I am looking for books that cover the topics of the fundamentals of mechanical design in art, specifically the techniques or thinking used in creating complex mechanical designs like humaniform robots, mecha or complex vehicles (tanks, armored cars, etc.).
I've checked out the various forums and perused threads like the 2008 Robotics thread as well as the Reading List thread, but I've been unable to find what I'm looking for. I checked out some of the videos uploaded by Feng Zhu on his site, but those deal with media techniques during mechanical design and not the fundamentals of "how" to design a convincing machine.
Perhaps it is just a limitation of my imagination, but I'd hope it isn't. :p
If any of you can point me in the right direction, I'd be quite grateful. Cheers!
Neuromancer fan? The closest thing I can think of off the top of my head is Mechanika by Doug Chiang. It's my drawer at the moment, but I remember it having quite a few things on designing robots and such. It also covered a lot of pen and marker work, which was interesting, as it doesn't seem to come up too often in books these days. It is a good book. If that doesn't hit the spot, then I think it's just a case of experience and study. Understand your subject matter.
If you want to design a tank, then work out why real tanks look the way they do. The armour is often angled or sloped because it makes it harder to munitions to penetrate. I believe those cages you see around the vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan are designed to detonate RPG warheads prematurely before they can penetrate the vehicles themselves. Others are covered in those 'bricks', which are actually explosive pockets designed to detonate when hit by missiles and defeat the warhead. It's all designed for purpose first, not looks.
I say this as a viewer, and not a designer. I have no design experience, but nothing makes me groan more in entertainment media than when I see something that looks like it would never work, and the designer has become fixated on making something look cool.
Edit: Do take what I say with a pinch of salt. Somebody else will likely have more useful advice. I get very excited at the mention of tanks.
As long as it fits your vision, it doesn't matter how others design their machines(they followed their own vision). If you don't have a vision, that is another problem.
I take vision, in art, to mean the formation of a general scheme, mood, and composition of a picture apart than its specific details. The specific details are sought after through references, which the artist may manipulate or change to fit his vision.
Vision can be generated from reference images, pictures, novels, or music, and of which do not necessarily require direct to be stimuli, but can be "stimuli" from your knowledge and "visual library", as Feng Zhu puts it. E.g., remembering moments in your life, even though not particularly specific, can be enough to give you the vision of an idea whether for a painting or a story.
The only accuracy involved in imaginary concepts are when they pertain to real world objects. An imaginary machine made of metal should follow the nature of metal found in the real world, and in which case you should learn how to draw metallic objects if you don't know how to, and you can do that by starting to draw something metallic. It might also help to read about the behaviors of light on different surfaces.
The video posted by Charlie D is along the lines of what I'm looking for, becaues the initial steps of designing something are what I've had the most trouble with.
I tend to try and put too much detail in too early and not sketch enough general overall shapes which leads me to half-finished or ill-thought designs. It's something I've been struggling to overcome for a while and I haven't quite found my mojo with any particular technique.
Farvus: Great suggestion with the cross-sections! I use a lot of stuff like that for reference already. Here's one of the best ones I've ever found.