The art of the individual designer maker has always been dependent on skills to expertly manipulate the technologies at hand to create new forms and express new ideas.

For the designer maker in the current context, the discourse around craft practice is affected by digital technologies that integrate screen and reality. These technologies include 3D computer modelling software capable of supporting organic modelling, and 3D digital fabrication technologies that allow complex geometries and bespoke modelling.  The work of practitioners in this field challenges conventional thinking. The designs in the exhibition question the role of the designer and the relationships involved in design, production and use. They do this by presenting objects that rely on changed relationships and illustrate the possibilities new digital technologies provide.

Lionel Dean is a high profile designer from the UK. He runs a design practice called FutureFactories. Dean’s work leads the way for designers to negotiate the challenges of working with digital technologies yet retain the individuality of a recognised practice. Dean demonstrates a mastery of digital design tools in this work but most significantly a mastery of the interface between human centred design and computer controlled modelling. 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, builds products layer by layer based on a 3D computer model. This changes what is possible to create because it removes the need for moulds in manufacturing, meaning each print can be different to the one before at no additional cost. This has allowed for the development of customised products.

Dean’s work is unique because he challenges the current movement towards customisation by firmly placing the designer back into the driving seat. He rejects the idea designs should become open to being data driven, or even flexible within a set of parameters. Instead, he creates work that allows for individualisation (ie each person may have a product that is unique to them) but not customisation, in that each product is still very clearly a Lionel Dean creation. In this way, Dean is at the forefront of the debate on the changes to practice made possible by combining digital technologies. His work is significant as it demonstrates a new paradigm, one in which the designer retains the signature in his work yet responds to the human need for individuality.

Samuel Canning is a Queensland designer whose work at the interface of craft practice and digital fabrication has been exhibited worldwide. The two pieces shown in the exhibition highlight his ability to retain a craft practice approach but to translate it into the digital realm. Canning demonstrates the importance of skills and understanding of the tools in the work, building on the ideas of expert knowledge supporting practice discussed by theorists such as David Pye. However, Canning’s work challenges the notion of the ‘craftsmanship of risk’ that Pye extolled as the basis for craft practice by illustrating expertise in design for process using digital fabrication technologies.

Queensland designer David Haggerty’s work plays at the boundaries of what is possible to create using 3D Printing in metal, creating designs that push the envelope of the geometric complexity that can be fabricated. Haggerty explores direct manufacturing using 3D Printing and also the extension of current cast practices by designing work that can be printed in wax and then cast using traditional lost wax casting. He represent a new generation of digital natives whose digital creativities are evolving the expression of ideas in an increasingly digital world while retaining the character and intent of a creative mind.

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