Quantifying Quality: The Pugh Analysis

After many sessions of brainstorming, we have all amassed a mountain of design ideas, and begun to evaluate them. To help sift through our many ideas, we have employed the Pugh analysis. In order to do this, we figured out which attributes we thought were important, such as cost, longevity, ease of assembly and the ability to protect. All designs are different in their own ways, so we needed a base level to compare all things to. As a base, we compared all the designs to current wood frames used in museums. Within each criteria, the new design could receive a +, – or 0, if it was apparently better, worse or the same as the museum’s frame. Although this can simplify things because some designs may be much better than others, we need to further narrow our options with more analysis.

After the first round of analysis, we all had designs that not only had varying scores, but also varying differences. Using these scores, we were able to combine different ideas, so that one design could improve on the shortcomings of another. After a series of revisions, we’ll finally narrow down to ten ideas. From here we’ll be able to further narrow down our designs by the importance of each category.


Over this past week, we have been focused on the brainstorming stage of our design process. We started off with each member and Dr.Wettergreen getting a hundred index cards. We had an hour to write down any keywords of ideas we could think of that were relevant to the design, no matter how outrageous or impossible. Then we shuffled all the cards together and redistributed them. We did two more rounds of brainstorming, this time writing down additional ideas based off of what was already written on the index cards.

Afterward, we taped all of our cards on the glass walls around the OEDK conference room and started stacking repeated or similar ideas on top of each other. Once the 500 index cards were narrowed down, we started sifting through the cards and putting them into concept groups, such as materials, structures, and, of course, a category for impossible ideas (e.g. magic or the Force) and crazy ideas (too difficult for us to design in the span of 9 weeks). Once we had defined groups, we tried to cut down even more on the number of cards. Finally, we arrived at design blocks, which are the necessary components of our final design, and we were able to put our concepts into these blocks.

Now, rather than brainstorming individual elements or attributes,  it’s time to come up with complete designs. Through four hour-long rounds of brainstorming, during which each of us have to come up with 15 designs, our objective is to use each element listed under our design blocks at least once. Playing off of each other for new ideas, we will ultimately have all the designs that can potentially be included in next week’s Pugh analysis. Our goal will be to quantitatively evaluate the qualitative characteristics of about five designs to determine which one will eventually become our prototype.

MFAH Rosine Building Field Trip

We were all looking forward to today, when we visited the Museum of Fine Art Houston storage facility, called the Rosine Building. We learned a lot about how the MFAH conserves, restores, and stores the artwork currently not on display in the Museum’s galleries. We met Wynne Phelan, the Head Conservator,  Andrea Guidi di Bagno, the Chief Paintings Conservator, as well as Curtis M. Gannon, the Collections Preparator, who all were very helpful in explaining the current storage and conservation system. The ability to speak with those who use travel frames every day was of great use to the team, for we were able to communicate our concerns and they were able to list their wishes for functions to integrate into our new design.

Tomorrow we plan to take the information we have learned and further research our findings. Here are some specifics we have learned that will help guide us in our research and design process.

What the museum uses and needs as travel frames is different form everything we have seen in our research. They want to be able to hang the travel frame on the current storage system — they don’t want to compact the frame.

Also, the fact that non-antique frames can be fragile was surprising.

Although we have learned a lot today, we are looking forward to our meeting with the preparators, for this will give us even more specific constrains and criteria for our design.

Background research

The first day of our second week was spent conducting background research on art conservation, storage, and handling. The sources we used today were books obtained from Rice’s Fondren Library.

Ting read Conserving Paintings: Basic Technical Information for Contemporary Artists, which covers processes ranging from how paintings are produced to how they are stored. This book also contained a photo and explanation of the device closest to what we intend to produce: a handling frame.

Emily read about the history of frames and their relationship to the artworks they surround in The Gilded Edge: The Art of the Frame. She learned about many of the woods that have been used to create frames from the Italian Renaissance to the present, as well as the different types of joint employed to assemble frames.

After looking over the information we found last week about materials, Quique’s main goal was to research the structural integrity of paintings. Given the absence of any useful information on the subject, he has determined that the best way to go about this research is to examine wood itself, for which there is data.

