“Generative Design” – A Computational Design Guidebook

"The main change in the design process achieved by using generative design is that traditional craftsmanship recedes into the background, and abstraction and information become the new principal elements."  Thus reads a rather pertinent nugget of wisdom tucked into the concluding notes of Generative Design: Visualize, Program and Create with Processing, an epic computational design text by Hartmut Bohnacker, Benedikt Groß, Julia Laub and editor Claudius Lazzeroni. With that point, the authors are describing how the syntax of code and data are intrinsically tied to new modes of composition and production. This statement also speaks to the organizational logic of the book, which weighs-in at a whopping 470 pages of thoughtfully categorized generative strategies that have been broken down into bite-sized thematic walkthroughs.

The first 160 pages of Generative Design are dedicated to a very capable and lavish (double page spreads abound) showcase of key projects and practitioners from the last decade. This roster contains all the usual suspects (Michael Hansmeyer, Eno Henze, THEVERYMANY etc.) and then some, with a surprising number of logo, typeface and product designs providing contextual counterpoint to the expected drawing machines and abstract assemblies. This well-curated selection of works is a compelling lead-in for the bulk of the text that follows: a hyper-detailed series of thematic, annotated and illustrated Processing sketches that explore approaches to creating generative art. These broad themes have been very carefully thought through and the code examples, helpful annotations and reference images have been so thoroughly integrated that the visual design of this book–as an exploratory 'how to' software manual–is peerless. This praise is about much more than acknowledging strong publication design though, as an acute conceptual clarity underpins each incremental step. Structurally, the book is divided into two major sections: basic and complex methods. The first section allows a reader to ease into Processing and explore colour, shape and type with very classic design school 101 type exercises and the latter demonstrates the computational design equivalent of heavy artillery with forays into 3D modelling, oscillation figures and dynamic data structures. Each of the exercices is a small marvel and by consulting the text to work through the code examples (all accessible through the publication's companion website) the reader is provided a guided tour of the crafting and parsing of some fairly sophisticated techniques. Rare is the instructional text that doubles as a coffee table book, even rarer is one that warrants multiple readings and could serve as a platform for months of research and experimentation.

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