Computer Aided Design
⌝ A Research Collaboration with innovation studio [Modem] ⌞
We are entering a new era of design, thanks to the symbiosis of human and machine. Future Deluxe partnered with innovation studio Modem to envision the role of the designer in this brave new world of machine intelligence.
In this research paper we explore the tension between human intuition and computational procedures via the process of designing a set of ceramics with algorithms.
You can read the report here → PART1 + PART2
When computers augment, rather than displace, human capacity, a hybrid competence emerges that’s greater than the sum of its parts
Such human-computer partnerships are already changing the face of medicine, transportation, and scientific research, but they are also primed to revolutionize design, inspiring new forms, new possibilities, and new ways to iterate on ideas.
To explore this emerging space, FutureDeluxe partnered with the innovation studio Modem to design a set of algorithmic ceramics. In this process, rather than clay, we began with digital frameworks.
In any pottery studio, there are hand tools: needles for trimming the edges of pieces and for scoring slabs and coils, wires for slicing, ribs and scrapers for smoothing and finishing pots on the wheel
In the algorithmic studio, our tools were generative sets of rules used to refine the “raw digital material” that served as our analogue for stone or clay. In this way, we could manipulate our raw digital material in ways that would have been physically impossible with traditional hand tools. Rather than using a wire to slice away clay, for example, we introduced pure mathematical noise to whittle away at our digital form.
Before we can sculpt new forms, we must first design our tools and define how each tool functions. Here, we use noise as a hand tool, adding and subtracting from the raw digital material to create a wide range of formal variations.
The Hungarian artist Vera Molnár speaks fondly of the “billions of possibilities” she encounters while making computer-aided paintings; the computer’s capacity to iterate allows her to move beyond intuition and explore a realm of pure, mathematical randomness. Our generative tools, too, yielded a huge number of formal outputs—at a scale that forcibly shifted our role in the design process. We were no longer ideating alone; rather, we embraced and sifted through the randomness, seeking meaningful forms, tweaking parameters, and refining through computer-aided iteration. Rather than designers, we became curators, browsing countless potential outcomes until we reached a sweet spot.
How to define that sweet spot? That’s where human intuition is useful. The computer merely presents possibilities; it’s up to us to make a decision that strikes the right balance between analysis and instinct, between randomness and harmony, and between fantasy and structural integrity.
Although this is ultimately a subjective call, it’s profoundly informed by our encounter with what Molnar would call the “billions of possibilities” iterated by the system. Only then were our designs committed to clay—not by hand, but with the help of a Wasp 3D printer, in a process marrying human intuition, machine capacity, and the chemistry of traditional pottery glazing.
In this final phase, however, our computer-aided forms faced more material realities. Due to external factors like humidity and temperature, limitations in the 3D printer’s capacity and precision, and the constraints of physical space and clay itself, our final results were not always as expected. Such deviations presented another, more analog, form of iteration, one which we could only partially predict but which we wholeheartedly embraced as yet another productive artifact of this novel process. Ultimately, in our algorithmic pottery studio, we discovered an emergent aesthetic perspective, equal parts systematic and intuitive, informed by algorithmic parameters, human taste, machine capacity, and the serendipities of material production.
Concept & Research: Futuredeluxe & Modem
Design & Production: Curtis Baigent, Kristian Glenn, Svet Lapcheva (Futuredeluxe)
3D Printing: Fred Gwatkin , Jingwen Chiou, Jonah Maxted, Giovanni Panico (Fabpub)
Photography: Svet Lapcheva, André Baumecker, Curtis Baigent, Kristian Glenn
Glazing: Fred Gwatkin
Essay: Claire L. Evans