Generative Design

The future of CAD

Why spring chickens – hold the key

with 4 comments

I had refered to those in the university and just out of university, indulging in generative design in my previous blog article – as spring chicken; newly born chicks that are fresh, playful and inquisitive. But I have changed my mind. I wish not to call them spring chicken – because chicken cannot fly.

A  pair of pigeons that roost in our garage made me change my mind. The egg had just hatched. Sooner than I expected, there was a young chick sitting pretty in the nest. It was fed continuously by its loving parents and it just grew and grew. But it spent most of its time preening and grooming itself. Occasionally it would strut across the ledge, but made no attempt to fly.

Flight aint easy. So I watched with interest how the parents would teach this young chick to fly – from a ledge that was quite high. A few days later, I found the chick strutting around in the garage floor. Its nervous parents were watching over it anxiously, but offering no flying lessons or tips. This went on for three good days. Till  Olie – our neighborhood dog paid a visit. That was the most intense flying lesson I have seen. From then on I saw the chick only on roof tops. I realized that pigeon chicks can teach them selves to fly. No external teaching was required.

The students of today live in the connected world where abundant in lessons, knowledge and inspiration. They longer assume that knowledge and skills are to be taught: they are to be acquired. The software companies that are aware of this seem to have consciously structured vibrant online learning communities – which have now become the primary sources for learning generative design skills.

What seems to be in short supply is not skills, but thinking – ways of restructuring the design process so that we may best benefit from these new possibilities. A role that is best left to universities. A role that they are struggling with.

The generation gap between those who swim in the digital media and those who pass judgment on it – the heads of departments and deans has made it difficult to evolve a culture of assessment. The age gap has created a  knowledge gap. Design crits lack critical environments that can help sharpen our knowledge of possibilities that are evolving at an unprecedented rate. Skills and knowledge are now separated. Few are the schools that  have scholars who understand the nature of digital media. Most do not. Most professors are now like grandfathers, proud of what their grand children can do with computers. They are happy to brag about it. They assume that their progeny are intelligent – because they can do, what they cannot.

The net savvy generation of students are able to learn and share what they know. They are able to teach them selves.They are, whether we like it or not,  the engines of knowledge creation. The future of generative design is certainly in their hands. They now create and propagate the unprecedented amount of know how and  skills with levels of energy that no university, research institute  or software company can match.

But these are skills. Not knowledge ? …….We do not know. If knowledge exist why aint they using it ? perhaps it does not.

Many see what is being produced by this generation – as rubbish, thoughtless forms derived out of mindless methods that make little sense. I tend to agree with them. Often, I am dismayed amist the jubilation that accompanies such work.

But I will reserve my judgment, for it is good manners not to destroy the hope and enthusiasm of the young – for they will, like the pigeon chick one day figure out how to fly.


This is the second post of a series on why Generative Design means different things to different folk. Next I will be discussing how academic world gave birth to something it could not keep up with.

Written by Sivam Krish

December 26, 2010 at 3:32 am

Posted in adoption, Education

4 Responses

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  1. “thoughtless forms derived out of mindless methods that make little sense” seem like a good way of spending some time. Calling it rubbish is pointless (and judgment is all but reserved).
    Or the creators are students and their tutors will hopefully take care of putting their work in context.
    Or they are professionals, if connected they will be heralded as postmodern visionaries, if less lucky they will join the legions of second-rate practisioners (as in any profession).
    Or there are dabblers for who the exploration is the goal, like me, and for them the internet and free access is a blessing.
    We don’t all need to fly. But sometimes a soaring eagle will pick up a trick from a nestbound chick 😉

    Frederik Vanhoutte

    December 26, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    • Federik,

      Thanks for sharing your valid observations. Design is about exploration and much of it may be mindless. The intent in desing is often the creation of better and in some cases distinctive design outcomes.

      Such exploration is important especially in schools before the realities of the world confront them when they move into practice. If they do not explore in school, tjey will never explore when the leave school and its good to explore stuff beyond the boundaries of reason.

      So on one hand, I enjoy seeing the free wheeling on the other hand, I see too often reality hitting new graduates so hard that they regret not developing skills that would have helped them manage creative exploration within constraints.

      I hate lecturing my kid about the realities of life. Never sure if I should be doing that in the first place.

      Sivam Krish

      January 5, 2011 at 1:56 am

  2. There is a lot of reticence in the design world towards generative/computational design and especially within education. The reasons are many but as always I feel that their is an underlying sense of fear of the unknown. We already had something like this in the early eighties when the desktop publishing era took flight and designers were (for the majority) in fear of loosing out or even loosing their jobs. Fortunately, many misconceptions have been proved wrong and I believe the time will come when generative design will also become an accepted, if not an essential part of the design process. For those working in education, it is their role to sweep away misconceptions and current fears of this relatively new field and help forge essential links with the traditions of design whilst teaching the possibilities of computation as a complimentary approach to the design process. I have confidence in that.

    Mark Webster

    December 27, 2010 at 9:41 am

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