Who We Are

Definition of the Model Maker's Role

For thousands of years, people have been creating models to translate, develop and improve their ideas. Model making, like drawing and sketching, is an important ‘next step’ in the design process, and offers a unique way to visualize ideas. In a way, everyone is a model maker, as they test their ideas by trying things out. This is prototyping.

Professional model makers are specialists in this process of realizing ideas in three dimensions, whether as physical object, or as a digital image. Their work is important to the development of almost all architecture, product design furniture design etc.

In architectural design, model makers will make maquettes of designs to visualize how new buildings will relate to their surroundings, to evaluate the spaces available to us inside, or to be used in support of gaining permission for new developments. In product/industrial design; toys, automobiles, consumer electronics, packaging, footwear, medical products, home appliances and housewares, architecture, industrial design (durable equipment, office products), even candy and food items are often modeled before they are approved for production. In film/TV production, model makers are still called upon to make props, sets and miniatures, despite much of this work being superseded by digital modeling. In the UK specifically, there are many opportunities for model makers doing this kind of work.

Though model makers were once seen as typically “blue collar” positions, these professionals are now taking their rightful place at the design table as an integral part of the design process. They are valued for their fabrication abilities and for their capacity to bring about innovation.

Model Makers ordinarily receive competitive salaries commensurate with their expertise and ability to adapt to the studios in which they work. Because of the competitive nature of product development and the speed of the time-to-market process, model makers often work unusual hours when they are under a deadline. Some model makers pride themselves on their “can-do” attitudes and often give the project their complete focus.

What Are the Skills of a Model Maker?

Hal Chaffee writes of ‘Ten Talents of a Model Maker’. With a lifetime of experience as a professional model maker, and a long association with the APMM, Hal muses that successful model makers…:

  • Have a sense of scale
  • Have ability to visualize the three dimensions
  • Can see their work as pursuit of art
  • ‘Sense’ materials when they ‘talk’
  • Show passion for detail, and the ability to do finishing work
  • Have ability to link abstract or unrelated ideas
  • Are ingenious…
  • Have ability to search and ‘dig’ like an archaeologist
  • Interpret information appropriately
  • Can balance all of the above in their work

Read Hal’s thoughts in full here. 

How Do You Become a Model Maker?

Since model makers work so closely with designers in the process of developing new ideas, they need a good understanding of the design process. Because of this, most have studied design, engineering or model making itself.

Though it is not uncommon to find professional model makers who do not have a specific qualification in the subject, you can follow a course of study with a college or university that offers a degree program in model making as it relates to industrial design, architecture or industrial technology. Some model makers pick up a range of applicable skills from a variety of different sources, like wood working, metal working, general fabrication and sculpting. These skills may be developed in other trades first. Either way, much of a model maker’s success will depend on how well he or she understands a variety of materials and finishes and how well he or she can actively solve problems.

In the USA model making can be studied as part of Industrial Design courses, or at:

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College

Bemidji State University

Hennepin Technical College

In the UK, model making courses are offered by, among others:

Arts University Bournemouth

University of Hertfordshire

City of Glasgow College

The APMM is the perfect organization to advise on how you might learn more about model making and prototyping, find model makers to commission work, or get more information about how to become a model maker and #getpaidtomake… 

Art Hedlund Student Model Making Competition