How Old School Meets New School
The humble leave behind is a staple for art directors and designers. Done correctly it can punctuate your impact to the interviewer as a sharp, creative mind. Done incorrectly it can make you more of a meh than you actually were. It's a lingering expression and reminder of who you are that lasts long after the interview is over.
Being back on the market looking for a job, I started to brainstorm about what I could put together as a leave behind that would both accurately represent me and be instantly memorable.
I started by creating a list of attributes that define me. I'm kind of a geek... I like Star Wars and Marvel movies. I'm into techie stuff... I do some programming, electronics and have a 3D printer. I'm an artist... I carry around a sketchbook with me and love to doodle. I love to mash-up things... there's a beauty in tying opposites together and finding an unexpected, underlying harmony. So what do I do with that?
And then it hit me. When I first got my 3D printer, I scoured Thingiverse (the online repository for free 3d models to print) for cool things. I stumbled across these awesome little "kit cards". A kit card is a modern version of the snap-together models of the 70s. You know, the models where you pulled all of the pieces of off a plastic tree, glued them together and painted them up. And your mom always told you not to sniff the Testors glue... but you did anyway because she told you not to.
I thought a kit card was a wonderful way to tie an old school idea with a new school technology. It was reminiscent of my career. I had a very traditional design background in college. I took classes in drawing, oil painting, sculpture, 35mm photography, marker comping, paste-up mechanicals... the works. However, my first job out of school was all digital. I jumped on a Mac my first day and never looked back. I've gone on to learn so many different programs and programming languages.
I always see a concept taking shape in a sketch on paper first. It's quick and loose and full of raw potential. It needs to be sound on paper before it can even be realized in pixels. But once it is a sound concept, the computer can amplify and accentuate that idea. Bringing it from good to great. There is no shortcut.
Ok. So a kit card represents that aspect of who I am. But what's the subject matter going to be? That's easy -- Star Wars. It's relatable and gives a nod to the geeky side everyone has. It's the most pop culture friendly SciFi flavor around.
I choose two concepts -- the Millennium Falcon and a Tie Fighter. Both are recognizable and iconic of the franchise. They also represent a dark side and light side, of good vs evil. In the Star Wars saga, the notion of balance between dark and light are big part of the storyline on each of the three series. This seemed like a great way to capture the balance I am striking. The confluence of old school & new school approaches to design and creativity, using a tried and true vehicle like Star Wars.
Now what? I've never created something this complicated to print. So I started by sketching out some initial designs (of course). There was a loose framework taking shape that led me to believe this could work. I wanted to channel the look and feel of those original snap-together models and have a chunky plastic grid with lots of nodes coming out to hold the pieces in loosely. There was a retro nature to the industrial feel of the grid I wanted to make sure to include in my design. The sketches were a good proof-of-concept to move to the computer.
I fired up Fusion 360, a CAD software program that is popular with designers of all ages and skill levels. Mostly because it is free, but also because it has an insanely powerful toolset. There's a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the mojo of it anything is possible. I built the models from scratch and wanted to minimize and simplify each one. The plastic needed to be thick enough to have a little heft to it. And they had to be designed with enough parts to make it feel like it was as "engineered" like the old models.
As the models take shape, I make a point to print out parts along the way to ensure they look right at the resolution I'm printing at and are a good fit. Specifically, the tolerances for the snap-off part where a challenge. There's a fine line between stuck permanently and easily removable. All the test fittings went well, so the final structure was created and all of the elements dropped inside. Time to print!
For the Millennium Falcon, I was able to deconstruct it quite a bit and it turned out really nice. The finished product felt like a prize you would pull out of a box of cereal. It was a minimalist in form, retro in feel and the grid had just the right amount of complexity & visual interest. It was a 3 hour, 28 minute print using Hatchbox Cool Gray PLA filament to give it maximum Falcon-ness.
On the Tie Fighter I opted for a little more detail. It was a simpler piece with only four parts to it (vs seven parts on the Falcon), so I wanted to add more features to the model. It had dual laser cannons in front, a hexagonal cockpit, an ionization reactor on the back and two finely detailed solar array wings on the sides. It was a 2 hour, 11 minute print using CC3D Dark Grey PLA MAX filament that is as dark and evil as the craft itself.
A hangtag was added for each one that provided a little personality and the project was a wrap. I was so happy with how they came out and proudly brought them to show my wife. She looked at them and said, "Cool. But who's going to see them? All the offices are closed. You'll never be able to get them to people". She was right. In my enthusiastic zeal to make something I had overlooked the fact that no one would ever see them.
Oh well. Someday when everyone is back in the office I'll have an opportunity to use them for my next interview. In the meantime I'll move on to a new project. Not sure what it is yet, but I'll make sure to ask my wife's opinion before I get too far. She's pretty smart.
If you'd like to print out your own Millennium Falcon, go over to its Thingiverse page and grab it. The Tie Fighter will be uploaded in the next week or so!