How-To: Design something without a computer

Craft & Design

Here’s a neat video about a design firm in the ’60s, and what it looked like to build things before the days of 3d modeling and rapid prototyping. Designers drew out many different plans, then the favorites were cut out in a machine shop, cast, and assembled painstakingly by hand. Looks like fun! [via core77]

16 thoughts on “How-To: Design something without a computer

  1. Jim Cook says:

    Look at all the skill, craftsmanship and time it took to make the test product. In this case a glass container.

    With computer generated 3-D and desktop modeling the finished product is reached quicker and changes can be incorporated faster.

    As time progresses those original skills that made the test piece will be lost. The computer skills are not up to the level of the original skills.

  2. GuyInMilwaukee says:

    …and that my friends is why there are so few jobs available these days, but think of how we’ve shortened the dev time. That takes me back to the days of slide rules, ship’s curves, tech pens, leroy lettering templates, ink on mylar and telex machines.

    I love my computers.

  3. crujones43 says:

    It is wonderful that we have the technology we do today, but it is a shame that the cost is losing the true craftsman. Most of us reading this can probably “create” a faceted stopper like the one in the video but how impressive is it that someone cut it by hand and made it look that good.

    Thanks so much for posting this video!

  4. toyotaboy says:

    As an engineer that spends his time in solidworks building everything virtually, exporting to 3d printers to verify design, it REALLY makes me appreciate what I have when I see all the work that went into product development back then (and these are just simple bottles). Imagine designing complicated things like automobiles.

  5. says:

    High technology has certainly flattened the landscape, empowering innumerable armchair designers, but good design & concepts are still required for anyone to care. Just as anyone can leverage the infinite power of web publishing (and millions do,) our need to filter & curate to taste is a burden that nearly balances out the boon.

    We can now act impulsively on any “wouldn’t it be cool if” design idea that comes to mind. In my view of human nature it’s likely common that once one has their prototype in their hand they may stop the design process at “ta da!”, wasting the opportunity to iterate and change along the way.

    In the film, the a designer is seen making changes to one decanter while it’s on the lathe. This illustrates what I feel the most important aspect of the process shown in the video:

    That the time & effort involved, the friction of the multi-step process, and the gravity of the task, along with the fact that it requires a team of collaborators, creates a series of opportunities to think critically about the product. Creating a thoughtful design certainly benefits from the fact that this likely took weeks to accomplish.

    Another great thing about this film: everything seen is still possible.

  6. Norman DeValliere says:

    Lovely film. I caught myself lamenting the demolition of the Embarcadero freeway for a moment or two.

    I second the comment by Figgalicious regarding the design changes during the lathe work. A process that involves so much hand work is informed by what the hands discover.

  7. says:

    “Well conceived design communicates more than JUST the intelligence … it excites those emotional responses that induce consumers to buy again, and again” and again, and again, and again, and again. Now who in his righteous, capitalistic, consumeristic, seductionistic, counter intellectualistic mind wouldn’t want THAT? I couldn’t stop laughing.

  8. out of this universe says:

    man when looking at this video i rmind my self why did i get a computer to do my machine designs when i do them on paper!

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!


Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).