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Beneath the Surface Blog


Thursday Salute to Originals: Adobe Ink & Slide

GPI Design - Thursday, July 24, 2014

Drawing? Sketching? Doodling? They’ve got an app for that! These days there is an app for just about anything you could think of. New technology happens daily all around us, but when it is geared towards the design process, we might pay a bit more attention. Gone are the days of paper and pencil sketching, or mapping out footprint plans with a pencil and T-square. Adobe has recently introduced its new cloud pen (ink) and digital ruler (slide).

These two tools serve as a completely new way to draw and sketch on the iPad. Both tools can be used with two new apps - Adobe Line, a straight line drawing app (think rulers, T-squares, and triangles), and Adobe Sketch, which is an art app. Even if you wouldn’t consider yourself a designer or artist, you can use the tools and apps to doodle or use the Ink as a regular stylus to navigate around your iPad.



With this duo, Adobe created a completely new way to draw and sketch using current technology. This is an ideal asset for doodles, designing on the go, on-site editing, and so much more. Say you’re out in the field and you come up with an idea…sketch it. Then you have something you need to look up online…use the search engine. I bet your notepad and pen couldn’t connect an idea with background research so quickly!

Today we salute the creators of the Ink and Slide. With new technology options such as this, they are broadening the way in which we are able to practice and execute design in an increasingly mobile culture. These devices may be small, but they pack a powerful punch in bringing inspiration to your fingertips.

Image credits: Design Milk

Thursday Salute to Originals: Architecture Under Cover

GPI Design - Thursday, July 17, 2014

Being in Northeast Ohio, we know the weather can change in the time it takes to snap your fingers. The joys of spending an hour getting ready for the day just to go out into the summer humidity to have it ruined in seconds. Or how about in the winter months when you climb in to your freezing car just to have it finally warm up when you get to your destination? Here in Northeast Ohio, Mother Nature is uncontrollable and we tailor our days accordingly. Dubai, however, in the near future, might not have to worry about any weather changes at all.

Not only is Dubai home to the tallest building in the world, the city has also unveiled plans for the world’s first indoor city—a temperature-controlled mega resort and shopping center enclosed with a retractable glass roof. Sounds amazing, right?

This project is described as “an innovative concept” that will “strengthen Dubai’s appeal as a tourism hub.” Their vision for this “Mall of the World” is designed as a contained street spanning just under 4.5 miles and will include a shopping center, theater district, and a gigantic theme park (just to name a few). The developer describes the space as an "alternative experience to the typical Dubai mall".

The space acts as its own hub, protecting its visitors from the stifling summer months—when temperatures can exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit! But thanks to a retractable glass roof, people can be exposed to fresh air in the cooler winter season.

Dubai Mall of the World Interior Structure

Today we salute property developer, Dubai Holding, for this vision that you could say most of us in Northeast Ohio would be jealous of. Not only is the architecture phenomenal, but the idea of enjoying the view of the outdoors while being protected from the elements gives you the best of both worlds.

Source: Dezeen

Thursday Salute to Originals: Salty Panels

GPI Design - Thursday, July 10, 2014

Salt! Sprinkle it on your corncob, put a dash in your pasta water, use it to make homemade cleaning agents or even mouthwash. Believe it or not, a minimal 6% of all salt manufactured goes into food. So where does the other 94% go?

Besides being a basic commodity for making food delicious, it is believed that there are more than 14,000 uses for salt. One of those uses, perhaps most interesting to those geometrically inclined, is three dimensional printing. Recently, an American studio, known as Emerging Objects, printed a 3D pavilion in using salt harvested from the San Francisco Bay.

Salt Structure Translucent Material

The images here speak for themselves. Similar to the materials used here at GPI Design, building with translucent materials such as salt allows light to permeate the space, highlighting the assembly and structure, and reveal the unique qualities of one of humankind’s most essential minerals. Each panel recalls the crystalline form of salt and is randomly rotated and aggregated to create a larger structure consisting of unique individual tiles. We can certainly relate, though our materials can't be boiled back down and used to flavor our dinnertime corn.

Let’s adopt a schoolmasterly tone at this point and discuss the roots of this ionic compound. Salt is a natural mineral made up of white cube-shaped crystals composed of two elements, sodium and chlorine. It is translucent, colorless and odorless. It is also a renewable resource, is inexpensive compared to commercially available printing materials and creates strong lightweight components. While these qualities sound bland (no flavor pun intended), the designers at Emerging Studio were able to capitalize on their inner scientists and transform the compound into pure sculpture.

Image credits: Dezeen

Thursday Salute to Originals: Oh Say Can You See...

GPI Design - Thursday, July 03, 2014

Tomorrow is Independence Day and we’re gearing up for the colorful fireworks which will be lighting up the skies. Around here, you can’t talk about color and light without spurring a long discussion about translucency and natural onyx… but as opposed to writing a narrative about the intriguing layers of fireworks as compared to natural stone, we decided to demonstrate with photographs. So here you have it – fireworks images matched up with our favorite onyx slabs.


Happy Fourth of July! While your neck is craned towards the sky tomorrow, be thinking about how those wildly colorful bursts could influence your next design.

Image Sources:

1- Gold fireworks image from Tarogold 

2- Petri Brown Onyx image by GPI Design

3- Smoky fireworks image from Gadgil Lab

4- Gray Smoke Onyx image by GPI Design

5- Pink and red fireworks image from BSP

6- Agglomerate Stone image by GPI Design

7- Green fireworks image from Nice Cool Pics

8- Irish Connemarble image by GPI Design

9- White fireworks image from Poke

10- Diamond White Onyx image by GPI Design

11- Pink smoke image from Digital Photography School

12- Fire Red Onyx image by GPI Design

Back to Basics #5: Contrast

GPI Design - Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Opposing elements that contradict and enhance one another can create intense forces, manifesting a tangible tension within. Allowing the design itself to come alive with palpable energy, the pairing of opposites generates an inherent push and pull, impacting both perception of the design and associated experiences.

Take a look at the below examples which have harnessed the power of this design staple. How do the respective contrasting elements alter your mood, perception, or memory of the design?

Examples of Contrast in Architecture and Design

Image compiled by GPI Design. Individual image credits: URDesign, ArchDaily, DesignMilk, ArchDaily, Contemporist, ArchDaily, PhotoShelter, Dezeen

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Submersed in creation day in and day out, it’s easy to become immune to the fundamental concepts at the core of design. Becoming so ingrained in our being, their simple existence registers involuntarily – like we’re running on auto-pilot – and we can overlook their individual relevance in the visual realization of an idea. Overexposure seems to dull our sensitivity.

But considering how impactful these (often unsung) basic theories are to design, we’ve decided to go "back to the basics". In this blog mini-series, we highlight a fundamental design theory and showcase just how important and formative that concept is in shaping the final perception of a design.

Recap of prior "Back to the Basics" posts:

Stay tuned for the next and final concept at the beginning of August!

Thursday Salute to Originals: Fluffy Forms

GPI Design - Thursday, June 26, 2014

There is no shortage of artists expressing form via dimensional sculpture. And with 3D printing and laser technology all the rage, we’re seeing an overwhelming trend in calculated geometries that warp into complex volumes (as if a Buckminster Fuller structure met Stretch Armstrong). With such an inundation of this trendy treatment of form, the refreshing work of Tara Donovan caught our eye this week.

Tara Donovan creates seemingly “fuzzy” sculptures assembled from mass-produced goods such as index cards or acrylic rods. She builds from millions of these building blocks to create organic landscapes – ones that appear like rock formations or molecular explosions but are simply formed from these rather mundane materials.

The artist’s pieces are a welcome reprieve not only from the digital technology creative culture, but are also pointedly different than our own work. In cladding various architectural planes with our backlit surfaces, we are nearly always building a flat plane that comes alive through layers of rich, organic patterning. Panels fall into line within rigidly calculated structural systems. Complex natural materials are fabricated into simple, flat rectangular forms. When brought to life with light, patterns and veins emerge, jumping across the feature in lines of animation. There is an element of restraint as organic materials are tailored to manmade geometries.

In contrast, Donovan’s work fuses simple and inexpensive materials into complex forms. Her pieces rely on mass and volume to draw the eye, focusing more on the resulting shape rather than the content of the individual pieces. The sculptures represent accumulation and assembly, exploding with energy as manmade objects become organic forms.

Today we salute Tara Donovan for exploring the entirely opposite side of the coin – that which gathers commonplace items in quantity to expand and complicate space. Donovan’s work will be on display at Pace Gallery in NYC through August 10, 2014. If you visit the exhibit, drop us a line and let us know your reaction to the sculptures! How do they relate to or depart from architectural design?

Sources: Pace Gallery, CollabCubed

Thursday Salute to Originals: Select Your Scribble

GPI Design - Thursday, June 19, 2014

The world of design is brimming with new developments in up-and-coming technology, product launches, and the next big ideas. Take the Scribble pen, for example. Any Photoshop devotee would be thrilled that the “eyedropper” tool has come to life, meaning that you can use the pen to grab a color from any real-life object and draw with that exact color. Move over Pantone swatches, this is instantaneous matching and finite control at its best!

With over 16 million hues and a programmable memory, the Scribble pen is admittedly awesome, certainly attracting a deserving share of hype. And it can be easy to get swept up in the bells and whistles of gadgetry, we know. (Let’s just say that the day we installed our on-site time-lapse cameras wasn’t exactly the most productive in history). But can this type of instantaneous and exact control actually weaken our relationship to those colors, textures, and materials which cannot be bridled?

A common reminder in our office is to take our eyes off the computer screen and back to the hard and true materials. Our surface materials are usually of the natural kind - rings of wood or layers of onyx formed over thousands of years. And while those characteristics can be shifted to some degree - you can tweak appearances and aesthetics with a lighting design change or framing method – those natural qualities are never simply repainted or redefined with an electronic paintbrush. Sure, the Scribble pen is a magic wand of an instrument that can open up creative possibilities, but it leads us to think there may be such thing as too much control over those possibilities.

Natural Pattern in Backlit Onyx Materials for Feature Wall

In creating backlit onyx and wood features, we navigate the concept of control through the design process almost every day. Without prepackaged sample boxes, SKU numbers, or catalogs of options, we hunt for unique translucent wood and onyx materials by traveling straight to the sources at which they were formed: the forests and quarries. Though is not always easy relinquishing the grasp when dealing with natural materials, interior designers and architects who specify translucent wood or onyx surfaces take the leap of faith that we will find a material in Mother Nature that meets their vision.

Backlit Wood Natural Texture Illuminated

Once we find the perfect material, the colors, textures, patterns, and inherent layers formed into the materials are workable only through changing the panel sizes or optimizing the best portions of material. There’s no editing involved, no magic eye drop tool that can ensure a Pantone-exact color match, no clone stamp that allows us to magically delete a vein running through the center of a panel. We simply work with Mother Nature and mold it using our artistic inclinations; it all comes down to a natural and human element which no machine can dictate. We can’t always select our scribble, and that constraint sets off a series of chain reactions that result in true originality.

Today, we salute the creators of the Scribble pen for not only harnessing one very cool design tool, but also for challenging us to think about how convenient technology can potentially limit more traditional forms of art. Because after all, there is creativity and ingenuity at the heart of every new invention. But it’s our responsibility as designers to keep that control from inhibiting our imaginations and ultimately, our figurative and actual scribbles.

Are you a designer working with natural materials? How does the process challenge your inherent role as a designer, to control and specify to a fine degree? How can technology affect the process of working with natural resources?

Sources: Inhabitat

Thursday Salute to Originals: Urban Sketching

GPI Design - Thursday, June 12, 2014

What we consider to be art is constantly changing. On an individual basis we may be more open to what that term encompasses. However, as a society, we can sometimes be unwilling to understand and accept a piece as an artistic work. Abstract art, for example, is at times discredited and not seen for what it truly is: Art.

Society can be strict about the definition of art.  In reality, art is defined as, “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” Urban sketching is a prime example of an art form that is underappreciated.

The concept is very simple; however, to master the technique takes practice. Urban sketching involves a sketchbook, a scene, and a creative eye. While many forms of art, such as realism and romanticism focus heavily on details and depicting a scene with complete accuracy, urban sketching focuses on something more than literal visuals.

One area which urban sketching focuses is capturing the feeling of the scene. It searches for a way to make the viewer feel the emotion and even the physicality of the sketched area.

Campanario Urban Sketching Art

Urban sketching also focuses on human interaction. The artist picks out interesting patterns of motion and exciting people. He or she shows the way the people interact with others, as well as the space and architecture around them.

Rolf Schroter Urban Sketch Streetscape

And finally, urban sketching focuses on general form. Rather than convey specific details, the sketch attempts to gather all of the massing information in a scene quickly. This gives the viewer a general suggestion of the scene without taking away from the focus of sketching.

Since about 2007, urban sketching has become wildly popular. It was popularized on Flickr by Gabriel Campanario. He started by posting his urban sketches on the site and over time, his Flickr became popular enough that he decided, in 2009, to start the Urban Sketchers - a casual group that gets together to recreate interesting areas, people, and structures through sketch. Now there are hundreds of Urban Sketch groups all over the country.

Being an Urban Sketcher is a way of life. In the below video The Life of an Artist –  Adebanji Alade talks about how hard he has worked to get to the urban sketching skill level he is at currently. He preaches, “Draw, draw, draw, and draw to be happy.”Hours of work go into developing an individual style of sketching.

The Life of an Artist - Urban Sketcher, Adebanji Alade from Urban Sketchers on Vimeo

This sketching style create one of a kind art pieces that may never grace the wall of any museum, but does this make the results any less "art"? That is for you to decide.

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Sources: Urban Sketchers, The Art of Urban Sketching, Vimeo Urban Sketchers, Gabriel Campanario on Flickr, Oxford Dictionaries

Image credits: Rolf Schroter, Seattle Times, Urban Sketchers, Culture Vixen

Thursday Salute to Originals: Original Imitation

GPI Design - Thursday, June 05, 2014

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And that sentiment is often true when it comes to humans. We mimic ideas, styles, attitudes, and more, all the time. But when it comes to the animal kingdom, imitation isn’t about staying trendy or cool. Imitation is sometimes the difference between life and death.

Take the caterpillar for instance. Smaller than a vast majority of its fellow creatures, the odds really aren’t in its favor for survival from a size standpoint. Because of this, some caterpillars have adapted chilling spines, venomous fur, or stinging barbs and bristles to ward off enemies. But a couple caterpillar species have taken a different approach: they have blatantly copied another creature’s appearance.

Hawkmoth Caterpillar Snake Disguise

This is going to be hard to believe, but no, this is not a snake. It’s actually the Hawkmoth caterpillar’s clever serpent disguise.

Caterpillar Mimic Snake Pattern

When threatened, the Hawkmoth caterpillar puffs up and flips over, revealing an underside of markings that bear a striking resemblance to a snakes head. (If you look closely, you can see the caterpillars legs folded between the “eyes” of the snake.)

But the Hawkmoth isn’t the only caterpillar who mimics snakes. The Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar has also taken a cue from the serpent.

The faux eyes and yellow highlighting around the edges make the top of the caterpillar’s body look just like a snake, a stern warning to any predators thinking about downing it for a snack. The Spicebush Swallowtail will even rear its body (or the “head” of the snake) up to further enhance the illusion.

Now normally, we wouldn’t call the “stealing” or mimicking of another’s appearance original. Copying at its very core is the antonym of original, after all. But this case of imitation is different.

What amazes us most is how both of these caterpillars have genetically adapted their bodies to mimic the appearance of another creature, right down to proper “eye” placement and coloration. Different than just using patterning, texture, or hue to camouflage INTO their surroundings, the Hawkmoth and Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars have managed to manipulate their bodies to stand OUT from their surroundings as a completely different animal. And they have even adapted their defensive behaviors to further mimic the actions of a snake, further enhancing this illusion of actually perpetrating another creature! (Try as we might, there’s no way we as humans can naturally transform our bodies to look like Brad Pitt or Scarlet Johansen, unfortunately.)

And for those very reasons, we salute both the Hawkmoth and the Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars for their original take on survival and imitation. We’re sure the snakes are quite flattered, too!

Image credits: Daily Mail, AnimalWorld Tumblr, Marietta

Back to Basics #4: Texture

GPI Design - Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Ever read a sign that says “DO NOT TOUCH” and immediately have an urge to feel the forbidden object? The phrase almost becomes a challenge, rather than a prohibition. It’s so tough to resist!

That’s because tactile experiences are so essential to our being; we’re hardwired to touch and feel everything around us, forming understanding and cataloging information from that tactile sensation. And since we co-exist with design and architecture every day – from the chair you sit in at your desk to the door handle you pulled to walk into the building – it’s no wonder that texture is an absolutely essential component to our understanding of design and space as a whole.

Check out some of our favorite designs where texture stars as the feature act of the show. We bet in person we couldn’t resist the urge to touch!

Basic Design Principles Texture in Architecture

Image compiled by GPI Design. Individual image credits: Jose Miguel Hernandez, A solas contigo, Philips, Kika Reichert, Freshome, Dwell, ArchDaily, Flickr

___________________

Submersed in creation day in and day out, it’s easy to become immune to the fundamental concepts at the core of design. Becoming so ingrained in our being, their simple existence registers involuntarily – like we’re running on auto-pilot – and we can overlook their individual relevance in the visual realization of an idea. Overexposure seems to dull our sensitivity.

But considering how impactful these (often unsung) basic theories are to design, we’ve decided to go "back to the basics". In this blog mini-series, we highlight a fundamental design theory and showcase just how important and formative that concept is in shaping the final perception of a design.

Recap of prior "Back to the Basics" posts:

Stay tuned for the next concept at the beginning of July!