It’s both parametrically intense and oddly invigorating to look at. It’s like jumping in the air through a small hole and coming out on the other side with all the knowledge of perspective while marching rhythmically outside the confines of an inverted parallelogram.

What is it? Surrealism. An artistic expression of the early 1900’s that captured the fantasy of la-la-la reality and spread it like thick butter on minds across the world.

Defining it as an offshoot of Marxism and Freudian thought limits and ultimately destroys the passions many of the artist were trying to capture…

Yeah, yeah, yeah. What I really want to show you is some of the coolest examples and the paintings that inspire me. They magnify the field of 3D CAD we’re in, in a way that even some artists could not imagine in their art.

Salvador Dalí
On of my favorites is Salvador Dali. My favorite is Dali. Take a look at Sleep (1937). What happens if a crutch is moved or falls. The depth, the shading. This painting captures a lot of details that 3D CAD users try to set up and control. More than that, it’s just plain cool looking.

Sleep – Salvador Dalí – (1937)

Differentiating your product design. What do you imagine it can be or how can it be formed to enhance the users experience.

The Elephants – Salvador Dalí – (1948)

Breaking up the design process. Have you explored the extent of pattern and repeatability in your design? How do you locate the most useful features to provide the greatest visibility/usability? (I so wish I had the image my wife, Maggie, did of this style. Sorry Dali, hers is so much better.)

Galatea of the Spheres – Salvador Dalí – (1952)

Depth, Isolation and your surroundings. Where do you apply your design and engineering to test it? What context do you put it in or design it around?

Sun Table – Salvador Dalí – (1936)

Philippe Halsman
How much could possibly be going on at once? The freedom of conceptual design or working within a rigid engineering environment can be so different. Putting one in the presence of the other can bring better understanding to both types of people and make the process a lot more interesting.

Dali Atomicus – Philippe Halsman – (1948)

George Grie
A modern surrealist artist with a poke at modern issues. Design can take current trends and make interpolations of what it could be if extreme cases were considered. What if that ‘vacuum cleaner’ design cleaned the entire house with one click of a button?

George GrieDehydration or global warming solution – (2004)

La Mouton
Phenomenal mix of materials, not only with the image that combines photo and illustration, but also with the materials that are provided in the unlimited possibilities of childhood.

La MoutonI want a dog – (2007)

Some of these images inspired me before I even knew what CAD was and still do. They may have altered my thinking a bit, I dunno. Undoubtedly though, there are pieces of this art that apply to what we as designers and engineers are attempting to do in our daily reality that tend to ever so slightly slip us into the realm of the fantastic. Nothing wrong with that.

So, what inspires you?

Dali Scream and other Images via


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.