I first came across William Heath Robinson’s illustration “one-piece chromium steel dining suite” while enjoying a BBC documentary on the history of design. My jaw dropped and I’m sure my eyes went all glassy as I had one of those moments of complete “creative compulsion”
The illustration itself if not particularly remarkable in the wide field of Robinson’s imaginative and incredibly clever works, it just struck a cord with me. It was so silly and yet so exactly what we’re still doing. The illustration came from the 1936 book “How to Live in a Flat”. This is the wonderful thing about satire; how it can just beam across 74 years of history and arrive in the present even more pointed (and enjoyable) than the day it was inked.
My moment of creative compulsion began as my mind instantly started connecting the ridiculousness of the drawing with the design work going on today. I’m a regular reader of Yanko Design and sites like it. My affection for these sites comes in equal measures of being amazed by the occasional work of design genius and as well as the comical satisfaction of some of the more ludicrous works shown. Some how looking at the 478th design variation of a $20,000 folding bicycle holds as much internet humor value for me as a cheese burger craving cat. My mind gripped around the idea of bringing the “one-piece” into the current day.
The recreating of Robinson’s ‘design’ was relatively straight forward. Modeling the long piece of tube steel in SolidWorks and rendering in Hypershot was efficient and gave the look commonly seen on design sites. It’s a wonderfully direct design approach, and after making one I found myself wanting to make more. Maybe a 10 seater for big parties? What a about a tall two-seat café table? Maybe coil the seats like a spring for the kids? Check back, these rendering may appear someday.
Ultimately I had fun making the rendering as it gave me a chance to interact creatively with Robinson’s work. It’s the sort of exercise designers should do to engrain the fact the work we do has to walk the fine line between progress and the satirical world of Robinson.