Aesthetic Design

April 7th, 2009

When I started the project, I had some foggy notion of what I wanted to create (A celestial clock made of brass) but I didn’t have a good idea of what sort of design, style and imagery I wanted to include. So I did some fairly extensive research online into ancient celestial maps, cartography, horology (clock making) and the like.

One of the best references turned out to be the The Australian National University’s ArtServ project You can find some really beautiful hi-res photographs of horological masterpieces here. These clocks are the touchstone.

Another source of inspiration was the Uranographicarum Star Atlas. I spent quite a long time trying to work these ancient engravings into the design of the clock, but to no avail. Instead, I went with a less decorative Planisphere design.

For the unifying design theme of the clock, I considered several different motifs. I spent the better part of a month playing with Celtic knotwork, Celtic knot software and Celtic fonts. In the end, I concluded that the concentric nature of Celtic imagery was too difficult to integrate into the clock, which has a large, asymmetric element at its core.

Instead I started looking at 19th Century industrial design. Steampunk was all the rage, and I found some really good references on 19th Century French Ironwork. 1100 decorative French Ironwork Designs, Treasury of Ironwork Designs and Ornamental Ironwork are excellent references. These books contain hundreds of engravings of 19th century ironwork, used for things such as fences, lamp-posts, and other decorative but functional applications. In the end, I didn’t use any one design verbatim. Rather I attempted to streamline and simplify the designs so they wouldn’t distract from the information the clock was presenting. In particular, I discarded all botanical and human elements. Perhaps there is a bit of Celtic design influence in here, after all.

Finally, I had to find astronomical references for the constellations the clock would display. If I were living at the North Pole, I could have gotten away with having a single brass disk, which rotates once per year. However, as you move South, the section of the Northern Hemisphere that is visible changes. I found an online service called Astronomy In Your Hands that, for a small fee, will generate a Planisphere for your specific Latitude and Longitude. This was the primary reference for most of the stars represented.

Below are some of the thumbnail sketches from my notebook as I tossed around various designs ideas for the clock:

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