Article • 29 08 2019

What’s Generative Design?

Claudia Illguth, Managing Director of Dragon Rouge Hamburg, met recently with Patrik Hübner, an interdisciplinary designer, to discuss Generative Design. An expert in the field, Patrik uses “creative algorithms” to explore new and meaningful stories at the intersection of design, art and data.

CI: What's Generative Design?

PH: Generative Design is a new and exciting chapter in the field of applied design. It fuses aspects of storytelling, experience and branding with algorithms, human interaction, data, artificial intelligence and programming. This unique mix of ingredients allows us to build engaging brand experiences and completely novel forms of visual design.

CI: Why do you think it's the future?

PH: With this question you can get me started on Generative Design for hours, as there is such a huge amount of potential to innovate and disrupt the fields of branding, communication, design and user engagement.

Generative Design changes the very core of how design works: Imagine a world in which you don’t design what you already know but rather teach the computer what it is that you actually want to accomplish. Employing algorithms in the creative process can yield unlimited choices for a design brief from which you can then choose the one that fits best.
But it doesn’t stop here: Imagine, you could share the creative algorithm you used with any customer and allow them to make their own choices and become part of the process. This is an entirely new way of doing things in which the designer’s role changes to setting the rules, defining the goals and curating the results. In this sense, designers co-create with computers in a radically new way.

For the production of assets and materials this allows for an unprecedented increase in productivity and reduction of cost at scale. As algorithms carry out the duplication of creative models, results become scalable, calculable and incredibly fast to produce. Just one example: This opens up possibilities for large print-runs in the tens or even hundreds of thousands, where each print is a unique specimen while still remaining on-brand.

CI: How do you see the connection of algorithms and emotions?

PH: Independent of any technology or approach, design, at its very core, is always about people. All design has the potential to alter people’s perceptions and emotions in both tiny and big ways.

In the realm of Generative Design, the primary connection lies in the fact that we can bring our stories to the people in new ways that create a place for them to explore, play and interact with those stories. This place can be either physical or digital, but, in both scenarios, algorithms – which is a fancy term for a set of rules that react to input and create new output – help people make new and hopefully lasting connections with the content to which they are exposed. Once you get to experience, interact, change and shape a story in innovative, playful and/or fun ways, you are bound to have an emotional connection to it. And it is strong and positive emotions that lead to memorable moments, something we always desire in the realm of branding.


CI: What does it bring to a brand?

PH: Apart from the benefits I mention above, there are so many other things!

Generative Design uses data as a driving factor for almost everything. This leads to interesting and quite fundamental discussions in the creative process as, at the very core, this raises the question of what makes a company or a brand tick. What is the essence of it, what data is tied to it and what data does it generate?
That’s one of the really new aspects of Generative Design when you use it in the field of applied design, as this vast amount of data has just recently become available to the mainstream to be re-mixed and re-discovered in new and creative ways.

A beautiful aspect of this process is that, with Generative Design approaches and data-driven design, the users will be telling us more about what they want and what their desires are simply by how they use our interactive designs and stories. This can lead to better products, more engaging brands and deeper insights into the minds, wishes and desires of our focus groups.

CI: What kind of applications do you see for Generative Design?

PH: I see the potential to be almost unlimited. Let me mention two of my generative projects as an example:

“Schwanensee” is a dynamic visual identity-system that uses motion-capture data to combine visual algorithms with the personal expression of human dancers. It was specifically designed to liberate small theatres and cultural institutions by giving them a system they can use without any design-expertise and with a minimal budget to create unlimited, on-brand design variations right from within their web browser.
What I love most about this project is that, by using the actual dance-recordings, the very essence of Schwanensee emerges visually. Obviously, the system can easily be adapted to new recordings of other dance-pieces.

“Wiki-Footwear” is an experiment in highly individualized user- and data-driven product design that I’d love to realize with a strong brand one day.
You basically type in any keyword or phrase that you can think of and it generates limitless 3D-sneaker designs based on what you just typed in. You can immediately see the sneaker in 3D in your web-browser, rotate it, zoom in and design the sneaker of your dreams. It does all of that by combing images and data from Wikipedia with Generative Design-algorithms.
You can even showcase your creations in dynamically created posters and mock-ups. If you really love your sneaker, you can even share its design and posters with fellow sneaker-enthusiasts in the gallery-section or on social-media.


To see more of Patrik's work: