Generative Design

The future of CAD

Teaching Generative Design

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Teaching Generative Design has many challenges. The Philosophy, the work process and the thinking I believe are radically different from conventional design practice, unless you want to present some software tool as generative design. Teaching the use of tools is often the easy way out. Students are quite comfortable with mindless dabbling in front of computer screens and would certainly feel they have learnt something. Cool tools that make them do cooler stuff is naturally of interest. But this is what we need to avoid – the very aspect that attracts students to generative design.

The challenges are far greater; as it requires  the reorganization of our notion of design. It’s about thinking differently about design. It’s about designing in a  computational medium. It was tough to  ensure  that the outcomes are sufficiently wild and sufficiently viable. Just wild stuff is easy. Most schools now love that kind of stuff.  The trick is to be able to teach how to do it, while you yourself have yet to figure out how to do it. So, for me it was more about learning with my students, pretending of course to know what I am teaching. Most students in Singapore are  perturbed by the lack of clear directives. Clear directives are part of  educational from kindergarten well into university in some parts of Asia. The robotization of humans probably helped the late industrial development of Asia.   In such context, it was best to pretend  to know everything as it wins the respect of the students and the envy of your colleagues.So teaching generative design is such context, before it became a fad was particularly challenging.

Many students were frustrated and perhaps traumatized by the lack of clarity. At that time very little was available on-line on generative design in product design. So they may have found this whole approach weird and perhaps not a hot trend worth following.

Loh Chia See

Taps by Loh Chia See NUS 2004

I found it hard to get students to grapple with the radical changes that are required. It was difficult for them to understand these concepts – especially emergence.The work processes were diametrically opposed to what has been learnt before. Despite that they produced results that I was happy with.You can take a look at the Flickr gallery.


Student Projects at NUS 2004~2005

Knowing what the very same students achieve without the use of generative design helped me gauge the value of generative design. But, I was dissatisfied with the way I introduced this  as a ‘method of design‘. I realized that I had to think through these things myself and develop a clearer outlook and philosophy.

This was my first attempt to teach generative design to 3rd year undergraduate students enrolled in product design. The student feedback was extremely negative. The lack of clarity and the lecture not knowing what he was teaching were issues that were cause for complaint. Despite producing very interesting results none of the students showed any further interest in generative design. Form that point of view it was a great disappointment.

Written by Sivam Krish

November 11, 2009 at 3:40 am

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