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Design-Changing Life

Dear All,

I was going through my office cabinet last night and found some design tools from my early career that show how much the digitalization of our lives has changed the design process.

The first is a photocopy from a newspaper advert of the bird’s-eye plan-view of an Opel (Vauxhall) Calibra, vintage early 1990s.


I don’t remember who gave it to me but they valued it for the same reason I did: as an inexperienced designer it was difficult to judge the right curvature in plan of a car body working from scratch. Getting up to date engineering drawings from car makers was close to impossible and other sources were either expensive or unavailable to people outside the mainstream industry. So, this photo of a contemporary, nicely designed exterior in plan-view was a young designer’s gold dust.

Now? Just Google “car plan view” and the first page looks like this:


Not to mention all the free 3D CAD data of real cars, made by hobbyists and available all over the internet.

Next up were these line drawings of 4:3 and 16:9 display sizes, with handy DIN dimensions for reference.



I used these to photocopy, cut out and stick to clay model interiors to check sizes during the modelling process. The models themselves were based on full-size, 3-view elevation drawings – “tape drawings” – so all dimension-checking had to be done by hand.

Now? We make the interior in 3D CAD, including all the correct parts sizes, before NC-milling the clay model – and DIN-size audio slots hardly exist besides in cars made for the Japanese domestic market.

Last, and my favourite, was this table of numbers, dated 10th November 1980. I got this from my friend and colleague, super-modeller Katsumi Kuroki, who probably got it from some master modeller at Nissan, his first job. It was used to estimate how much a smooth radius, or arc,  deviates from a straight line over a given distance.


The left-hand vertical column of thousands, marked with a barely visible R, shows radii in millimetres. The top horizontal column, X, shows straight-line dimensions in units of a hundred millimetres, or two hundred if you are measuring from end-to-end of the curve. The dimensions in the table are the deviation, D, in millimetres as below.


Now? I’d just ask the CAD modeler.

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