Five Reasons Markers are Not Dead

“Rumors of my demise are greatly over exaggerated” is not only a famous quote (Mark Twain) and song lyric (Rise Against the Machine), it also accurately describes the state of markers as a tool in the product development and design industry. Long gone are the days when painstaking hours were spent on full color, hand-drawn marker renderings (thank goodness!). However, I propose marker usefulness on a daily basis has not diminished. Here are just five reasons to not write off this somewhat archaic technology:

  • Intentionally Imprecise: A chisel or widesketch exploration tipped sharpie is a great tool for quickly exploring a basic overall shape without getting caught up in details that aren’t yet pertinent. Our industry is detail oriented, and yet large markers can force you to be intentionally vague, work quickly, redirect focus to the 10,000 ft. view, cover ground and experiment with very few consequences. Fail quick, fail often and move forward more informed.
  • Line Weight: This single attribute is often sketch line weightwhat separates a great looking sketch from a less successful version. Thickness of lines is one of the quickest methods to show depth: is the line the closest one to the ground? Thick. Is the line a significant edge not attached to the bottom? Medium. Is the line an interior or contour line? Thin. Yeah, there are nuances to these rules, but if you’re not already using them, these simple guidelines will take your sketches to a whole new level. One thin pen, one medium, and one thick marker and you are in business.
  • Depth: Low fidelity sketches are generally the next step after loose thumbnails. Photoshop brushes and masking can absolutely get the job done well, but they also require scanning your linework, color balancing etc. If getting the basic surfacing ideas across quickly is the most important goal, then contour lines are useful, but can quickly become distracting. By contrast, two gray scale markers in different values (20% and 50%, or 30% and 60%) can quickly add significant depth to any linework in less time than it would take to even prepare a file for digital shading.
  • Color Exploration: There’s no need to own color exploration sketcha 72 pack with 7 shades of orange, but a basic 12 color set can be very handy to have on your desk. Say you’re are working on a water bottle and already have the general shape worked out in analog or digital formats… Scan the original sketch, duplicate, arrange in neat organized rows, and print it out. What does it look like in blue? How does a green grip affect the overall value or impact? You are only seconds away from finding out! This process is a great tool for building consensus at a design review, as everyone can quickly have a say, and there’s less “what if” conjecturing.
  • Simplicity: Have you ever tried to drag Toolsa giant drawing tablet or computer to the airport, on a bus, or even home from work in the evening? While being amazing tools, portability is a distinct drawback. Digital sketching and rendering absolutely have their advantages, but when I can grab some pens, markers and paper, sit down on a flat surface – anywhere in the world – and problem solve a design that others can visually understand in minutes, that’s a distinct advantage, and a force to be reckoned with.

Although the tools of product design continue to evolve in this increasingly digital world, don’t shelve those Prismacolor or Copic markers just yet. You may never do a 6 hour rendering by hand again in your life, but don’t dismiss an incredibly useful tool entirely just because it’s a little antiquated. If nothing else, at the end of the day, analog tools will never run out of battery power…. which is more than we can say about too many products in our daily lives.Sketches

Kirk Turner is an Industrial Designer, and has been bringing his brand of expertise to the Salient Team since 2015.


Salient 2015 Highlights

Another year has gone by, and here at Salient, we have a lot of things to be excited about!  Here are just a few (in no particular order):side-bar

