An interesting issue concerning 3D printing and its organic relationship with design has been about the sheer increase in numbers of people engaging with design in its many forms. Indeed, in the future this issue will become more evident as the designer in all of us comes to the fore enabled by new means of physically concretising our visually realisable dreams and imaginative objects — 3D printing.
However as the number of aspiring designers continues to increase and they share their designs publicly on a global stage, I believe they will encounter some problems — besides getting their voice heard in a growing crowd they will also face another problem, namely that just by being able to create something, quite literally out of nothing, it does not follow that it will work and there will be a demand for it, or, to be blunt: not everybody can be a designer. The evaluation stage of optimizing a design for success in the market cannot be bypassed even when applying new, amazing design and fabrication technology — it takes experience and skills that have to be acquired over time.
I guess the point here is that the desire to design and create does not automatically guarantee a successful outcome — a marketable product. In most cases it will result in preliminary phases in the fuzzy front end of the development process that will never actually see the light of the day.
However, one of the key capabilities of 3D printing and its first applicable wider role is proving to be an answer to this issue – the ability to iterate ideas and prototypes quickly and cost-effectively. The ability to produce multiple variations that can be developed and showcased for evaluation more often — even for small start-ups and independent designers without millions to spend on R&D — is a huge advantage of the tech. But these stepping-stones on the way to the actual launchable product being seen by the end user, whether they be in art galleries, in brick and mortar outlets or in virtual stores, do not necessarily have to be made by living breathing people! This is where generative design and co-creation with the machine come in to the equation — to enhance the limited capacities of differentiations and modifications that our minds are able to produce and apply to objects of different sorts by using the calculating power of computers in addition to the human body and soul.
Watch this very informative narrated video on generative design – the Genoforming basics by Siwam Krish, one of the founders of One Just One, below (the actual length of the video is approx. 8 minutes).
So what is generative design in a nutshell? It means that the evolutionary process and laws found in nature, e.g. where variations of similar species can be found at the same time, but differentiation of some level is required in order to thrive, are applied to the world of product design. Artificial intelligence plays a part in this, but it is not given the role of independent creator, rather it works within parameters and restrictions applied by the person operating the system. The variation levels can also be set specifically to a certain tolerance level, as our restricted human senses can only evaluate differences up to a certain scale.
And what does this all mean in practice then? As a general rule, regarding 3D printing, the ‘If you can imagine it, you can make it’ statement could be repeated here again, but the more concrete and specific issue with generative design is that the tech itself does not dictate or restrict the fabber-slash-designer — it merely enables and provides the means to do even more than could ever be imagined, whether this is based on bodystorming or any other innovative technique designed to open the bays of creativity.
These new methods of co-creating in harmony with machines designed to serve our purposes, however, are not without issue — the problem of numerous potential designs and where to choose from. This is the phase where pure, unadulterated artistry and perception come into play, because whether we like it or not, evaluating emotion, the key element to all good design, still requires artistic perception of the world and an eye for design currently only found in humans (and of course, some Donald A. Norman for bedtime reading).
The aforementioned company One Just One is preparing for a Kickstarter campaign, so, if this field is of interest to you, be sure to stay updated on their progress as well as the whole paradigm of co-creation, which we will surely report of further.
Image credits: Siwam Krish/One Just One