Industrial Design’s Lisa Marks wins the Grand Prix for a custom-made post-mastectomy bra.
Lisa Marks, an assistant professor in the School of Industrial Design, and her Algorithmic Lace project won the Grand Prize at the Lexus Design Award event during Design Week in Milan, Italy on April 8.
Marks’ inventive design is a custom-made, post-mastectomy bra designed to avoid common bra discomforts after surgery.
The competition received over 1,500 entries from up-and-coming designers around the world aspiring to “Design for a Better Tomorrow”. With a brighter future in mind, Marks’ design gives women an optimistic start to their new beginning.
Marks was among six semi-finalists in the prestigious competition and the only semi-finalist from North America.
Marks’ achievement stems from a career and research focused on methods of integrating endangered traditional craftsmanship with algorithmic modeling, with the aim of creating new modes of production. As a professor at Georgia Tech, Marks enhances his impact through his research lab focused on digital modeling combined with craftsmanship.
In a world where certain types of craftsmanship are favored over others in design, Lisa Marks sees a need and an opportunity to blend industrial design and traditional craft forms, not only for the revitalization of the craftsmanship, but for better and more inclusive design.
The story back
While Marks was an industrial design student, she took part in a materials exploration project. From this project came her initial focus when she chose knitting as a point of exploration. Thanks to the project, Marks created his first knitting tool.
Over time, Marks began to explore the idea of knitting in different materials and participated in a project based on the bamboo trade in Thailand, in collaboration with the Thai government.
In a country rich in artisanal communities, how could a thriving bamboo trade help minimize its growing wealth gap?
Years have passed since Marks visited, but she fondly remembers her trips to Thailand. Based on her observation, she felt that revitalizing craftsmanship could help empower communities on the less fortunate side of the wealth gap.
“It was really striking to see the wealth gap. 40% of their population only owns 2% of the wealth, and if they were to continue to lose craftsmanship, the wealth gap would have little room to improve,” Marks said.
As a professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Industrial Design, Marks advocates for empathetic design that humanizes innovative technologies to solve global problems. “Graduate students are currently looking for creative ways to combine craft and industrial design to revitalize themselves,” Marks said, showing the implications of his coursework for shaping proactive, solution-focused design.
While in Thailand, Marks worked with artisan communities to address the wealth gap, a dilemma not unique to Thailand, and began to see the need for modern design. exportable among artisan communities. Marks ended up creating a series of objects using parametric modeling to knit a semi-rigid material with knitted bamboo.
“It got me more interested in revitalizing craftsmanship and different ways of thinking to integrate craftsmanship and design,” she said. This approach had a direct impact on her decision to focus her thesis on a similar opportunity to revitalize Croatian bobbin lace craftsmanship.
Marks’ approach is socially responsible and responds to a growing need.
It’s a form of design practice that not only thinks of the end user, but also empowers the original designers, she said, those who pass on centuries of historic design. “As designers, we can contribute. We can design objects using these techniques.
As a professor at Georgia Tech, Marks teaches that design should not only express creativity, but also explore solutions across the globe.
The original computers and binary code were inspired by the weaving process. Advancement and crafting have always been integrated and it is important to understand the history of where things come from. “Let’s not forget the importance of craftsmanship in our modern world,” Marks said.
With advancement and craftsmanship in mind, Marks developed the idea for a post-mastectomy bra. One that could be custom designed for every woman to avoid common bra discomforts after surgery. His unique research background helped identify Marks as a valuable addition to the faculty of the industrial design program, and during his short time at Tech, Marks continued his exploration of craftsmanship and algorithmic modeling to further develop his designs.
President of the School of Industrial Design, Jim Budd, notes: “Lisa’s combined emphasis on integrating artisanal and parametric modeling that takes advantage of the latest advances in digital technology to produce new materials woven from historical inspiration is an ideal complement to our rapidly growing industrial design program here at Georgia Tech.
Marks is very pleased with the support she has received. “My specialization was valued and encouraged in an R1 like Georgia Tech. Algorithmic Lace is now part of a design award!
While our society is currently obsessed with plastics, automation and apps, Marks said, “the obsession with ‘one’ has also given way to conversations about craftsmanship. »
“Not everything is a smooth, shiny object. When you come home and look around at your stuff, most of it isn’t.” For Marks, it’s obvious that people have started to recognize that some professions are disappearing.
Handicrafts are carriers of history and comfort that we want in our environment. “I think we have to fight to keep craftsmanship alive and part of that is incorporating craftsmanship into the built environment, which is what designers do,” she said.
Weaving design and empathy
For years, Marks has conducted 3D modeling projects to analyze the basic math behind a stitch of a particular fabric and use that to create a design. The idea of algorithmic patterning uses mathematical inputs to “model, in this case, every point at the micro level and mathematically model proportions, shapes and the like,” Marks said.
“I think understanding math honors the story of how these patterns were embedded and their influence in inspiring others.”
Advancing craft through the Algorithmic Lace project has a unique thought process for Marks.
“As industrial designers, we can create things thinking about what we can do with our hands, but we can’t do it with machines. We can do lace with machines, very easily, we do it all the time – but, right now, machines can’t do three-dimensional lace,” she said. This thought process applied to the idea of a post-mastectomy bra and how craftsmanship can be revitalized from what a machine cannot do to improve the user experience. .
Because women who have had a mastectomy have very sensitive skin, “About 40 percent of women who have had a mastectomy choose not to have reconstructive surgery,” Marks said.
“Many wear mastectomy bras and external prostheses which are very heavy and create discomfort. As seams, underwires and traditional bras can be uncomfortable, with the Algorithmic Lace Bra you can create a three-dimensional bra that conforms to the body and honors whatever shape the body is.”
The way the algorithmic lace is patterned creates an optical illusion of fullness, so that when looking at a mirror there is a sense of symmetry where there is none, giving women an optimistic start in their new start.
The process of creating a custom bra requires the woman to undergo a 3D body scan. The scan captures everything from waistline to depth, and a program then takes a basic pattern on the lace and transforms it onto the body. The basic calculation can then be modified through dots and lines to make it more or less dense, and fully customized for the woman’s comfort.
There are many design choices that a woman can make. This freedom of decision empowers women. As Marks explained, “For example, some women want it to look more symmetrical, some women may want denser lace to follow the scar so the bra expresses its shape. The pattern is up to the women and their design choices.
With approximately six months of aggregate work in algorithmic lace design, Marks is now moving forward to develop working prototypes with mentorship from highly respected, world-class design leaders – and representing Georgia Tech and the United States at a high level. The prototypes will debut on April 8, 2019, during Milan Design Week, where the Grand Prize winner of the Lexus Design Award 2019 will be announced.
Given the decline of different craft skills and how different communities rely on craftsmanship, Marks said she thinks it’s worth thinking about how we can design in a truly efficient, modern and exportable to create jobs in these communities. Marks would like to see the project move forward, even if not made, as a speculative project. One that draws attention to the revitalization of craftsmanship through design. The possibilities for good design are endless.