Generative design is software that allows the designer to input goals and any specifications like materials, budget or manufacturing methods, the software then explores all possible solutions and gives the designer several designs to choose from.
This advanced technology is splitting people into two camps: The first camp feel that a computer cannot replace them, their skills are unique and specialised and not something that can be improved by a computer. The second camp disagrees. The people here feel that generative design makes us more efficient and even more creative. So, what camp are you in?
On 8 September 2017, we attended the Autodesk University South Africa event where generative design was a huge topic of conversation. And, back in May, we pinpointed generative design as one of the trends that’s leading advances in architecture. But, is generative design going to strip creativity away from us humans? We discuss how generative design is changing the role of the designer and whether that change is impacting creativity.
From creator to curator
A creator can be defined as a person or thing that brings something into existence. Whereas, a curator can be described as a keeper or guardian of something. If a designer is using a computer to select the best design option for them, they shift into more of a guardian role, overseeing the software that’s doing the creating and carefully selecting the final product. The designer is no longer a creator, but does that make them any less creative?
Earlier this year, Deezen published an article titled ‘Generative design software will give designers “superpowers”’. This is from a quote by Jeff Kowalski, the chief technology officer of Autodesk. He makes it clear that while generative design is a departure from the way we have traditionally done design, it’s not a threat to designers, instead it’s more like having superpowers.
And, in a way superpowers is an accurate word for what generative design can do for our creativity. Traditionally, an individual designer or small group of designers will come up with one solution based on a brief and, understandably, what they know, have experienced, their culture and upbringing. Whereas, a machine doesn’t have this kind of context, and can develop solutions based purely on the brief, free of environmental influencers.
The designer therefore becomes solely responsible for inputting the right requirements in answer to a brief, and then going through the various designs that the software has chosen and selecting the right one. This process may also help to redefine the problem and the requirements.
With the computer taking care of selecting a number of possible solutions, designers can channel their energy into ensuring that they understand the right requirements and that the right solution is selected. The designer has more responsibility – they are the overseer, the guardian and the keeper of the design. The computer may do the execution but the designers are the creative curators.
Bringing us closer to nature
Feroza Mobara, one of the BIM Specialists here at Baker Baynes, says generative design actually makes us more creative. Since the beginning of time human design has been full of straight, solid lines and geometric curves, which is unusual when you think about the shapes in nature – our original inspiration. Straight lines are certainly easier to design and make, which is perhaps why they make up most of our man made constructions. But, they are limiting, using more material and space than necessary, which is expensive and ineffective.
With 3D printing and additive design, we no longer need to be limited by straightness. In fact 3D printing favours this as it requires less material. As we covered earlier, human designers naturally design based on what they know. Whereas, generative design doesn’t have that context, which means it comes back with solutions that mimic nature’s curves, holes and lack of symmetry because it wants to give us the most functional yet lightweight solution available.
With this in mind, generative design is not killing our creativity, instead it’s exposing us to more creative solutions. We’re not going to be seeing just straight lines anymore but instead a whole range of new shapes specifically chosen because of their effectiveness rather than subjectivity.
Thabelo Netshivhungululu, the Head of BIM Services here at Baker Baynes, believes that generative design is the future because it’s a combination of human design and computer design: “AI can get to certain solutions quicker than a human mind can, so combine that with our insight and design capabilities then we can achieve better solutions faster”. Generative design offers greater design alternatives, easier design iterations, which will save time, money and ultimately boost creativity.
With generative design now featuring in several CAD programmes and Autodesk’s launch of its own generative design platform Dreamcatcher, this new trend is here to stay. So, will it be the death of creativity? We think not. It’s redefining the role of the designer into more of a curator role and widening our design options. Surely, this makes us more creative?
Over 30 presentations from the 2017 Product Design Symposium held at the Technical University of Denmark in November are now on-line for viewing and downloading through the symposium’s web site at https://lnkd.in/gtyzkZb.
The four days of the meeting covered:
- Product Architecture (https://lnkd.in/gNApb-S)
- Robust Design (https://lnkd.in/g42nYn4),
- Product/Service Systems (https://lnkd.in/gD4S2NY)
- Conceptualising Sustainable Futures (https://lnkd.in/gHpTaH2
Including a presentation by former President of the UN General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft).
Design-led companies outdo the S&P 500 Index by 228%, says the Design Value Index.
IBM CEO Thomas Watson Jr. famously declared “good design is good business.” Jeneanne Rae has the numbers to prove it.
In 2013, Rae, founder of Virginia-based consultancy Motiv Strategies, devised the Design Value Index (DVI), an investment tool she says shows that companies that integrate design thinking into corporate strategy can outpace industry peers by as much as 228%.
The DVI, which Motiv Strategies published in collaboration with the Boston-based non-profit organization for designers, the Design Management Institute, identifies a portfolio of publicly traded companies based on specific design management criteria, and tracks their stock value over a ten-year period, relative to the overall S&P Index.
The latest edition of the annual index, released in late 2016, found that its portfolio of 16 companies showed a 211% return over the S&P 500, marking the third consecutive year that the index has shown an excess of 200% over the S&P. In 2013, the index outperformed the S&P 500 by 228%.
In four years, the DVI has become a favorite reference for designers looking to win over skeptical shareholders, as well as a popular investment tool.
Below, Rae, who recently joined Deloitte’s Federal consulting practice, explains why she created the DVI and shares her insights about what the index can tell us about design trends of the future.
How and why did you develop the DVI?
The president of the Design Management Institute had seen an article I wrote using a stock market index featuring companies that were investing heavily in design. He asked me to create a new, more rigorously derived version because the Institute was constantly being asked for hard proof about the value that design can add to business results. We agreed that I would do the research and analytical work and he would publish the results along with my commentary.
What is the methodology behind the index?
We have six selection criteria for companies that we include in the index:
- Design is used at scale across the organization, both within business units and as a centrally managed function with a high degree of influence with its senior leadership team.
- Design is clearly built into the structure and processes of the organization, such as its organization charts and process maps.
- The design function is managed by an experienced executive or executive-level head of design, with typically 15 to 20 years of design management experience, who can interface with senior leadership.
- Design sees a growing level of investment to support its growing influence.
- Design is a centrally managed function with a high degree of influence with its senior leadership team
- The company has been publicly traded on a U.S. exchange for the last ten years.
Using these criteria, stock prices as of June 30 and Dec 31 are put into the model for the last 10 years. Then, based on a weighted average of the market capitalization of the individual stocks, they are indexed like any other stock, with performance compared to the S&P 500 over the same 10-year period.
What kind of responses have you gotten to the DVI since you started publishing it?
It is my experience that people who are convinced of the value of design are not interested in quantifying it. The CEOs in all of the DVI companies already understand the power of design and do their best to enable it.
Those most interested in quantifying the value of design are the financial people, which shows they many don’t really understand the power of design and what it can do for brand equity, customer satisfaction, mitigating competitive threats or building loyalty.
What are some of the trends you have observed over the years since you started publishing the DVI in 2013?
It no longer takes 10 years to build a highly functional design organization. With the right leadership and senior level support, an enterprise-wide design function that produces results can be built in less and less time.
Furthermore, the widespread use of design as a strategic capability is unlikely to go away anytime soon. In fact, there may be more non-traditional organizations – services, non-profit, management consulting firms, and governments – trying to build design capabilities today than ever before.
Finally, design thinking and co-creation isn’t a fad, but rather a new way for all problem solvers to put the user at the center of a problem to develop solutions from the outside in rather than the inside out. As a result, we see design not as a pure factor that makes our DVI companies’ stocks perform better on the stock market, but rather as a highly integrated and influential force that enables the organization to achieve outsized results.
But the biggest trend among them is how many companies are becoming software driven and need to build useable, intuitive and beautiful interfaces so that people can operate them quickly and effectively. This is harder than it seems and takes a great deal of time, skill and talent to achieve. Many of these companies have built very large design groups of 350 people in just a few years, which is a frenzied amount of hiring and unheard-of growth compared to any time before 2008, the era of the smart phone.
How do you think design will continue to evolve?
One trend I am seeing in my new role with Deloitte’s Federal practice is how the U.S. government is starting to embrace service design methods that other governments such as Singapore, U.K., the Netherlands, New Zealand, Finland and Norway, have used to improve as well as create new government services.
This adoption of service design methods won’t happen overnight but a number of forward-thinking U.S. executives are embracing human-centered design as a way to improve citizen services, as citizens now expect the same type of experience in their customer interactions, whether it is with a brand or government entity.
So what’s the bottom line?
The Design Value Index shows that companies that embrace design understand their customers better than those that don’t. As a result, they grow faster and with higher margins and recover faster during economic downturns.
Visit: SBDS 2017