Designer Spotlight: Andrew Walker

This week’s Designer Spotlight focuses on Andrew Walker of UniquePlastique, a self proclaimed tech guru who turns his love of technology and typography into unique plastic designs.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? Where are you located?
I’m a tech geek working in London, living in Suffolk.   I’ve always been a passionate early adopter of digital tech – I started out as a web designer and online game developer back in the early 90′s, spent 12 years building up an award winning digital agency called www.thinmartian.com and then in 2008 set up Tweetminster.co.uk – the first UK news feed company on Twitter.  I’m now a data mining, social media self-proclaimed tech guru ;-) .

What’s the story behind your designs? What inspires you? 

I like using typography, symbols, chemical formulas and stuff like that in my designs. They’re the universal elements of human life.  We take them for granted because they’re everywhere but they’re magical, they express emotions, deliver information and affect our lives in such an important way we should celebrate them more.  When I see words as 3D objects like jewelry they seem to take on a whole new meaning, I love that. It’s like literally printing the meaning of life.

What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways?

A friend of mine had this awesome keyring he’d designed and printed via Shapeways.  As soon as he explained how he’d turned a flat black and white image into something he could actually hold in his hand I knew I had to try it out for myself.  3D printing is seriously addictive, the first time I got my designs in the mail it was like birthday, Christmas and winning an Oscar all at the same time.  I love it! 
How did you learn how to design in 3D?
I did a postgraduate degree in digital design back in 1995 and got into using Specular Infini D on the Mac.  After that I’d moved much more into interface design and graphics, so I got pretty rusty. When I wanted to try 3D printing I went on some forums and got recommended  to use Blender.  I use that for the modelling and Adobe Illustrator to make the raw artwork.  There’s a lot to learn, you need to drink lots of coffee and shut yourself in a cupboard until you get your head around it.
How do you promote your work?

I’ve mostly been testing out designs as gifts for friends and family – they’re in my shop but I haven’t promoted them yet.  I’m launching a new collection of typographic jewelry and vases, and also experimenting with articulating chains and joints which I think will be my first set of promoted stuff.  I’m a social media geek so I’ll be hitting Twitter and Facebook when I do.

Who are your favorite designers or artists? Who in the Shapeways community has served as an inspiration to you?
I love typographers like Saul Bass and David Carson, architectural designers like Eames, Panton, Le Corbusier and the like.  I’m a huge fan of Marc Newson.  I’m a massive comic book fan too.  There’s so much cool stuff on Shapeways it’s hard to pick my favorite designers but Colleen Jordan’s wearable planters and Hi Lobster’s elephants were the first ones to really capture my attention.
If you weren’t limited by current technologies, what would you want to make using 3D printing? What do you think the future holds for 3D printing?
The possibilities are pretty limitless, so that’s a tough question, but I’d like to build the night sky in 3D,  so you can move it around in your hands, like a 3D star map. I’m currently trying to work that one out but it’s harder than it sounds!  I hope that in the future, 3D printing technology will change our dependency on logistics and resource consumption – we won’t need to ship stuff around the world or fill warehouses full of unused stuff.  The environment needs tech like this to survive. 
Check out more of Andrews’s whimsical designs in his UniquePlastique Shapeways Shop or his website.