PaganStudio Writings

Generative Design

I was not hoping to find anything new in a book about Processing and vvvv after successful predecessors written by Casey Reas and Ben Fry or by Daniel Shiffman. When I got the book last week I realized the scarcity of a ‘design’ book about generative design and related programming languages. Generative Design is a seminal book in its field as it fill this gap between the code and image in a very ‘designerly’ way. Authors and the editor of the book structures and lays out its content explicitly and in a very visual way yet still founding a concrete base for the understanding of the phenomenon.

First of all, its graphic/interaction design and print quality implies a very dynamic way of navigating the book and the website accompanies it. In many of the books related to digital design, visuals are not more than being proof of concepts. In Generative Design even the formal layout itself is inspiring enough. Scale is a great deal while printing coded graphics. Designer of the book overcomes this issue by organizing figures with a variable density over the book. Also the hardcover and the premium paper are other factors enhancing the experience.

The book speaks to a greater art and design community of various practices like architects, product designers, sculptors, type designers as well as graphic and interaction designers. Throughout the showcase sequence and the examples given in the chapters there is a subtle focus on typography. Employment of graphic coding technics to experiment on the anatomy of typeface or creating generative images with building blocks of type are quite interesting endeavors yield to visually compelling results. Needles to say that a significant number animation enthusiasts constitute a big portion of the readers who are potentially interested in the book. vvvv patches and related principles may be handy tools and inspiring for them.

Another important aspect of this field is the intercultural communication in the community. It is certain that the all people worked for the book had engaged with the global community and offers more with its forums and comment fields. However mixed language (DE/ENG) content on the website requires an update.

The book, in general, offers a very visual and physical perspective to discover the phenomenon yet providing all basic and necessary hands on instructions for related methods. The book will definitely help creatives without any coding experience. They can still grow interest in the genre by reviewing the projects and visuals then start learning about the best practices in the process.

Generative Design structured with a simple staging and a pretty diverse subject list. Eleven different subjects, all explained with more than adequate number of attractive examples are divided into two main categories, simply, the basic principles and complex methods. Subjects in the “Basic Principles” section are illustrated with appealing images visualizing push/pull relationship between simplicity and complexity. Images arise urge to discover the basic principles behind their appeal. “Complex Methods” section is consisted of interesting subjects which are highly advance and up to date. This section includes subjects heavily relies on object oriented programming such as, agent in space, formulated bodies, attractors as well as other like, dynamic data structures and semantic text analysis. All these advance methods are explained simply and clearly both in the book and code comments on the website.

The structure of the book rises another interesting question about the life-spans of the digital and printed matters. Book and the website accompany each other so well but still I can’t help myself from thinking of the question: Which one of them will extinct first in the distant future?

As an educator I see a great potential for this book in a workshop or a classroom. While teaching generative design, most of the times art historical references of this approach is combined with highly technical books and tutorials with a little bit of sneaking into recent applications. Then students are expected to join the community and create artifacts which might not really relate to their design agenda. Generative Design provides a holistic approach to learn and create which is more likely to integrate with many creative processes. Another motivating fact to consider this book in classroom is its fairly affordable price for a publication like this with a large scope and high print quality.

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