Aesthetrics #3 – The Ol’ Chamfer Chestnut

Designers have always wanted products to look sleeker, lighter, thinner, or just less bulky. This is still true despite our contemporary uber-slim standards.

Ask an old designer to slim a product down with “that old chamfer trick,” and they’ll probably know what you mean.

The skinny is that chamfering edges can Jenny Craig products by hiding unwanted surface area in shadow, or drawing an edge away from the viewer.

Creating Smaller Surfaces

This is one of the most common ways of applying the chamfer trick. In short, this method is primarily concerned with hiding surfaces in shadow, and decreasing the relative size of the primary surface area.

The treatment has been applied to the top and bottom edges to draw attention to the now smaller middle surface. Below is a comparison with an untreated cube.

The pink surfaces clarify the difference in perceived size. This method is often applied to consumer electronics, primarily cell phones and laptops.

The highlighted surface of this iPhone is what’s left after the chamfer trick has been applied to the edges of both the front and the back face.

The following image illustrates the effect of the chamfer trick.

The pink surface again illustrates the unaltered thickness, and the blue highlighted surface is that which is being hidden because of the chamfer trick.

As you can see, only the top edge chamfer and the unaltered side surface are primarily visible. This is essentially an almost 30% reduction in the perceived thickness.

The iPhone 3GS is neither the first nor the last mobile device to employ the chamfer trick in this way. The chamfer trick is an oldie but a goodie for a reason.

In fact, the 3GS actually employs both forms of the chamfer trick, which leads into the next section, drawing surfaces away from the viewer.

Drawing Surfaces Away

Used just as often as the previous method, the above block may appear to be unchanged until compared to a block that actually is.

Rather than hiding edges in shadow or calling priority to specified surfaces, this method slightly distorts perspective to visually foreshorten surfaces.

Here is an example in practice–the backplate of this Blackberry Curve has been drawn away from the viewer.



The Skinny

The chamfer trick is an aesthetic maneuver as ancient and reliable as it is straight-forward. It can be used to either to hide unwanted surfaces in shadow and light, or distort perspective to create foreshortening. Used in combination with tricks like “ghost chrome,” discussed in Aesthetricks #1, unwanted visual elements can be made virtually invisible.

Unfortunately the best way for you to reduce your visible surface area is still diet and exercise.


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