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What Is a Generative Design?

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  • Written By: Karize Uy
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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Generative design is a branch or a concept in the field of designing that typically uses codes, patterns, and algorithms to produce something that can be aesthetically appreciated. The term is often used in association with computer programs and software that assist designers in creating unique and innovative user interfaces for electronic devices, interior designs, and even architectures. Generative design has become more relevant due to its considerable use of technology as a designing tool.

Interestingly, the inspiration behind generative design is often attributed to nature, specifically the science of genetics. Each living creature has its own genetic code that predicts different aspects, such as appearances and behaviors. Comparative analyses have shown that all the genetic codes of all organisms bear significant similarities in their elements; the differences lie in how these elements are arranged to create different species. In the same way, generative design creates a unique programming language and arranges the “alphabets” in different variations to come up with endless design possibilities.

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These so-called infinite variations can be concretely seen in the example of a simple three-legged stool. When a software user selects or clicks on the stool on the computer screen, the program can instantly “generate” several designs and modifications a designer can “borrow” to create a unique stool. This is because computer programmers have encoded in the software hundreds of algorithms that can modify the design of an object, just like how evolution and adaptation have jumbled up genetic sequences in animals to create several species. In creating generative design software, programmers may have to work with designers, whose visual designs and illustrations will be translated into algorithms and codes.

Aside from design variations, another significant advantage of generative design is how it can compute for the strength and safety of a designed object, especially buildings. All a designer needs to do is type in the desired height, weight, and the material used for the building, and the computer software can calculate and adjust the ideal measurements for the building. Using generative software also saves a lot of time and money for many designers and architects, as features like three-dimensional simulation reduce the need to build miniature buildings and dioramas, especially if different designs are to be proposed to clients. The purpose of generative design is not so much to design objects, but to introduce a technique or a system that makes the designing process easier and more innovative.

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