In the book Conservation and Exhibits, Hannah researched factors we must take into account regarding past and potential damage to paintings, which one of our main concerns in designing frames. She found a series of disaster scenarios resulting from negligence and human error, as well as the parameters of condition reports (damage, insecurity, and deformation), which should be on file for each piece and help us evaluate its individual needs.

We are all looking forward to going behind the scenes at the MFAH tomorrow!

Quique’s First Week Reflections

As the first week of EDAAC draws to a close, I think about all that has been accomplished. Despite the fact we only learned two weeks ago that we’d be a part of this program, we’ve already jumped into the project. It can be daunting to think that we’ll be able to devise a useable solution for painting storage and transport. As this is the second year of EDAAC, we can look to last year’s results and see that they were able to achieve success, so we should also be able to do the same. Since we are tackling a different problem than last year’s team, this gives us the ability to follow our own path and create unbiased solutions.
Although we’ve spent the week learning about the problem and how to use the engineering design process to solve it, the most important work we’ve done has been developing as a team. Our team is made up of people with different ideas and backgrounds, as we represent majors including Bioengineering, Art History, Chemical Engineering and Anthropology. We all have something from our areas of expertise to contribute to this mutually foreign project. Not only do we come from different backgrounds, but we’ve never worked together before. Since we only have nine weeks to complete this project, we need to constantly work on our team skills, which we accomplish every morning as we always start off with a teambuilding exercise.
Despite the amount of learning and research we’ve already done, we’re all anxious to learn about the specifics of the project. Perhaps when we actually see the pieces of art that we’ll be dealing with, everything will begin to fall into place. It won’t feel as complete as when we finish, but at least we’ll know what we’re shooting for.

Learning how to tie shoes

Today, we started out with an exercise to practice our communication skills. We split into partners, and sat with our backs to each other. We took turns being the leader and the follower. The follower held an untied shoe in his/her hands, and the leader would give details directions as to how to tie the shoe. The follower was not allowed to do any action that the leader did not tell him/her to do. From this exercise, we realized how difficult an everyday action can be when you try to put it into just words. A common mistake was the leader assuming the follower would perform certain actions without being told, such as pulling the shoelaces taut. We also noticed how the followers learned from the leaders mistakes, and added in the details when it was their turn to be the leaders. This exercise reminded us of how important little details can be and how we can always learn from each other.

The rest of the day was just spent in doing background research on our project. First, we discussed all the topics we needed to learn about, ranging from current technologies and materials (both in art and storage) to history of art conservation. Then we divided up the work and flipped through both books and websites, occasionally checking up on each other and discussing what we’ve found. Our conclusion: there is currently nothing that does what we want to achieve, but we can look at travel frames/cases and art storage to gain an idea of the sort of design we want to combine both aspects of preventive conservation. All in all, it was a rewarding day.

2010 Mission Statement

Using a multidisciplinary and design-based approach, our team aims to develop and market a customizable storage solution for modern and contemporary two-dimensional art pieces in the Museum of Fine Arts Houston so as to advance the field of preventive art conservation.

Preparation and the Engineering Design Process

Today’s team-building exercise involved making a pentagram out of a length of yarn. We had five minutes to plan how to “draw” the figure as a group, and the execution of our strategy had to take place in total silence. At first, the yarn wasn’t tied at the ends, so we just had to go through the motions of drawing the typical five-point star. Afterward, Dr. Wettergreen tied the yarn together so that we had to give the process more thought. Ting figured out how, starting from a triangle, we could cross the yarn of one side upon itself and pull it up to form a pentagram (which ended up being easier than our first task). Success!

A part of becoming familiar with the engineering design process involves understanding our project management. Throughout the project, we have several mentors inside and outside Rice. Within Rice, we have the support from Dr. Oden and Dr. Wettergreen, as well as the MFAH head conservator Wynne Phelan and the MFAH Head Registrar Julie Bakke. Dr. Wettergreen is our primary mentor, and will guide us along the process. In order to ensure a successful project, we have to set appropriate deadlines that give us ample time to finalize and perfect each component. Along with clear goals and deadlines, documentation plays an extremely important role. All the work we do must be documented in some form either in our binder, wiki or both. When working with paper, it’s important to use ink and to date and sign each page to secure the page’s integrity. This will allow us or anyone else to follow or process later, and reproduce it. Following this idea, we should never erase ideas that we decide to get rid of. It’s possible that they could prove useful later, or would merely illustrate how we reached our end result.

