David Neat’s article expressed far better than I can many of the thoughts I have about the place of model making in the design process. It is a process I love though I don’t pretend to me particularly slick at it and there are techniques I have never used. I always say to myself I will make the metal work out of metal, but in the end I generally end up using the tried and trusted balsa and card. I do it so I can sort out in my own mind all the various problems of scale and space before a multitude of others have their say. Some can explain ideas verbally very well, I need to sort things out in advance. Naturally the process follows discussions with the director. I do expect the finished result to develop from it nevertheless the feel and particularly the scale should be accurate.
Recently I have used CAD as an aid to physical model making particularly for those fiddly details like window panes. By printing out the detail on clear acetate you get the glass and panes in one go. For making accurate white card model which are the standard format in TV design, printing out the 1:50 elevations onto thin card and assembling as a model saves a huge amount of time.
At one of the SBTD exhibitions I wrote the following about the way I see model making.
The model is in the front line of communication between designer, director, cast and workshop staff. It is not designed as an art exhibit in its own right but as a stepping stone to the finished theatrical experience Although exact in its own way it often contains short cuts and visual shorthand especially if the team often work together. The over finished model can be a trap albeit a beguiling one and a handicap if it appears to stifle development during the rehearsal period