At North Design Works there is never really a normal day at the office. At time of writing they’re helping a small software company break through into automotive hardware, whilst separately working with an historic racing car manufacturer to design one of their first new car bodies in years based on sketches of a 1960’s Formula 1 Concept Car.
Previous extremes of project randomness include designing sports bras, automotive research in waste heat recovery, architectural staircases and all manner of sports equipment, from soccer to equestrian. Jonny Patty, the Director at North Design Works, states, “the diversity of SOLIDWORKS as our main design platform gives us a distinct advantage. Where some jobs are purely industrial engineering, many are heavily led by aesthetics. SOLIDWORKS continually blows minds of my artist and graphic design partners – this lets us into a niche where the engineering designer can devise or develop aesthetics to a standard that often would demand a conventional artist’s skills. Crucially this approach seriously reduces lead time because even from early project stages, we are designing for manufacture feasibility, yet to a standard of aesthetic that is top of its game. This means a client can go straight into making things without the inevitable compromises and delays to realisation.”
He continues… “An example of this niche was a 2014 commission for HBO’s Game of Thrones – assisting with the design of the ‘Sons of the Harpy’ Mask. This became quite an iconic image and later went on to make the Cover on the Season 1-5 Box-Set. At the time the plot line was shrouded in secrecy, so at a briefing when the costume department started talking through something about an assassin’s mask, we had no idea that ‘Sons of the Harpy’ was such a big part of HBO’s Game of Thrones Season 5 – indeed I assumed this costume piece would end up in a half-second flash on an out-of-focus extra – it was literally disbelief to watch this become a major part of the show and hear of the record-breaking audiences.. .”
North Design Works’ involvement was to perform some complex SOLIDWORKS editing / design changes on a handmade model by EMI-winning costume designer Michele Clapton. Says Jonny, “It was a lovely piece as it was but Michele and the team at ’Thrones knew it needed something extra design-wise as well as digitisation, comfort improvements for actors, scaling and output for both Stereolithography and Vacuum Casting of duplicates… not to mention a lightning-fast turnaround that conventional artwork / duplicate methods couldn’t achieve. We decided on an origami-inspired woven texture as the main change and SOLIDWORKS’ ability to surface-render an image of my hand-drawn origami pattern gave us an organically stretched starting point after first 3D scanning Michele’s original 3D artwork.
From then on it was a question of tracing the imposed image’s guidelines via 3D sketches, creating various surfaces which were then thickened and merged into the main solid. SOLIDWORKS made this a breeze, letting me concentrate on the artistic side rather than dwelling on the technical execution. Crucially though, the easy graphical step from our simple hand-drawn woven image enabled a useful preview before the time-consuming surfaces work began – this meant we all knew the project direction before too many hours were clocked-up…. And with the shoot date already scheduled, spare hours were in short supply! The only thing SW didn’t do was brew the coffee required for an all-day, all-nighter of extreme surface modelling…”
What were the results? The Season 5 Episode ‘Sons of the Harpy’ received 6.82 million US viewers on its first airing and went on to win a Primetime Emmy Award. Without doubt this costume piece has had more eyes on it than anything North Design Works has ever been involved with before and until this piece was written, North Design Works’ involvement had been client-confidential – that’s a long time to keep such a big secret so we’re honoured to break the story. The mask is a great piece of popular culture and its story definitely helped hold us over until Season 8. We wish North Design Works good fortune in the design wars to come.