Inspiration. There are a multitude of tools in a stylists arsenal. Before any of them can be used, we have to agree to the physical design constraints which define the canvas. Brainstorming basic design alternatives is a prerequisite to an elegant styling execution (not to mention, functionality). It also requires “the eye.” Stylists see things in many places and contexts where most of us don’t. Inspiration can happen at any time. I keep a photo file of appealing details. Inspiration is everywhere: parking lots, race tracks, concourse events, collector displays, air shows, plumbing show rooms – everywhere. My file becomes a wall during a project like QC4v, but settles in a direction, often reinforcing a theme consistent with product history – the DNA. Choosing one design approach sets many things – including the execution journey and styling constraints.
Sketching. Most professional stylists still start with sketching. Some are proficient enough to go straight to rendering, using software tools like Autodesk Alias. Not me. As a stylist, I can sketch just well enough to communicate my ideas.) First, I start with several perspectives on an engine geometry and lay down and refine lines on tracing paper over those perspectives. Second, I’ll refine further with simple renderings in Adobe Illustrator (“simple man’s Alias”).
Third, I kick around my ideas with one of several engineering designers who will translate our inevitable compromises into computer-aided designs (Pro-E CAD). On QC4v, Tom Immel was my man on the inlet system and Jim Barczak on the exhaust system.
Fourth, I tap my soul-mates in styling at Mercury, led by Todd Dannenburg, for brutally honest feedback and conceptual alternatives. (These pros can use real Alias!) Sometimes, we’re done at this point.
Clay. On big expensive projects like complete outboard engines, we move into clay models in the Mercury Styling Department. There, design ideas are executed in full-scale 3D, toyed with, refined and finally digitized. That’s how we did the 300 ProMax “Alien” styling.
SLS Plastic. Other times, after several iterations, we’ll translate component designs into plastic, using stereo lithography (SLS) – especially if the parts are highly visible, the tooling is expensive or the spatial relationships are difficult to visualize. Stereo lithography is like magic: It is like CNC machining, only backwards! Start with a CAD file, an expensive and clever machine and an empty working surface. A few hours later, a plastic equivalent of the part has materialized – “painted” into thin air – on the work surface. Sometimes, then, we’re done.
Foam. More often, I move into a soft styling foam. Blocks of this stuff can be easily and very quickly shaped to see various concepts in 3D and to check or refine assembly clearances and fitment. However, the foam is very fragile and easily dented or broken. Therefore, once a direction is agreed and set, I replicate and refine in hard “prototype” foam. This stuff is dense, takes more time to shape, but when complete, can be used as a plug for composite parts or surface digitized and incorporated into CAD files for hard tooling.
Mock-up. When finished prototype parts come in. we cross our fingers and hope it all fits together on a mock-up and looks good. If it doesn’t, I do it over. Usually, it fits.