Generative Design

The future of CAD

Design by DLLs

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DLL stands for Dynamic-Link-Libraries; small pieces of code that can be called by programs operating within the windows operating system.

There are two types of  CAD

One is an ” all-inclusive ” offering .  All what we need is written into the CAD software so that nothing more is needed. The other approach is to provide just a graphic and 3D  data manipulation capabilities – an approach taken by programs such as Rhino. They are light and affordable. They come a with a large selection of DLL’s produced by active & passionate communities. These DLL’s achieve specific tasks for which they are authored. They achieve them exceeding well;  often better than the all-inclusive general purpose packages – an A la carte approach to CAD.

The advantages of the  all-inclusive approach is  often explained in marketing material that go with it. interestingly, marketing material is needed for such software – because in the old world of software development, you find out what the market needs, create code that can do it, test it,  package it well before its flogged. They also provide a number to call – if you have a problem with the software. They give you the feeling that you can  call the same number if the building you design with it falls over. But on the otehrhand, their pretense of comprehensiveness is somewhat real. They connect nicely to other analytical packages and do the things that they are supposed to do well – satisfying the needs of most design firms. But the creative lot are an unstable lot. They change their minds too often.

When building start looking like boats

Since good old Gehry decided that buildings should look like boats, the face of architecture has changed for ever. So, it is natural that architects now want to use some boat building tools. The DLL based approach allows this. Those who design jewellery use CAD differently to those who design shoes.  By keeping the core of CAD  devoted to geometry, intelligent approaches to design can be structured on top of it. Such approaches are not decided by the CAD company, but by the communities within which they evolve. There is flexibility and efficiency in such an approach as those who use the tools get to create them. Here, their lightness and incomprehensiveness become their greatest asset as they are mish-mashed by designers to suit their needs.

Smart people outside

Community based software development shares the advantages of open source software – where thousands of unpaid developers toss in their code into fertile user-groups, opening possibilities that is beyond the imagination of people inside organisations. Big organisations try their best to hire really smart people. But there will be always, much smarter people outside that inside. These people can form productive and energetic networks that can out-explore, out-invent and out-code those inside. All this is achieved without additional investment that will otherwise be priced into packages that we buy.


Legacy is a stable burden that the bigger CAD companies seek some comfort in. Microsoft has proved that once you have competition wiped out – you can hang in there for good. Design data is amongst the worst structured of all types of data; because, so much of it is was  transported from the drawing boards. It is only now, with (IFC) industry Foundation Class and other initiatives, design data of buildings is being authored and structured on  frame-works that makes sense : a welcome development that will liberates design data from the clutches of software vendors.

No Shame

Finally CAD companies are not too keen to hide the code. They have let the cat is out of the bag. All the designers now know that what they see in the screen is not paper, but bits of programs that do interesting stuff with numbers. More importantly, with add ons like grasshopper, they too can jump in and have some fun despite flunking their math exam. Math is now handled by the machine and you really don’t need to know that stuff.  From what I understand grasshopper runs on Ruby on Rails –  a particular form of programming where whatever you write will run; so it is difficult to de-rail your code because it does not attempt to compile it to make sure that everything is order before it execute the rubbish you write – a God sent gift to the design community.

So we are all programmers

Finally, many younger designer are happy to sport their newly acquired programing skills that was once the preserve of the unbathed nerds that you met at Uni. Acquiring these skills guarantees you the respect of anyone 5 years older. The stuff that you can slash to gether is so cool  that it has viral effect – the ability to promote itself. That is what virus do. They even get us bozos to cough, so that they promote their code within the cells of others. So they spread. They evolve as they spread.


Design by DLLs is well on its way.


Written by Sivam Krish

January 22, 2011 at 12:47 pm

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