Getting attached to drawing tools

Since I’ve been involved in Industrial Design, one thing has remained constant: I suck at sketching. Due to my non-standard approach to this area of study, I skipped a lot of classes that would have helped me out here and have been muddling along on my own. Throughout my classes, I’ve always felt like I’ve never really found my “voice” visually.

Drawing tools have helped a little in this area; their tactility inspiring me somewhat. I started with ball point pen as mandated by my sketching instructor. Completely hated it. I can’t speak for other designers or students, but it seems like the worst sketching utensil to start with. It was very difficult to get levels of darkness.
I then moved to mechanical pencils with red lead. They seemed much more expressive to me and also scanned well.. Unfortunately, red line drawings looked almost universally crappy after markers. I switched to blue, which helped the situation, although they didn’t scan well.
Then I found the Papermate Flair pen. It was the first writing instrument I really liked a lot. It’s felt tip isn’t extremely versatile, but it feels so smooth. I still use them for post-it sketches, and just about any text. The next and most recent discovery was accidental. I grabbed a pencil out of the pile at work to use for sketching up some UI wireframes. It was perfect. It was a Sanford American 2.5F. I searched high and low (and on the internet) for more of them. The only find was one 12 pack left at an Amazon store. I couldn’t bring myself to pay $5 in shipping for some pencils, so I gave up. Dixon seems to be the cock of the walk around here, so I got a pack of Ticonderoga Black’s and found them to be pretty lousy. They had grainy porous wood that flaked off and the thick paint just felt sticky.

At the same time, I started researching the Sanford American. Interestingly, they are owned by the parent company Newell-Rubbermaid. The lists of N-R subsidiaries is rather disgusting to me, as someone who fears big business and would also like to see pencils made by a pencil company and not a mega-conglomerate. Also interestingly, other subsidiaries included Papermate and Prismacolor. It looks like Prisma still has some pencils in the Sanford name, but I really don’t want to pay Prisma prices for a cheap pencil. However, when I was at the drug store yesterday, I noticed a new pencil offering from Papermate along side their crappy Mirada pencils. They are called (not surprisingly) American Classics. I’ve not spent extended time with them, but at first glance, they are damn near the Sanford American. Cheap, thin paint, and a more solid (and probably cheaper than cedar) wood. Perfect!
I know how lame it sounds, but I really feel more creative when sketching with these things.

Designing bicycles..

So I intend to work up a submission for the International Bicycle Design Competition over the summer. You would think that this might be an easy task given the amount of time I spend on a bike as well as the amount of time I spend keeping up on products and emerging technologies in cycling. Sadly, it is not. I’ve a bit of “designers-block”. You see, it’s not enough to simply make a cool looking, functional bicycle; you need to have a gimmick. My experience in Industrial Design remains somewhat limited, but in the year I’ve been involved in it, it seems like the gimmicks are the fuel that makes things happen in most cases. So-called “green-ness” is a hot topic, as is helping 3rd worlders. (regardless of their thoughts on the matter!)

So I need a gimmick. I initially was on the “3rd worlders” band wagon until I did some research on what they actually need. Turns out it’s additional inner tubes and trustworthy mechanics. This is not to say that I haven’t considered turning my design eye towards those matters, but I rather feel like I’m reinventing the wheel.. er solid innertube, as it were.
I’ve got some business/empowerment ideas kicking around, and they might even impress the contest judges, but I really doubt it’d do much for the end users.