DREAMING IN DIGITAL
HOW TECHNOLOGY SHAPES THE VIEW OF ONE TRIAD DESIGNER
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Matthew Cunningham seems to view the world through a lens of constant deconstruction. As a concept developer and industrial designer, two titles that hardly scratch the surface of his capabilities, Cunningham creates the digital landscapes and 3D rendered visuals you see in feature films, that car companies use for future automobile concepts, and that some cities rely on for city parks.
Cunningham graduated from the Pratt Institute with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design in 2003. It was during his time there between 1999 and 2003 that he developed an interest in industrial design, but credits the liberal arts school with much more.
“Everyone gets a minor in art history, but the biggest thing I took away from (Pratt) is the problem solving skills,” Cunningham said, although not discounting the distinguished reputation that precedes the Pratt Institute. Industrial design is a blanketing career degree, and the learned skills in viewing the world in vectors, lines, and planes has admittedly helped him in applying that practice to his everyday life.
After graduating from Pratt, Cunningham moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles to attend Art Center College of Design in 2005. He further advanced his technical skills in digital illustration and conceptualizing before graduating in 2010 with a bachelor of science in transportation design.
While in school, he worked on a variety of projects for major car companies, notably BMW’s recently debuted “I” program, as well as case studies for projects that are not set for release until 2020.
In 2011, Cunningham worked with Paramount Pictures to conceptualize and design certain vehicles for the film G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013). His work has also been featured in other films such as Source Code, and an upcoming Steven Spielberg film, Robopocalypse.
“The thing is when working with automobile companies you have to look 10, even 15 years down the line,” he said. Cunningham is currently working with a handpicked team of developers on a pitch project for Toyota that isn’t set for manufacturing until 2025. He recently launched a brand, Autoclave LLC. that will be handling the project.
The brunt of his work, though, is handled through his company, Cunningham Industrial Design, which is now based out of Winston-Salem.
But in the art world, Cunningham still maintains a hold.
As a member of Winston-Salem’s Art for Art’s Sake organization, he is currently working on the design elements of a proposed arch that will be constructed in downtown Winston-Salem.
“There are certain constraints you have to work within on projects like that,” he said. “Budget constraints, time, materials, and then approval.”
Technology has always played a major role for artists, but for Cunningham, it opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Thanks to computer-aided drawing (CAD) programs, he’s able to digitally recreate anything he can mentally conceive and construct it, applying both practical use and realistic rendering.
With technology always moving forward, we prodded Cunningham about the possibilities of applying this to 3D printing, a relatively expensive technology that is on the brink of affordability for the everyman. “It’s just waiting for whoever makes the best looking and cheapest option for the home,” he laughs, “and then it could move towards printing food.”
In any case, Cunningham will still be creating. Whether it’s the car you are driving in ten years, or the sculpture you take a picture of yourself in front of, it’s visual designers like him who conceptualize the future of appealing aesthetics. !