Generative design is so avant-garde that Wikipedia barely has 300 words devoted to it. That’s also because unless you’re actually involved in the rarefied practice, the term is rather abstract, and the scarce literature on the subject doesn’t provide much in the way of clarity. Take these opening words from the preface of Generative Design, a new book from Princeton Architectural Press: For the last several years generative design has created considerable excitement among insiders at media art festivals and conferences,” write Karin and Bertram Schmidt-Friderichs. So far, so good. Next sentence: “Through the interplay of complex information with graphic design and programming, new and fascinating visual worlds are emerging where the coincidental is shaped to help correlations become visible.” Wait, what?
Fortunately, this insiders’ how-to manual–by Hartmut Bohnacker, Benedikt Groß, and Julia Laub–contains loads of images and project profiles that together form a snapshot of the emerging field, which, in layman’s terms, uses computer software and algorithms to generate visually exciting forms based on wildly complex concepts. The examples are rich and varied, ranging from a series that visualizes the air quality in various cities through virtual plant growth to a company logo that evolves through a kind of genetic recombination.
The rest of the book contains instructions on how to create similar work using the Processing program. But even if you’re not the type to delve deeply into computational code, you’ll no doubt be impressed with the pretty pictures.