  1. The “inherently leak free” valves developed by Salient for Big Horn Valve passed
    two of the most stringent tests for oil and gas
    valves validating the technology as “emission-free” and the
    “Best Available Valve Technology to keep our environment green and clean”.
  2. Salient President and Co-owner, Steve Sanford was recognized in the Southwest Montana 20 Under 40; people, entrepreneurs and employees in southwest Montana who have achieved success and improved the quality of life for others in their communities.
  3. Salient’s David Yakos and maker, Parker Thomas, co-presented “The Mindset of a Maker” at PlayCon 2015
  4. Salient leadership team experienced  HATCH2015, a summit of 100 thought leaders from around the world to HATCH a better world.
  5. iBike Powerpod Kickstarter Success reaching 150% of their goal, and already fulfilling orders.
  6. The Salient team had 4 amazing college students shadow them on real life projects as part of Salient’s mentorship program
  7. Launch of the award-winning Maker Studio Construction Sets to inspire youth in engineering
    and creativity, co-invented by David Yakos
  8. Kickstarter success for Hydaway collapsible water bottle – backed by over 5,700 supporters, and raising over $260,000, 13x their goal!
  9. The Salient team is growing with with the addition of master Industrial Designer, Kirk Turner
  10. Team Salient helped facilitate HATCHedu to Design the School of the Future at DSEL Labs, Montana State University.
  11. Salient Co-owner, David Yakos was recognized in Origin magazine’s 45 Top Creatives
  12. In 2015, Salient provided Industrial Design, Prototype Development and Manufacturing Drawings for over 100 client products.


Kickstarter Success, New Employees & Patent Law

Client News: PowerPod Kickstarter campaign successfully funded!

iBike PowerPodSalient client, Velocomp successfully funded their Kickstarter campaign for the PowerPod cycling meter this past September, raising over $128K of their $50K goal in just 30 days!

PowerPod is a bicycle power meter that uses Velocomp’s patented power measurement technology. When c
ycling, more power means faster speeds and longer distances; better physical fitness and calorie burning.

Salient continues to support John Hamann and the Velocomp team as pre-production and tooling begin this November and production begins in the next week. If all goes according to plan, Velocomp will begin shipping fulfillment orders from their headquarters in Jupiter, FL by the end of the month. Check out the PowerPod Kickstarter campaign and post-campaign
updates here. Great work, guys!

Kirk Turner

Salient News: New Employee, Kirk Turner

The Salient team grew this June with the addition of Kirk Turner.

Originally from Maine, Kirk migrated west to the University of Utah before attending Western Washington University, where he graduated with a BS in Industrial Design and a minor in Sustainable Design in 2014. Happy to relocate to Bozeman and all the outdoor activities it has to offer, Kirk is an avid fisherman, skier, climber, cyclist and adventurer.

Kirk brings creative, precision artistry to Salient, and has expanded our in-house capabilities with his excellent Industrial Design chops.We’re excited to have Kirk on board, and all the skills he brings to the table!

Product Design Tools:  Patent Law Q&A Series with Toni Tease & David Yakos

Filing for a patent, and the entire patent process can be intimidating and confusing.  This spring, Salient’s David Yakos sat down with patent attorney Toni Tease of Intellectual Property and Technology Law to break down the patent process into bite size pieces.  You can view the Q&A series on the Salient YouTube channel. We’re still adding episodes, so check back for new videos!

The Mark of Mentorship

How did we come to be where we are today? Looking back we recall myriad decisions; some good, some poor. Milestones; moments of right place, right time. Wonderful people that either encouraged us or pointed us in a more focused direction. Those encouraging people may have shared a moment with us while others have been with us for a lifetime. Whichever category they fall in, we call them Mentors. People who share their deep insight and experience that is beyond our own – and therefore, extremely valuable.

As designers, we think back to who mentored us. Likely it was a parent who saw artistic or problem-solving ability and pointed us toward industrial design or engineering. Perhaps a teacher took extra time to customize a project, making it more interesting and inspiring. Some of us were lucky enough to have a successful leader occasionally take us to coffee for unfiltered Q&A ranging from personal to business.  Here at Salient, we are grateful for those people in our own lives, and so we take mentorship very seriously, and try to give back too.

