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IMRE MOLNAR interview

IMRE Molnar

Dean of Detroit Art School

 

Ric          Welcome Imre to The Art of Making Marks please introduce yourself and tell us a little about who you are.

Imre        I’m Imre Molnar.  I’m Dean at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit which makes me the chief academic officer.  I run the school’s education function and it’s a school devoted to art and design.  It’s a hundred year old institution.  There’s art and design and we have nine degree-granting disciplines.  From the craft, glass blowing, ceramics, pottery and so on, all the way to the very high tech digital stuff which is 3D animation using all the digital tools and somewhere in there lies transportation design. I think we’ve got one of America’s biggest industrial design programs but certainly we’re the most prominent car design school in the world. Being in Detroit is probably the reason for this because we’re right at the hub of the auto industry in Detroit. Even though the American car companies and so on have experienced some economic tough downs this is still an incredibly vibrant R & D centre for the auto industry worldwide.  Most companies have an R & D and engineering office here in Detroit even though they may not manufacture here.

A             My own background is as an industrial designer.  I graduated out of what was then Randwick Tech in Sydney back in the early seventies, and I left Australia in 1989 having been the director of the design council in Sydney for a number of years.  I left to go to the US to get in to education and I worked for the Art Centre College of Design for nine years where I did a graduate degree in illustration in addition to teach and I worked with them about four years, three years at the Pasadena campus then I spent four years in Switzerland and then another year at the Swiss campus and then another year with them back in Pasadena after that.  For two years ran the company called Houser Design in California.  I was the design director there and I also became the design director of the power company, Patagonia. I’ve done some consulting for the auto companies, specifically Ford and a featured lecturer for strategic design management for businesses around the globe, including Nokia, NCR, Volkswagen, BMW, the Ford Motor Co., JETRO (Japanese External Trade Organization) and at government symposia. Eventually I got head hunted into this position I have now.  So and I’ve been the Dean of the College now for almost seven years.  And I play in all sorts of fields of Art and Design but because industrial design and particularly car design is so important to us given our Detroit location a lot of my work is connected with the car companies.

Ric          Wow. Well now since this is an interview centred around the use of Wacom technology let’s kick off with how long have you used tablets in your own design process or have been involved in the teaching process where Wacom tablets are used?

Imre        I’m personally not a Wacom user because the position that I have, I’m in management and I have a degree in illustration and I’m a very strong draftsman in that I draw and so on.  But I’ve been managing the process now for many years and I’ve been involved with Wacom since about 1996/97.  It was 97 when I returned to Pasadena.  I began to work with a couple of guys who were doing some work in the entertainment industry as well as in product design. They were product designers, and they were actually working on helmets. They had  the Bell account for bicycle  helmets and they were working with Wacom in their processes. They were very early adopters to this process and I spent a lot of time watching these guys work and discussing their methods and their work flow.  So I really became aware of Wacom in 1997.  Ever since then, particularly at CCS, we work with it and we use it in the teaching platform and I don’t know how many we’ve got but we’ve got probably sixty, maybe more, workstations with Wacom tablets and we use it for many applications. We use it in conjunction with Alias Studio Tools and we use it with Photoshop, Illustrator and other techniques.  Also the illustration department uses it.  We sell them at our student store to our students and as I said we have our labs equipped with them and we use them in many, many departments.  So yeah my relationship or my experience with Wacom started in 97, but my own hands-on experience I’m talking about is from a management standpoint and from an educator’s standpoint, from a pedagogy standpoint for actually utilising them in order to teach.

Ric          So the tablets that you’re most likely running would be Intuos3 in the professional practises.  Do you also run Cintiq screen tablets in your labs?

Imre        Yes, for working directly on screen. In the last two years we’ve bought Cintiq’s, I can’t tell you how many we’ve got but it’s a lot, but we’ve had issues with production volumes. Their numbers are very limited so we could use more but we can’t always access them. We’re very fortunate.  We’ve got a very good relationship with General Motors through a program they call PACE, and also Monash University for example in Melbourne is also a PACE Partner Institution, it’s a consortium of schools that receive support from GM because they have had a long standing history of hiring the graduates out of the various PACE schools, specifically in engineering design. We’re one of those schools and with their help we’ve bought a lot Wacom Cintiq workstations. We’ve got a lot of those here which we think is fabulous.

Ric          So could you please describe to us some of the types of work that’s being done in design teaching with those Cintiqs?  Being able to work directly on screen to do design sketches and illustrations, and the design process in general?

Imre        With the Cintiq it’s superb because it’s really a seamless intuitive interface in other words.  You really see in real time what your instrument is doing right on the drawing which is of course is the way it’s been done since human beings have been scratching on caves with little sticks, so it’s exactly intuitive.  And the other thing that’s really nice is that when you’re using the Cintiq with a 3D platform such as Alias Studio Tools, the effect while you’re doing those lines the software is generating 3D geometry, 3D data.  So you’re developing a 3D model working on a 2D surface in an intuitive way and of course that holds tremendous potential.  In the old days you’d take a piece of graphite or a marker and you’d do a 2D drawing so you’re working in a purely 2D environment. With the Cintiq, or with the Wacom tablets in general, when you’re working with 3D programs on a 2D surface you’re leaving a 3D mathematical trail and of course that’s extremely powerful. As well as generating your  attractive and wonderful looking seductive illustrations to convey to the clients, management, colleagues, whatever, you are also developing the geometry data  for output in 3D, to prototyping tools and 3D printers.  So it’s an incredibly powerful and very direct tool, with awesome power and of course what’s happening is that while I don’t have any personal experience with this the digital media and animation departments, are using the Cintiqs with Maya and are developing character designs and so forth for the entertainment industry and for the games industry.  It’s really powerful because you’re developing 3D characters and all your illustrating in 3D environment keeping the integrity in it’s entirety to 3D output in a very direct way.

Ric          So I guess in looking forward, do you see areas of innovation that you’d like to see come out of Wacom?

Imre        Well.  I mean getting to where they’ve got to thus far. They’ve been phenomenally innovative in creating of course the most intuitive interface available to the artist and when I say the artist I really mean it.  I’m not only talking about the techo guys that do car designs but also fine art, it’s a tool that’s incredibly powerful in that fine artists now have the opportunity to also do very conceptual work with it.  Particularly work that’s going to be translated to 3D in the sculptural world because the integrity and opportunity to go directly to rapid prototyping for a million applications so it’s a very powerful tool.  But the innovation there would be of course in the first instance to get to a place where it’s a little more affordable so that it’s not just the designers and corporations that can access this technology because here we’re very fortunate.  We do this very high end car design stuff and we get a lot of support from the car companies like GM, Ford, Toyota and so on so we’re able to equip our labs very lavishly. The Teaching departments that don’t get the level of high profile corporate support, for instance illustration, and even animation for that matter benefit from accessing the tools that are installed in these Cintiq labs.  In fact I’ve been trying to conduct some experiments in the last year or so around this to give these tools to people who are just purely artists to see what comes of it.  And because, as I mentioned to you, we have nine majors, Fine Arts is one of them, so is Craft. These are very traditional programs and it’s an incredible opportunity to have, especially give Fine Artists access to extremely high end digital tools that once were just purely available for aerospace design.  So going back to your question, I think the innovation that I would hope for is that the cost of these tools might come down somewhat.  That’s going to be inevitable, so I mean I’m somewhat limited in that I don’t have the mileage myself on the devices, you know? So I can’t focus on specific interface issues that might require further refinement and improvement and so on. 

Ric          You’ve more than answered my question Imre thank you. We may have already answered you wish with a new product called the Cintiq12. It is the little brother to the Cintiq 21. It looks more like an Intuos3 6×11 tablet but with the screen embedded in the surface, so it’s quite thin, quite portable, light and you can pick it up and put it on your lap and work directly on the surface of the monitor or switch back to your original screen and work like a normal tablet.

Imre        Excellent.  That sounds great, that would be great.

Ric          And it’s cheaper.  It’s around half the price of the Cintiq 21.

Imre        Yes, also the portability would be huge, I mean the opportunity to be mobile with it would be just phenomenal, especially take it in the field with you rather than just to be studio bound.

Ric          So I thank you for your time today and sharing with us your in sights and knowledge of the industrial design and design educational landscape in Detroit USA.

Imre        It was my pleasure talking to you.