. If you have ever drunk from square glasses you will realise how nice and friendly the round shape is!
Fig. 2.11 Inventing in space
Many, many, many inventions are simply about changing the shape of things to make them do what they do better. Although the basic idea may be to change the shape, the critical part of the invention may well be in the manufacturing process, such as in new milling methods and tools to cut shapes more accurately. The ongoing improvements in robotics, use of materials and other manufacturing system all give opportunities to make things differently or more cheaply and thus add greater value to the finished product.
If, when examining an item, you already have the best shape, you can still invent by asking yourself whether, if it was a different shape, it could be used for additional functions. For example, you could shape the end of a key to be like a screwdriver blade. This might result in the problem of the key cutting holes in your pocket, but rather than reject the whole idea this simply becomes the next target for innovation.
Play with space. Look at it as negative matter: how do the spaces between the shapes alter things? Create virtual space using glass or other transparent and translucent materials. Change the shape of the space and the space around the shape. Move around the space: how do things appear from different perspectives? Zoom in and out, up and down, around and within. See it from your customers’ viewpoint: what does space mean to them? If you are designing books or websites, look at the balance of white space to text and pictures. Make nothing a tool in your invention kit.
Fig. 2.12 Playing with space
Other parts of this sub-section:
Other sections in this chapter: