(pictured - above left: a balloon, above right: George Boole)

In this project, I'm interested in moving us gingerly into three dimensions from 2, or 2.5. We'll begin with simple forms such as the traditional solids (cube, sphere, pyramid, etc.) We'll explore Boolean functions, we'll look at other surface building methods. The idea is that within a week or two we'll have developed a compelling model which features large, intersecting volumes (basic shapes with which to construct a body) without being too concerned with minute detail (such as dense textures, excessive muscle articulation, etc.). 

From this model I'd like to have everybody in the class build a form or an installation using one of two methods:

1. an unfolding technique facilitated by the program Pepakura Designer.

2. A slicing and stacking (or interlocking) technique using 123D Make.

This model will, by necessity, be simplified, heavily by way of faceting, stairstepping, printing at small-ish scale, etc. For Pepakura, I'd recommend a model with between 30 and 125 faces in it. Materials for this project might include any kind of bendable/foldable/cutable sheet material (paper, cardboard, cardstock, chipboard) 3D printing could also be implemented in this project, either as a way to make a maquette or as a material with which to generate fasteners, clips, joints, etc. 


  • 2/5 - Project Intro
  • 2/10 - developing Rhino model
  • 2/12 - Pepakura demo, Tom update about "Tin Can Transmissions"
  • 2/17 - Tom one-on-one meetings
  • 2/19 - 123D make demo, surfacing demo, Tom one-on-one meetings continued
  • 2/24 - workday, developing forms in three dimensions
  • 2/26 - workday
  • 3/3 - Critique

Below, are my notes about George Boole, a present fascination of mine:

When I was out of town in Colorado, I was demonstrating the Boolean functions within Rhino to an artist in our workshop. She asked, intelligently, "what is a Boolean, why is it called that?" My first reaction (in my mind) was "who cares?", but what I said was "I have no idea, let's look it up". If you google "Boolean" you will get a number of results which mention "Boolean Algebra". Because Algebra is like kryptonite to me, I was satisfied to simply say, "it's an algebraic term" while thinking "it's math stuff, who cares, let's get to work".

A couple weeks later I was reading a totally unrelated article about the coming distribution of education through technology and came across the following passage describing a young education entrepreneur who creates a series of informative and fun videos for teaching technology which can be purchased cheaply online, as an alternative means of learning programming:

"Almost every one of these tutorials or classes assumed you had some kind of programming experience," he says. For people like him who didn’t consider themselves computer nerds but who wanted to build things, "it was super hard to pick up stuff." So he pointedly never utters the word "Boolean" or other coding jargon in his video lectures if he can avoid it.

Coding Jargon! I sensed the word Boolean had been disrespected, and I felt uncomfortable because I had already planned to use the word Boolean in one of my course projects, and was toying with using it in the title of an artwork I was developing. It was saddening to think a word I was becoming attached to (because of the massively powerful function it signifies) was held up for ridicule as "coding jargon" and in a respected academic journal no less. Even a nerdy site like the Chronicle of Higher Education had decided it had to draw the line somewhere. To fling terms like Boolean around was to traffic in jargon, to be out of touch. 

I now needed to know, as my artist friend did a few weeks back, why is it called Boolean? I'm embarrassed to admit the reason is astonishingly simple. It's named after George Boole, an English Mathematician, philosopher, and logician who lived from 1815 to 1864. So connecting this jargon to a person was a great relief, it humanized something which seemed very abstract. I thought I'd quickly glance over his biography, since now I was wondering how a man born 200 years ago found himself (or his philosophical concepts) embedded in every 3D modeling program I use. 

And it turns out he was an astonishing person, and I feel very foolish for not knowing anything about him or his ideas. I scrambled to gather information about him quickly so that I might make a quick mention of his life and his ideas to my class. As I read and tried to contemplate his ideas I became more and more absorbed. The details of his life seemed fascinating, his ideas about education I agreed with, his innovations - inspired by faith and undertaken with seemingly no inherently practical objective - had created the foundation for much of contemporary technology. I simply wouldn't do him any justice at all without much further study. 

So we will set aside George Boole for the moment, and get back to our project (somewhat begrudgingly).

I have heard many mispronunciations of the word Boolean (and I had been mispronouncing it for years too). The most common, and perhaps most logical mispronunciation is to simply say Balloon. So the Boolean functions in Rhino become Balloon Union, Balloon Difference, and Balloon Intersection.

This is a useful mispronunciation because it does a nice job of illustrating what the tools do. I have two (or more) balloons I smush them together to make a union. Two become one. If I could use a little magic and somehow subtract the first balloon from the second I'd have a Balloon Difference. Taking only the intersection between the two balloon forms gives me a Balloon Intersection. 

At the same time I was thinking of our second project and struggling very badly. I wanted to have some structure but not be prescriptive. I wanted to allow you the freedom you need without seemingly giving you what a student once called "a do anything project". So I was thinking of the notion of a body, make a body. Body of a person, body of an animal, etc. Not in the finest detail, but in its general outlines. More like a balloon animal really. Because Rhino is really good with silky, sinuous, curvaceous bodies. It's not the best tool for fine detail modeling, Z Brush would be better suited to that task. 

Then I thought perhaps I'd focus on the Boolean tools as a means to generate form, and I could (I thought cleverly) title the project "Boolean Balloons). This would allow us to engage a number of tools, but keep the focus on a select few, which happened to be particularly well suited to fully three dimensional voluminous form.

And I had a moment of inspiration and relief when thinking how to describe the fuzzy form language I was trying to communicate. Somewhere between an action character and a balloon animal was what our forms should aspire to. Like these things: