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Designing by algorithm

"Design is the medium between people and technology." ~ Carrie Chan, 2017
Clearly portrays the excitement and fascination that current designers and artists have with the creative possibilities of the digital medium. Not only does digitisation allow for innovative manipulation and use of materials but it also has the potential for changing the interaction between people and objects, spaces and society at large. This in turn changes perceptions and emotional responses and therefore the significance of encounters. Most notable is how the digital can create objects and spaces that respond to people's behaviour. Designing for the end user's needs is a fairly new but not an unknown concept. Designing a product or space that interprets users' needs from their behaviour and then responds to their needs instantaneously is, by contrast a futuristic concept. What this exhibition illustrates, is that this has already been achieved but has not yet hit mainstream consumption.

How designers conceive of and develop their solutions to design problems generally involves both an analytical approach, research, and a creative development. This exhibition reveals another approach. By collecting data digitally (research), the algorithms created can be moved from one media to another, thereby providing algorithmic data for generating a new design. For example one can collect audio data and translate it into two-dimensional visual data or three-dimensional form and then proceed to develop the design to meet functional, expressive and production requirements. Computers are no longer simply a tool for communication of design ideas, they can now interact with human users and human designers to develop previously unthought-of possibilities. An interview with Michael Young, a British designer, put forward the idea that "generative software makes it easier to produce dramatic shapes, but that 'it remains crucial for designers to infuse emotionally compelling elements' - a part which cannot yet be done by machines." (Carrie Chan: 2017)

Sabin, and architectural designer, combines insights from biology and mathematics in a technologically knitted inhabitable form in the installation, Polythread. The installation responds to movement through the space and alters the lighting effects.

Van Herpen and Bloch use selective laser sintering (a 3D printing process that uses heat and pressure to solidify powders into solids) to create fashion that moves beyond traditional handcrafted garments and also beyond machine mass production. The age of customised design may well be returning, with digital fabrication facilitating an integration with the arts and culture without having to meet the constraints of corporate production and marketing.

Incertitudes is part of a responsive dress series. The exhibit consists of mannequins wearing dresses that change in response to the facial expressions of the viewer.

The Maker Chairs result from a crosspollination of handcrafted techniques and digital technology, allowing for free forms (such as the puzzle piece) and the diversity of production materials in terms of porosity and flexibility etc. The Maker Chair poses the question of who the maker is; the designer, the computer, or the assembler? Again the complex relationship between human design and intelligent technology is illustrated. What is also illustrated, is the exciting potential of the new creativity that is made possible by the interaction of technology and humans co-creating. We are definitely already living in the 21st century. Are our education institutions preparing students for this century?

About the author

Ingrid Leujes, Greenside Design Center

Greenside Design Center's press office

Greenside Design Center
The Greenside Design Center is a Private Higher Education Institution registered with the Department of Education to offer BA and BA Hons degrees in Graphic, Interior and Multimedia design.