The Semantics of 3D Form


Project goals:


Sketching and First Iterations:

Source images for my model
Modeling process in Meshroom
Form | Framework | Texture
Form analysis and notes on features
Sculpting and Carving toolset


I wanted to understand the material and tooling limitations before diving into my first prototype, so I decided to make some very rough ‘first-steps’ prototypes in foam and clay, to warm me up for the first prototypes.

Clay Prototype 0

This exploration was made almost absentmindedly, and I began by just making the simple two-cone main form of the shell. From this main form, I worked subtractively for the rest, using a wooden cuticle stick to define the part where the spiral ends in a leaf-like manner. I also imprinted the spiral moving up to the point. This is very unrefined but the goal was to just get my mind thinking about how I will physically replicate the shell in this medium. Moving forward, I will likely use an additive technique to create that final layer of the spiral that separates from the primary form, and wrap it around a center piece.

Foam Prototype 0

The foam was more difficult to work with than I had imagined, I have experience with floral foam that is much more forgiving as far as fine texture changes are concerned. With this foam, each cut has to have a very finely defined entrance and exit, otherwise, the horizontal line where the blade exits the surface leaves a distinct line that interrupts the smooth surface. For this prototype, I cut a rectangular prism from my larger block of foam and carved off pieces from that block. This led to some of the fineness and proportions of the form to be lost. I think for my next prototype, I will draw the three outline planes with a sharpie and cut all of the way through the object, then refine it from there.

Technique for prototype 1 for carving complex forms


Clay Prototype 1

3D scan here

Foam Prototype 1

3D scan here

  • And how do I deal with the last sheath that separates from the major form? Does this need to be included?
  • How can I carve out the inside channel with something like foam?


With this round of prototypes, I zoned in on some of the finer details and subtleties of the shell. I received a lot of positive feedback from our class crit session and used the particular notes to help me advance my existing models. Due to the amount of time and limited materials, I decided to modify my existing models for this round instead of making all new models.

Clay Prototype 2

Foam Prototype 2

I defeatured the tip of the foam shell, removing the spiraled grooves because it’s more difficult to pick up on the small form change from the groove in the foam. I decided to attempt to capture the overall form of the point, instead of having the texturing of the spiral get in my way.

Both Prototype 2s referenced next to the shell


  • Thinner tip
  • Get rid of the deep curve, smooth it out
  • Make point more gradual
  • Open the fold/sheath a bit more, larger on the shell
  • The taper should start earlier


  • Rounder spiral
  • The ‘facet’ or where the conic shapes meet isn’t circular, mine needs to incorporate more of the curve


The very beginning formation of my final clay model
Prepping my final foam model



Sketching and First Iterations:

My drawings


Paper Prototype 0

Paper Prototype 1

I used tape and sketchbook paper to create a maquette for my prototype

Paper Prototype 0 and 1 with Mouse Reference

Foam Prototype 1

I used a very similar technique that I had previously used to carve my shell to carve my mouse to of foam.


Paper Prototype 1.5

In order to get an accurate 1:1 model of all of the curves of my mouse, I created a mold out of tin foil and cast it with hot glue and tin foil. From this casting, I drew the lines of where the planes cut the form and drew them on using a sharpie. I cut the casting along these lines so I had the accurate planes at these points along the form.

Foam Prototype 2


Q’s feedback on improved curves and proportions, but still some work to be done.
Left: The top sheath mockup I had made covers up the fine details of the top of the mouse, so a more minimal plane or no plane could be used. Right: The expression of the side curves of the paper isn’t fine enough, their too flat and don’t capture the curves
The final piece layout



Word Association Blender

I used a word association exercise to create a set of terms that described my forms to guide my hybrid form, instead of making a direct visual hybrid. This exercise should distill form qualities from both objects, making the hybrid form more expressive and less replicative.


I began by drawing some simple proposed ideas but I knew that a lot of my thinking would occur when I began working with the clay.

First prototype



It was difficult for me at the start of the project to know when a model was finished or accurate enough because when replicating a form the level of detail and proportional correctness could be chased forever. Luckily, many constraints such as time, sanity, limited tools and resources from the quarantine, and specific feedback helped me meter what was important for me to learn from making these models. Beyond learning the constraints and abilities of each of the materials, I was forced to really understand all of the subtleties in form of my objects and learned how to breakdown and analyze the forms into more comprehensive models and abstractions. The hybrid model was the step into completely designing a form, which I really appreciated after two weeks of replicating other forms. I learned how important it was to gain form descriptor influences from objects without directly replicating the objects. I’m happy with how all of my models came out, and I think they’re successful in different ways of communicating different aspects of the forms through their different materials.




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