Most objects in the world function to organize and simplify our daily tasks. Without these tools, humans would be operating much more inefficiently. However, it is also often suggested that the appearance of an object may be of equal importance to its function, as form and function are often intertwined. Thus the goal of any designer is essentially to create a useful and aesthetically pleasing product.
Currently, the International House is hosting “The Creative Process Illustrated,” which features the interior and furniture design work of retired UC Davis environmental design professor Helge Olsen. Olsen studied interior and furniture design in Denmark, Sweden and Finland, and has impressive professional experience working in design studios in Denmark, Sweden, France and the United States.
Olsen said “[form and function] should go together,” and that “form should reflect the function.”
Sacramento City College student James Britcher said he agreed.
“Form should compliment function as function should to form. There is always an optimal form that serves to enhance functionality in a living or working space,” Britcher said. “It is very exciting to see forms from nature recur in modern design to optimize functionality while maintaining … pleasing aesthetics.”
According to the designer, the United States and many European countries have been inspired by contemporary Scandinavian designs during the last 50 years. Olsen, having studied in the region, was also influenced by these designs and continues to incorporate them into his work. He draws upon architecture and landscape for new ideas, and many are integrated into his work.
In 1965, Olsen began teaching in the department of environmental design where he also established and taught courses in furniture and interior design, drafting, design delineation and scale-model construction.
The designs featured in the I-House Community Room are taken directly from Olsen’s personal sketchbook and consist of hand-drawn sketches, rendered in a variety of media including pastel and watercolor.
Though many industries (i.e. architectural, industrial and graphic) make preliminary and final designs with computer software such as AutoCAD, Solid Works and various Adobe programs, Olsen prefers to hand-draw most of his designs to quickly and thoroughly render a detailed drawing.
“Everything evolves from the sketchbook,” he said. As the design process begins to develop, modifications to the drawings are made accordingly and more detailed drawings are created along the way.
Many of Olsen’s sketches displayed in the I-House Community Room show pieces of furniture with multiple functions. For example, Olsen designed a children’s chair that can be turned on its two other sides to form a table or a slide. Another rendering shows that all the parts of a chair may be rearranged to form an ottoman or coffee table.
Olsen, who does interior design for many international corporations, said that designing furniture for clients requires more attention to their specific needs. The university, on the other hand, allows for more creative lenience.
“Most of the time the client doesn’t know exactly what they want because they don’t know all of the possibilities,” said junior design major Yekaterina Novikova. “You have to talk to them to get a feel for what they want and ‘translate it’ into something visual you can create. It can be a very long process … and requires good communication skills.”
The renderings assist the viewer in understanding the objects’ characteristics, qualities, materials, texture and finishes for the furniture. Through these preliminary drawings, Olsen shows his design intentions and explores an assortment of concepts and approaches. Many of the full size drawings in the exhibit serve as the final drawing of the piece and may be used for the actual construction.
For the most part, Olsen’s designs show that furniture is as multi-faceted as any other form of art. These drawings show Olsen’s creativity and innovation in all steps of the design process, allowing viewers to engage with his imagination and ingenuity. “The Creative Process Illustrated” showcases the graphic design and development relative to contemporary furniture design and emphasizes the significance of form and function.
As always, the I-House serves as cultural and artistic education center. Next Thursday, Nourish International will host “Explore the Shadows” to showcase and auction local art, and fundraise for the organization’s tentative project for 2010. The event features a segment entitled “Nourish Yourself, Nourish the World” and a guest speech by Freedom from Hunger’s Eden Rock. Students had until Jan. 10 to submit artwork to be displayed at the event. For more information, visit the I-House at 10 College Park.
SIMONE WAHNG can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.