Semantics of 3d Forms


  • Translate natural and human-made forms through various mediums
  • Able to translate how individual elements constitute a larger form
  • Develop 3D forms which have meaning and are aesthetically balanced and composed
  • Understand and speak to 3D form aesthetics, semantics, and their inherent

Time-frame: 3 weeks

Logistics: Creating 2 forms — a unique shell and a computer mouse — out of soap/ paper/clay


  • Bristol Board (no tape or adhesives)
  • Plasticine Clay
  • Soap (3–5 inches)
  • Sculpting Tools

Day 1–04.21.2021: Sketching & Making Forms (Clay)

In Class Exploration

Quick sketches to break down the forms of the snail shell; Drawing a more visual representation of the form versus breaking down the major axes, directions of movement, and shapes.

From the advice given by the professors and TA’s, I started with the clay medium in order to understand the forms of my shell better

Process (Clay Shell)

Clay is a lot harder than I thought it would be to shape in the way my mind expects it to be — difficult to visualize and consider in 3 dimensions.

Breaking the clay & blocking out main forms

Starting with some of the details & Considering different perspectives

Fixing Proportions

Making more detailed changes

Just the Clay Shell

Hollowing out the bottom/ interior

The remnants of the inside of the shell, my makeshift “Tupperware” covering

Making it smoother- Different Views

Adding the ridges/texture- Different Views

Interior Views

Decided not to make the entirety of the shell hollow for structural integrity (the right section is filled). The thickness of the hollowed-out shell is thicker than reality to also keep the shell from falling apart. Are the ridges expressive of the curves of the shell or does the smoothened texture reveal the forms of the shell better?

Miro Board

Daphne Critique

Need to make some minor changes to the curves. The detailed ridges may not be necessary but now that I’ve done them, don’t necessarily have to change. They don’t seem too distracting. With the hollowed-out section, work on the curve where it attaches to the shell body.

Day 2–04.26.2021: Revising clay model & Creating paper forms


Some Ideas: Split vertically, along curved edges, or horizontally, or like a skeleton?

Making curved skeleton components: Cutting smaller pieces and scoring them.

Temporarily arranging the components on clay

Adding more components

How to connect the segments to keep the spiral shape? Without the clay

Removing segments from clay

Curved spiral piece to connect

Curving the edges

Needs more stability than just the inner spiral to keep it spread out: Trying a horizontal piece but its too difficult to make the curve perfectly match

Inner Spiral Experimenting & outer spiral slits to keep it stable

Putting pieces together

Final Images

Just the shell

Miro Board for Class

Wayne’s Critique

Day 3–04.28.2021: Starting Mouse Forms: Soap


Mouse Form

Analyzing the axes and curves of the mouse

Starting to Carve

Original Soap Form

Since the soap had an extremely rounded bottom, I needed to cut off the bottom part to make it flat. I had trouble figuring out what tool I should be using to be more effective? A lot of the tools made nail-like indents into the soap. I ended up using an Olfa blade and one of the clay sculpting tools for most of it.

Making the bottom flat and curving the top parts of the soap rounded and downwards

  • the bar was now too flat for the rounded back end of the mouse

Carving the other side of the bar (Starting to make the major axis and the slope downward in the front 3/4th section of the soap — but didn’t want to shave off more on the top to make it even skinnier — but needed to remove the logo)

Trimming off the side of the soap to make it longer — the proportions to be more accurate

Making the inward curves on the side of the bar

  • the logo is still very evident — if I take it away it will become even skinnier — the backside of the soap is not rounded enough

Adding some details

Iteration for Miro

Changes to Make

  • The back end of the soap needs to be more rounded and higher — the soap needed to be thicker to make the mouse smaller in the next iteration
  • Make the top of the mouse smoother (logo imprints are still visible) — will be resolved by making the mouse smaller
  • Add the scrolling button on the top of the mouse

Dani Critique

Q Critique

Day 4–04.28.2021: Making Revisions & a clay mouse

Q’s critique on the natural form (Clay, Paper)

  • (paper) Put in some horizontal/cross pieces to show more structure from the top view spiral
  • (paper) move the cross folded edge to the end — maybe emphasize that each piece is scored more?
  • (clay) minor places to fix curves- push outer edge outwards, push one side inwards a little, angle slightly off on hump
  • (soap) careful about the sharp diagonal edge (i’m planning on remaking it)

Process: Working on the clay model

Blocking main parts

Making curves on the sides for the hands

Making the curves on the top and bottom

Side Views

Refining details

Big form

Side curves

Adding details

Final Images

Miro Board

Day 5–05.06.2021: Making Revisions on soap, paper, and clay

Changes to the paper shell

  • Making a perpendicular plane to make the curve of the shell more prominent — trying different ways of making this plane — one-piece or repeated cut pieces?
  • Trying a thinner curved piece
  • Making the front piece hollow and more curved synonymous with the shell

Changes to the clay shell

  • Shave off parts of the top of the shell and the sides — making curves more accurate, angles inwards
  • Make the interior more hollow

Remaking the soap

Old soap version — looking into different soap types (pink was too small and even more curved)

Flattening the bottom of the mouse

Curving the edges of the soap

Making the mouse a lot smaller so that I could achieve that hump curve

Curving the main curves in the form — leaving space for the button this time

Making the sides curved inwards!

Adding details — the line curve on the top and the side to indicate form/ shapes

Making the mouse button — adding more details (the button is much too big but I was finally able to get it smooth so chose not to make it smaller)

Final Iterations

Clay Shell

Paper Shell

Clay Mouse

Soap Mouse

Final Miro Board


  • I learned the subtractive method requires a lot of planning and analyzing the general form — being careful when making cuts since you can't go back once you cut — so going more slowly and precisely. I really wanted to be able to ctrl z some of the cuts I made so I wouldn’t have to remake the mouse.
  • The paper was a lot more difficult than I thought it was — it required a lot of problem-solving and understanding how the shell looks in different views (looks flatter in some versus others)
  • Important to understand the main axes and angles of the form to be accurate with the proportions — drawing the form and using grids really helped
  • Taking photographs of the sculpted form right next to the true form helped me identify a lot of places where the form was not accurate and needed to be worked on more — easy to compare side by side
  • It was difficult to take photos where the angle of the true form and the sculpted form was the same since the camera angle distorts the image
  • Focusing on details was really important after getting the main forms down — the details were very important in making the form synonymous with the true form. I didn’t realize until the crits that a lot of my details were off
  • Clay gets dirty so fast!! I had to go back several times to de-fur it (it picked up lots of little blue and gray strings) I’m not sure how I could better preserve it

In Class Activity (Year-long reflection)

I realized that a primary aspect of design is about analyzing forms. A lot of what we did this year was understanding forms in different contexts for various purposes — with spaces for interactions with people with the module project, the importance of proportions with the animal models, and craft and accuracy with form, with care for details with this last shell/ mouse project. Even though the main consideration was the form of the object, we focused on different goals within each of these.

My hunches about communication-track type projects were correct and my hunches about the environment track were wrong. The animation and vector graphics illustration was similar to what I thought we would be doing in communication design working with learning different software and graphical skills. Whereas the more environment-related project with the modules, thinking about spaces was a completely new perspective, considering people's emotions in this space and their interactions within it.



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