There is a grey area I have come across over the holiday break. Though school is not in session, my mind is still designing and thinking about the theory that I like to discuss on this site. Last quarter, I completed a design project where I created a chair using a parametric process, as seen on the right side of the photo. This was a very different way of designing when compared to the project I completed last spring, as shown in the picture on the left (peanut). In the case of the parametric chair, I feel like altering the parameters, sometimes generated designs that fell outside of the essence I created for the original chair. Because I didn’t have as easy of a time editing the parameters of the peanut design, it was less difficult to keep the essence of the peanut throughout the design process. So I have made some conclusions about computational design and process behind the process.

In class last quarter, we studied protocol analysis. Evaluating creativity in the parametric design process. Meaning, what is the process behind making the decisions that effect each step of the process? People say, “you can really see the creativity in this piece”. What you are seeing is the process in the steps that led to the outcome. It’s not the process leading to the outcome, it’s the process behind the steps that lead to the outcome. This concept is what I feel is found in both parametric design and the traditional design process. And in both processes, this is the most important factor when staying consistent in the essence of your design, (if that is what you are going for).

In a traditional design process, such as my peanut concept, I first extracted the roles of each part that made up a peanut. I then used those roles and applied them to the design of a pill dispenser, thus encompassing the essence of a peanut into my design. If you were able to view the steps I took in making each decision about how each iteration of the pill dispenser turned out, it would be very direct in terms of the influence for each decision. My choices on how to draw each iteration were strictly based on each role I was applying to that particular design. I have complete control over each individual aspect of the design, and changing one part, won’t effect another unless, I take the time and consciously adapt this other part to the changing piece. This is exactly the opposite of how a computational design is created.

In computational design, there are forces, and the forces permeate. Each force, though it may not have a direct effect on every other force, still acts on the behavior of each piece making up an outcome. Each parameter or force, directly influences the other forces directly connected to it. And connected to that one, there is another one, which is in-directly influenced by the first. Here is where a computational design process and a traditional design process differ drastically.

In computational design or more specific to my example, parametric design, changing one parameter very slightly can greatly effect the outcome of your design. View my complete process in parametric design here to see this effect. So, most importantly to this post, adjusting that single parameter, could create a design that I would have never thought of, and would have had no “creative process” behind it. In a lot of ways, this is a really valuable and unique way to design that will create actually innovative designs. See this post to find out why this is so hard. The major disadvantage to this method of designing, is that you can build designs that are very far from encompassing the original concept, or staying true to the design you have conceived. I can go from having a chair that resembles a C, to something that no longer keeps the same form as anything even usable. In computational design, the designer is no longer making the decisions on what to the draw, form, sculpt, make, and in general, create. You as the designer, just make the parameters, and the computer generates a design that matches your input to them. You are no longer the awesome concept artist in this process, you are a filter that chooses if what the parameters create is true or not to your conception. Putting that complete control over what aspects of your design are modified, you have created a self generating, self modifying design environment yet controlled by a human mind. I think it’s really cool, and there are really practical uses for this method. After learning both and trying them out, I see distinct advantages in both of them.

I think where the future of design lies in this field at least, is in incorporating both of these methods (the traditional and computational) together. Though it is possible to create designs that are practically garbage using computational design, it is very easy for you as the filter, to choose whether the design passes. In the past the computer has been said to NOT make better designs, it has been said to make better designs faster. I think that now we have created a grey area where not only is our computer making better designs faster, it is also make designs that we haven’t conceptualized. In an industry where so many designers are said to be “innovative” this process changes what is really innovative.