2015 Mentor GroupSalient brings in a handful of students each year to shadow on real-life projects, as part of the Salient/HATCH Mentorship program. We give students a chance to see how they might fit in a design career prior to graduating from college. Having a chance to work side-by-side with professional designers on a project that will actually be manufactured and sitting on the shelves of Target is a stark contrast to the educational scene that can only engage the theoretical.  The theoretical is a necessary stage, but having the opportunity for hands-on creativity gives students a better idea of what they might enjoy or be good at in a way the classroom cannot.

Forming character is similar to creating good design. It does not take shape on accident.  When designing a new product, we create many sketches, and often have to iterate and test many prototypes. Before landing on an ideal product, we sit down in a group and brainstorm the possibilities from multiple perspectives. By the time we are done, the product has been touched  by the whole team in one way or another, and has the signature of the collective creativity of Salient.

2015 Mentor Group

In the same way, character is formed through a process. It is honed when we re-invent and test ourselves. It is created when we regard others’ insight. Just as the first version of a product hits the market and we call it 1.0, there are more versions to come. We keep developing the 2.0, 3.0, … 6+ versions of our character. We never stop growing, inventing, prototyping, and making. That synergistic magic takes place on both sides of mentorship, it stamps its mark and its benefits on both the mentor and the mentee alike. We’re grateful to be on both the giving and receiving ends of Mentorship.

David Yakos is VP and Director of Creativity at Salient Technologies, Inc.


SolidWorks Workstation Build

By Steve Sanford

I have always wanted to build a PC from the ground up. Coincidentally, it was always something Joel Switzer (our senior product designer here) wanted to do as well. Around Salient, we were always changing out computer components and upgrading everything “upgradeable” throughout a workstation’s lifecycle. Then eventually, the workstation would be retired and a new (usually Dell Precision) workstation would be put in its place. This time, instead of buying a pre-built workstation, we decided to build two workstations that would be as fast as our budget would allow.

SolidWorks logo

As a certified SolidWorks trainer and tech support provider (in a previous life) I always recommended users buy a balanced workstation. That is, processor, graphics, ram, hard drive speed, etc. should all be balanced for a given budget. In the last couple of years, though, it’s become apparent that less expensive workstation-class graphics cards coupled with the fastest processors resulted in excellent day-to-day results. No one likes waiting around for their CAD system to rebuild solid model geometry, and one core (or thread) in the processor is responsible for that in common 3D CAD systems. Even though SolidWorks is single-threaded–meaning that typical modeling work only utilizes one processor core–other applications, such as photo rendering, video creation, and using multiple programs at the same time can utilize a multi-core processor. At Salient, that’s translated into moving away from Intel Xeon processors and into Intel Core i7 processors for our last several upgrade cycles.

Intel Devil’s Canyon i7 4790k Logo

When Intel announced it’s Devil’s Canyon i7 4790k (the “k” meaning it is unlocked or can be overclocked) and the release new Z97 motherboards, we knew we had try building some dedicated SolidWorks machines. So, with a few tips from Charles Culp and Anna Wood on the SolidWorks forums, an Easy PC builder YouTube video, we used (see this link for our build) to spec out components that would work together.

PC Part-Picker is helpful in figuring out where each component is a good deal, but if you have a Micro Center nearby, they have some great deals on processors and components. Being in Montana–far from the nearest Micro Center…and any other source of components–we found most of the parts we needed on Amazon, Newegg, and Tigerdirect. After they all showed up, we got out our toolkit, slapped on our anti-static wristbands, and set about assembling our two new workstations.

At the same time, we decided to make a timelapse video of the build just for fun. This isn’t meant to educate anyone on putting together a computer, but with a GoPro with suction cup mount and Canon DSLR + intervalometer just itching to be used, we couldn’t resist. Enjoy!

Next up is using these workstations for SolidWorks 3D solid modeling software and Adobe Creative Cloud. After we make sure they’re running smoothly, we’re going to try overclocking, both manually and with ASUS’s AI Tuner to see what kinds of performance gains we can achieve.

Steve Sanford is the President and Co-Owner of Salient Technologies, Inc.


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