Using Design to Scale

Using Design to Scale
By John G. Moore, Creative Director
John G. Moore

Scaling is what artist do naturally. Scaling is just a form of creating and iterating. Failing, then recovering—rinse and repeat. Again and again, until you get it right. You have the same apprehension creating large scale public art that you have developing products and services in the digital space. Will it work? Will it stand on its own? Will people like it? Why the venture capitalists and golden boys of the tech world have such a hard time scaling applications and businesses is beyond me. They should try scaling a 1-inch child’s puzzle into a 1000-pound 8-foot public sculpture.

Scaling a Ruby, Java, Clojure or Python app is nothing compared to scaling something that has to stand up to Mother Nature, and, work as a puzzle, and look good at the same time. Response time and architecture bottlenecks my ass.

Daunting at First

Once I decided on doing the sculpture, I had the uneasy feeling of having to actually doing the work. Looking at the small six puzzle pieces was reassuring, even comforting. The small lines and shapes seemed easy—a piece of cake. When I showed the designs to others, they were delighted. They loved the idea, the form, the whimsy of the very idea of scaling up a child’s puzzle. The more people loved the idea, the more daunting the whole project seemed. I kept thinking to myself, “Damn, now I have to actually pull this off.”


I hit an impasse—I just could not get going on the sculpture. It was not fear, I simply did not know exactly how to proceed. I knew that I needed to get going, but the Polar Vortex and my uneasiness just did not allow me to do anything constructive. I needed to do absolutely nothing sculpture related. The sculpture warped me—my sense of reality, when my furnace died, I was happy. My furnace giving up the ghost in January gave me an opportunity to work on something not involving that damned sculpture. I need something—anything different to do, to jar me out of my uneasy indecision. Furnace fixed, my indecision quickly morphed into procrastination. Tick-by-tock, procrastination quickly grew into flat-out urgency.

I needed to create a sense of urgency, to recklessly chomp away at my self-imposed deadline—procrastination was my answer. Procrastination is very underrated. I’ve done my best work using procrastination as a trusty resource—many artists are the same. There is nothing like procrastination providing the inspiration—lighting a persuasive fire under your ass.

Fail and Learn

As I scaled up the 1-inch puzzle to 8-foot sections, everything seemed to be working out fine. Until things weren’t. My angles were off. I could not get the pieces to fit, and the skies consistently parted and dumped warm rain all over my work at the most inopportune times. I wanted to give up. Fortunately for me, my Father pointed out what I was doing wrong and how to fix it. His calm demeanor is the only reason that sculpture stands today. Had he not calmed me, I would have given up. My Father explained why and how my angles were wrong—providing the calm insight I needed to get the project back on track. My failure and his insight on why I failed were a key moments in successfully scaling the 1-inch pieces to the 8-foot behemoth that stands today.

Destroy and Build

Scalability is design. The key to scaling anything is to design something that can scale in the first place—it must be designed to scale. My Father’s insight on my errors led me to cut up the work and properly fit everything together. Cutting up all my work was difficult, but necessary. Once I saw the work fitting together—it was thrilling. To see something that was in your mind, and then on paper—filling up your living room, it was just mind blowing. Scaling something small is about creating capacity. Creating the capacity to fill hearts and minds, to solve a problem and fill space is key. It’s not about mere performance, optimization and cost containment—its about so much more.

The Home Stretch

Looking at the-the work take shape—from concept to form—was oddly exhilarating. As the sculpture grew in my living room, it’s momentum carried me. As I was building, the very sight of the sculpture fueled me.

I hardly ate or slept, I simply kept building. I was Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind—a crazed man tearing up his house with reckless abandon—building a crazy vision. Family members came by; eyebrows raised—offering encouragement while whispering concerns. Scaling anything is a mission of madness—you must harness your inner crazy in order to scale anything, most don’t understand this key fact. Your drive is what you need to scale through to the home stretch.

Now They See

My neighbors streamed into my yard—to see what the crazy man was doing. As I put together the sculpture, some were perplexed, others took out their phones showing me their artwork. Others simply drove by—two miles an hour so they could see me. As I built the sculpture, everyone could actually see what I had been working on for four months. It is amazing how people responded to something big and different. It was fun to see people’s reactions to something scaled up. When something is scaled up—people notice and respond to the work—at the same scale. It really is amazing to experience.

The Finish Line

Once I finished the sculpture platform and prepared the pocket park, it was time to install the sculpture. It took six hours to move the pieces in place. With the help of Mathew Easley, Nathan Foxton, John G. Moore, Sr., Joyce L. Moore, and Justin Garrett Moore the sculpture was assembled. It was not an easy feat. Each piece of the 1000-pound sculpture was hoisted, moved, rotated, shifted and placed. It was hard, muscles straining, sweat pouring, and minds clouded in doubt—will this thing fit? It did fit, the exhilaration of seeing it fit, seeing it work was crazy fun. Honks of
approval and stares of puzzlement filled the corner of 30th and Park.


The sculpture is called Interdependence. Interdependence consist of one large interlocking star sculpture in a small urban pocket park located in Indianapolis. Interdependence is meant to provoke people to see and appreciate the invisible people and spaces in their lives—those people and spaces we encounter every day but are invisible to us. Interdependence is about individuals holding each other up, working together to create—something wonderful.

Mission accomplished, we congratulated each other, took pictures, and as the day faded into evening, we went our separate ways. It was a good day. As I finished up, I thought about the day I took on the project, happy it was over—ecstatic it looked in reality the way it looked in my mind’s eye. Scaling is hard, but worth it in the end—I can’t wait to scale my next project.

Go big or go home.

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