We had two lectures on the engineering design process. The first one was on the general design process, which is split into two parts: the design analysis and the solution stage. These two stages can be further broken down into five steps.

1a) defining and understanding the problem

1b) brainstorming solutions to the problem and picking the best ones

2) coming up with a design strategy and building our initial prototype based on 1b

3) testing and refining out prototype

4&5) analyze our work from start to finish, and write a final report

Our second lecture focused on the design analysis stage — specifically parts 1a and 1b. We brainstormed the main issues we will have to take into consideration as we come up with the design, and the driving criteria behind creating a new storage. We also discussed the importance of quantifying everything, so we have a basis for comparison and reproduction.

After lunch, we walked through the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to get an idea of the paintings we will be attempting to store in our new design solution. While the museum was filled with many traveling exhibitions, we were able to focus our attention to the modern and contemporary permanent collection works. We noted how the paintings differed in overall size, frame, and media, and we began to consider how these differences would translate into our travel frame design.

Recap of Week 9: Concluding the Internship

For the final week of our internship, we were racing to the finish–trying to get everything done just in time. Our to-do list was quite lengthy at the start of the week, but we managed to accomplish everything by the end.

On Monday, we met at the MFAH to make final precise measurements of the art pieces and take some more pictures. To start off Tuesday, we scheduled out the rest of the week so that everything would get done. We attended the weekly Center for Civic Engagement fellows meeting where we learned the specifics of giving a good PowerPoint or poster presentation from Dr. Deborah Barrett, Director of the Program for Communication Excellence. The Cain Project, established at Rice University, is a great source of information on this topic and can be utilized to find poster templates. Although all of us feel comfortable giving exceptional presentations due to years of experience, this presentation about presentations was a good refresher.

The remainder of Tuesday was primarily spent sending out orders for supplies. We ordered supplies from Regal Plastics Inc., McMaster Carr online, The Strap Store of Houston, and a couple of other sources.

On Wednesday, we received some of our structural framing materials and began making test frames. As part of the iteration process of our prototyping, we realized that a few parts were not sufficient for our designs and decided to modify one of our orders. We also made test silicone molds in the Wet Lab, leaving ample time for these to set. A large portion of the day was also spent working on the business plan for our Innovation Norway class. By the end of Wednesday, the business plan for ArtArmor had been masterfully completed, including sections for executive summary, product overview, market analysis, marketing strategy, critical risks, and the company management. That afternoon, Caleb picked up the plastics order from Regal Plastics and Rhodes retreived the order of straps.

By Thursday, more and more materials were pouring into the Design Kitchen. We continued to test the framing components and assess what materials were still needed. Caleb worked on the plaster and mold for the Head of a Child piece, Nicole created the hanger element for History Dress # 1, Kristi formed the mold for the bottom of The Bronco Buster, and Rhodes planned out design dimensions for all of the pieces using CAD. We also spent some time designing the poster for our project.

Before heading to class, Rhodes and Caleb worked on elevator pitches for ArtArmor, LLC. These 90 second pitches were then presented before the entire class and a partner from the DFJ Mercury venture capitalist firm. Both elevator pitches included humorous and informative components that were well-received by the rest of the class and instructors. During the remainder of the class, Ned Hill, Managing Director of DFJ Mercury, presented on every possible detail of term sheets.

Friday, the last day of July, marked the final day of the internship and it turned out to be the busiest of the entire 9 weeks. The epic day consisted of cutting and polishing the framing beams, cutting the sides and bottoms to size, creating the final silicone molds, and finally building our housing solution prototypes. We all utilized the machine shop and tools to finalize the prototypes. A few more final materials were picked up as the building progressed. Our final solutions will be unveiled at a later date, but for now we are quite proud of the ultimate outcomes of our project. After a long last day spent at the Design Kitchen, we celebrated the conclusion of our internship. The endless hours of research, hundreds of ideas, and weeks spent designing modular housing solutions for the MFAH’s art pieces had surmised into impressive prototypes. This is not the end, however, as we will be presenting our work this Fall and our endeavors will be wrapped into the class taught this Fall semester by Dr. Wettergreen. Although the summer internship has ended for EDAAC, you will definitely be hearing more from us in the future.