Generative Design: Exploring Creativity with Computer Systems

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Generative Design: Student Book

Professor Daniel Buzzo inspired the Generative Design project which produced an anthology that showcased students’ work for the second time in two years. The book features a collection of two-page student contributions illustrating what creativity looks like in the tech field. 

Weekly sessions lead to a poster style / public demonstration where students showed their work to their peers and faculty staff. 

Here’s a look at what the Generative Design module entails and a sneak peek into the book that was published in January 2023 which is now available worldwide!

Generative design students' anthology

What is Generative Design?

First thing’s first, what does studying Generative Design at CODE University of Applied Sciences look, and feel like? The Generative Design course at CODE is a 5 ECTS credit module that teaches undergraduate Bachelor students in Interaction Design, Software Engineering and Project Management programmes. 

The module is designed as an entry point into both design and development techniques for a broad mixed ability cohort. The central theme is to help students explore processes for personal expression working in an experimental fashion with generative computational systems.

Students Use Generative Design to Express Themselves

We want students to explore the iterative writing and modification of software code toward some kind of personal expression, in an experimental and playful way. The goal of the learning units is to build awareness of generative creation processes and some of the philosophical, design and developmental questions when working with generative systems to create computer-generated outputs.

How Does Generative Design Work?

In this case, students were introduced to simple coding processes via the Processing IDE and p5.js variants. They can advance to other environments as needed or preferred, including MaxMSP, TouchDesigner, VVVV, openFrameworks and many more. They use code to illustrate ideas and techniques from which to consider the role and relationship between generative systems, users, content and creators.

The Learning Goals of the Generative Design Module

  • Using various input sources, such as: data, algorithms, AI, sensors, mouse input.
  • Experimenting with creating different outcomes through generative design, such as visual effects, sound, 2d graphics, 3d objects.
  • Experimenting with simulating various real-world conditions.
  • Exhibiting knowledge of creative coding to automate and generate outputs.
  • Variating generative sketches in an intentional way and being able to explain the final style/result.
  • Gathering inspiration and coordinate efforts through iterations.

Students’ Work in Generative Design

Michelle Irby: Whispering Abyss

The “Abyss” in the title stems from the graphical contrast present in itself. The dark background represents the nothingness in which the noise values move in; the n-dimensional space. Contrarily, the lines fill the blank void with new, colorful life while reflecting the somber mood. When these functions collide with one another, a series of impressions shape a new form of expression. This factor attains the “Whisper” aspect. Small or larger lines, reminiscent of sound waves, travel across a dimensional space. The artwork develops into an eminent accumulation of dimensions.

“I saw myself getting more passionate and involved with my code and the project. My understanding of our task for this module shifted. It was no longer about solving the issue of applying methods of code I needed to fully understand. It was about finding a way to apply the expertise I have learned in a specified area of code to an exciting project.” – Michelle Irby

Aarnav Mahavir Bos: No future 

NOFUTURE! is an experiment in understanding and dealing with uncertainty. Built as a performance tool, NOTFUTURE! is a restless, generative, MIDI utility inspired by the rhythms of Les Trucs, Throbbing Gristle and Das Kinn. NOTFUTURE! was conceptualized to be integrated into an existing live performance workflow. 

“The idea was to make music with the sounds and sequences provided in a fun and interactive manner. The concepts of limitation, randomness and “making do with what you got” was a journey of personal discovery.” – Aarnav Mahavir Bos

Louisa Weyerhäuser: Audio Interactive Visualizer

“I have been greatly fascinated by stage design for some time and the effect it can have on the experience for the audience. The setup studio is a team dedicated to designing these experiences and was a major inspiration. I started working with TouchDesigner, its 3D engine, and tools for the first time. I was intrigued to learn how to use the tool to create interactive multimedia content animated by live input. With my rough estimation at the beginning of the complexity of the software, I have set the scope of the goal relatively small. My initial idea was to build an audio visualizer.

I discovered my excitement for generative design, particularly for stage design and audio visualization. I have experimented with a great variety of inputs … and looked into 2D as well as 3D elements …in the end, I developed a concept with real-life application ability. After this excursion, I am hooked and interested in continuing to explore the possibilities.”

Generative Design At CODE

Our Generative Design course at CODE teaches students of Interaction Design, Software Engineering, and Project Management to experiment with generative design technologies. We encourage students to express themselves through artistic and design-orientated outputs and use tech in a creative way. 

At the end of the course, we’re proud to be able to showcase our students’ work by creating and publishing an anthology of their projects. If you would like to learn more about Generative Design within our Interaction Design degree, reach out to us!


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