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Designer to Watch: Danny Wills

“Today, we're losing the physical connection, and in my attempt to study and evaluate these processes, I then have the ability to alter them and invent new forms of media.”
~Danny about his approach to design through its process.

Welcome to the first posting in a series that features an up-and-coming designer that I personally am inspired by and who will soon inspire many, many others. The designer featured today is Danny Wills, who is actually just in his 3rd year of a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture program at Cooper Union in New York. Danny is the perfect introductory designer for two reasons. First, his photography helped inspire the idea for a graphic presence used in my recent Christmas photo series, and secondly, his ideas for design and creativity are applied to many different fields, the same fields I myself am passionate about. He was kind enough to answer my questions, and his written thoughts on his design is presented with little editing below.

Architectural Training is Design TrainingI've never been formally trained as a graphic designer, it's something that came naturally and parallel to my architectural education. I feel the education I've received and am receiving trains you to accurately, methodologically, and conceptually tackle any design problem--be it architecture or not.

Influence of Style Across all Fields
Graphic design has been always present in my architectural work. How you present a project fully matters, and you have to understand how to qualitatively display information to best get your concept across. Architecture has taught me how to develop and pursue a concept and it has taught me that when I think I've solidified an idea, it's not over, you must push and push until you get everything you can out of it and you're probably still not done--you're never done. It's always a continuous exploration. I must admit, though, my graphic design work has always been partially sacrificed due to time constraints, and the concepts I wish to pursue most often get pushed aside until the next project.

Design Process
I would like to think that all of my work relates in some way specifically to each other, and each project is a departure point for the next development. I'm still in school. This is a place to experiment and try to understand where I fit in to all of this. That's why I'm never satisfied with just architecture, or just graphic design, or just photography, I need to explore it all and somehow understand their relationships.

I've recently been working with the idea of trying to interconnect the fields in a more understandable way to the viewer; the Analog vs. Digital series is an example of this. I see these three projects as attempts to understand the conceptual process of taking a photograph. All these little Photoshop symbols have references to physical, actual processes that once were being done. Today, we're losing the physical connection, and in my attempt to study and evaluate these processes, I then have the ability to alter them and invent new forms of media. {See photo above and below respectively described as "Who really needs photoshop?" and "Manual polygonal lasso tool."}

That's the direction I feel I'm headed. In an attempt to study and understand the tools I use daily, I can then play and mess with them to achieve new effects. Everyone is using these powerful commands in 3D modeling programs today in architecture, yet I doubt many can actually tell you the manual process that goes into something like lofting between two shapes. If they understood that these commands have roots that date back to ancient ship building and even further, their work would benefit in amazing ways, and they could re-evaluate why they decide to loft, and how they could edit the loft to achieve new things.

House for a Photographer
The project looked at specific questions of site its specific geophysical properties. From a long series of iterations and developments I studied the tectonic relationship of the given site. A tool of measurement was created, which then brought about an interesting read into the specific qualities of the site. These qualities eventually evolved into formal logics and programmatic strategies. The intense slope of the hill measured perpendicularly to a calm horizontal terrain, which developed the idea to create a photographer's studio intertwined with a gallery to view the work. Two paths, artist and spectator, start on two separate axises and twist around one another, yet the physical spaces never combine. The visitors view the artist's work alongside the working artist. The artist lives within his work continuously without contact from the public. {Photo of project model is not current. More documentation of this project to come.}
Future Practice
I can't say where I'll be when I graduate. Architecture is a gratifying thing, but the results are less immediate than the other design fields. You often have to wait years and years to see the final outcome, but what I've been slowly realizing is that it's not about the final outcome, but about the process and development that you put into the project that is really satisfying.

Thanks and Good Luck Danny! See more of Danny’s impressive portfolio here.

Images courtesy of Danny Wills. / Found via of paper and things. / Banner graphics by Sophorn. Banner photo by Danny.

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