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Isometric views help keep your designs grounded.
T.the kite leapt into the wind and I frantically unrolled a rope that burned and irritated my hands and fingers. The thin wooden cross beams bent again and again almost to the breaking point as the wind whipped the kite, until it finally hovered to a height where the breeze was perfect. In that area of steady, sweet air, only a spasm in the line made the kite dance and dive. I lost track of time until the light finally went out – and with it a perfect day of my childhood.
The design can be very similar to flying a kite. All sorts of things can make it go haywire: too much wind; insufficient wind; broken string; trees and power lines. However, when you step into that creative zone, it can be one of the most satisfying parts of the craft.
There are no magic formulas or equations that can make your ideas fly, but there are some techniques that can help you. Among them is learning how to make your drawings into an isometric design.
The isometric design is unique because it helps the eye to visualize an idea in space. While it’s not a true perspective image that connects lines to a distant focal point, it still helps form a valuable image to carry your project through to completion. The beauty of an isometric view is that it also keeps the proportions of the previous two-dimensional designs of the front or side view intact and helps you cross an important bridge where you can judge if the design is unified.
I’ll be clear on this: the isometric drawing, or “iso”, isn’t the first arrow I hit in my project quiver. Long before taking this step, I use quick rough sketches to get a general shape of the idea (I mentioned this in the December 2015 issue, # 222). From there I move on to simple two-dimensional front and side designs that do much of the heavy lifting to give body to a design.
Front and side view drawings help organize a drawing both vertically and horizontally and start the viewing process. These two-dimensional designs focus on proportions and how each part fits into the whole.
Yet there is only so far that you can take a drawing with two-dimensional views. We don’t live with objects in two dimensions and the way we relate to them in space can only be seen in three. So an ISO view can give us that layer of depth to make confident design decisions.
Magic of the pencil line
You may already be using digital drawing programs that can generate perspective views with the click of a mouse. Many of these can be a valuable design tool and I would never discourage their use.
But I know from experience that there are tactile connections that form in the inner eye as you walk through this simple process with a pencil, compass and ruler. Do not shorten this development of your eye even if you already use or plan to use a digital drawing program. There are some powerful links you can forge in your brain that only come out of the end of your pencil.
I said earlier that this method does not produce a true perspective where the lines project back to an imaginary vanishing point. It is useful in architectural drawings of large objects like buildings, but not so critical in smaller objects like furniture. We can still render an image that gives us a sense of depth without the additional complications of a vanishing point. It is not necessary for our purposes.
When to use an ISO design
ISO designs have little practical value when it comes to actually running a build. Their role is instead to refine an idea and bring it to maturity. It is usually one of the final drawing steps before building a model or resizing a series of drawings to full size. The iso acts as an indicator to confirm if we’re on the right track or if you need to backup and reboot. Best to correct our direction with a small-scale ISO, then proceed with a mock-up or full-size drawing that’s at least in the baseball field.
Get your drawing kit out
Assuming you’ve already completed a front and side view, now is the time to see them in perspective. Those front and side designs are organized around simple proportions which we will transfer to our iso design. The basic shape underlying a facade design (front view) is often a rectangle governed by a simple ratio.
In our example, the rectangle below this tool holder is three parts by five parts high, while the side view is one part by five parts high. In traditional design, the common part shared in these relationships is called the “module” from which all proportions are connected.
Take a compass and place it on the module and we are ready to transfer it to our iso. Begin your drawing by drawing in pencil on a horizontal line, then on a vertical line touching it. The point (A) where these two meet is the angle from which our perspective lines arise.
Using the compass still set on the module, step out four times in one direction from our spring point and fix the compass point at the fourth sign. Leave the compass at the same setting and swing a reference circle.
Next, extend a line from the north pole of the circle back and through the spring point. Then draw a second line extending from the south pole through our spring point.
These two lines now extend at an angle from the spring point and become the baselines that connect the front and side views.
Now use the module on the compass to transfer the steering rectangle ratio from the facade view to this new baseline and vertical, three parts above on the baseline and five parts on the vertical. Do the same with the report from our side view and establish a picture in perspective that you can render the details from both your front and side view, always keeping the proportions intact.
Confirm or deny
Once you’ve drawn your idea, it might encourage you to be on the right track or you might see your kite hopelessly tangled in a tree. Both results can be successful if you pay attention to what your eyes tell you and listen to your gut. .
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