Designer Spotlight (With bonus material!): Matthew Levy and Martin Griswold

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For the designer spotlight this week, we are highlighting Matthew Levy and Martin Griswold of Quantitative Design! They’ve also let us in on some of their design secrets, for our first ever BONUS MATERIAL section of the designer spotlight. The duo translates complex data into beautiful pendants, further opening our eyes to the endless capabilities of 3D printing. If you love space and jewelry, these are your guys!

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? Where are you located?
Quantitative Design is Matthew Levy and Martin Griswold. We studied physics together in college and we’ve always shared a passion for science, technology and design. Matthew is currently based in San Francisco, finishing his PhD on simulations of giant lasers and laser fusion. In between calculating and computing, he’s worked as a fashion model and as a photographer in places like Los Angeles and Tokyo. Martin just recently got his PhD studying plasma rockets and lives in New York City. 

What’s the story behind your designs? What inspires you?
We’re fascinated by new technology, by the designs it enables, by the possibilities it creates. We’re inspired by the beauty in so much of science and technology that is hidden away by complexity and scale. That’s why when we design our models, we are building explorations of modern forms, and visualizations of elements of the universe hid away from everyday life. Our Asteroid Pendant, for instance, is a beautiful 3D sculpture that shows the motion of ten astronomical objects roaming through our solar system. With the pendant, it’s sensory — you see the real asteroid orbits, and you feel their real proportions in your hand.

What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways?
We’ve been interested in 3D printing for several years. Martin built a DIY machine a few years ago but quickly found that both the quality and diversity of materials were limited. Shapeways is a perfect fit for our designs since it allows us on-demand access to professional machines and high quality materials.

How did you learn how to design in 3D?
We have a sort of non-traditional process. We use a lot of tools from scientific research including math/physics software called Mathematica. We also use 3D modeling software like Rhino and Blender to polish our designs and get them ready for printing. Martin learned these programs from tutorials and forums on the internet — digitaltoolbox.com is a great resource for learning Rhino, for example.

How do you promote your work?
We give our products to our friends. Then when people ask about the designs, our friends help spread the word. We’re just getting started building our vision for the store, so at this point we promote by sharing our designs organically.

Who are your favorite designers or artists? Who in the Shapeways community has served as an inspiration to you?
Martin likes computational architecture work by Michael Hansemeyer and Luc Merx. Matthew is a fan of Marc Newson, Andre Saraiva, Burton Morris, Dries Van Noten and Jens Karlsson. There are a lot of great designers on Shapeways. We like the organic shapes made by Eragatory and Unellenu. We also admire the beautiful texture work by Genghis.

If you weren’t limited by current technologies, what would you want to make using 3D printing?
We’d like to make bigger designs. Many objects we meaningfully interact with each day are just slightly larger than practical at the moment. We’re particularly excited about possibilities for furniture and industrial design. We’re also starting to think about a new series of models using finer resolution printing. These designs could have thinner, more delicate structures, and more intricate texturing.

Anything else you want to share?
We’re always interested in new ideas and discussions on technology. Please get in touch with us if you’d like to chat!

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT THIS SHOP:

  • Wonderful photography
  • Clean branding; logo and name that relates to the products
  • “Matching” products (you can tell they are from the same brand)
  • Awesome prices
  • How they are starting off the promotion of their products
  • The sneak peak into their process (see below!)

BONUS MATERIAL!

DESIGNER PROCESS: QuantitativeDesign making the Asteroid Pendant

As space plasma scientists, we work closely with data each and every day.  When new data comes in, we chisel the rough and raw numbers, trying to reveal and visualize its essence. That’s why we made our Asteroid Pendant.  It’s a beautiful 3D sculpture that shows what the numbers look like when you chisel away all the excess. While inspiration is a magical part of the design process, the “how” is one of our favorite parts, too, so we’d love to share our maker process with you and the Shapeways community.

First, we started by learning the format the data was put together in. It took some time, but once we understood it, we could extract the numbers we wanted — about the asteroid orbit shape (from the numbers we didn’t want) about the asteroid color, which telescope discovered the asteroid, and so on. 

The raw data comes from a high precision NASA funded database put together by the Lowell Observatory.

To go from these numbers to asteroid orbits in 3D, we used math from Kepler’s Laws, equations and rules that describe the orbits of many asteroids and planets across the universe.  The key point is that all of the orbits must be ellipses.  An ellipse is a simple shape so you don’t need all the x,y,z coordinates to define it — you just need a few basic parameters: the size (semimajor axis, like the “radius” for an ellipse), the eccentricity (a measure of how squished it is) and three angles that define its orientation. In astronomy these 5 parameters are called the “orbital elements” and they all have convoluted names: longitude of the ascending node, argument of periapsis, and so on. 

An orbital elements diagram from Wikipedia we used to help us understand the raw data.

Once we understood the raw data we could start to work out the math. Here’s Martin’s notes on calculating ellipse equations from the orbital elements.

Then, using math/physics software called Mathematica we wrote some code that would automatically extract out the orbital elements for each data point, then create each ellipse equation, then plot all the ellipses together in 3D. We spent a lot of time matching the aesthetics produced by the code to our tastes in design.

Plotting the real ellipse equations in 3D. Here we’re trying out many versions of the aesthetics.

Finally, our code started to chug along, and we watched as our freshly-made Asteroid Pendant appeared pixel by pixel for the very first time. We exported the design to Rhino to clean off a bit of the sawdust — and then sent it off to Shapeways to bring it into the real world!

QuantitativeDesign Asteroid Pendant on Shapeways!

Thank you guys for not only an amazing interview, but an eye-opening sneak peak into the inner workings of your designs! The marriage of space, technology and 3D printing have never looked better. We can’t wait to see what you come up with next! Don’t forget to visit the shop here. If you’d like to be featured, feel free to email aimee @ shapeways.com.

2 comments

  1. Savannah - Shapeways Global Community Manager

    This is such a great post! Quantitative design was nice enough to send over their asteroid pendant and an amazing impossible-to-manufacture-any-other-way pen holder for my recent SXSW and UK journeys and the response has been amazing! Everytime I talk about the asteroid necklace people get really excited. We’re lucky to have one here at HQ!

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