Generative Design

With Generative Design embedded in the DNA of our work, we look back at a decade of deploying and evolving this powerful approach that has paved new ways for the creative design process – and continues to inspire today.

Generative Design offers infinite possibilities to create a variety of outputs by combining different parameters and enabling novel visualities to evolve.

Diving into theory to rise in practice

To search for new ways of creative expression through technology is what Generative Design got us to pursue right from the beginning. About 15 years ago, the practice of design processes gained momentum because of an ability to combine the merits of programming with complex information to explore a whole new world of visual output. Suddenly, it was possible to come up with more unconventional design solutions, and soon Generative Design developed into an established approach. One definite characteristic of Generative Design is the way it changes the design process compared to conventional methods of design. By translating abstract ideas into concrete visual output with the help of algorithms and code, it is possible to generate a huge amount of visual computational interpretations enabling new visualities to blossom.

By co-authoring the book »Generative Design« (2009, original German title: »Generative Gestaltung«), which became a standard work internationally and is available in four different languages, we deep-dived into the topic. A thorough compendium of tools, methods and application examples, the book put our insights into practice on a commercial basis and made us one of the first studios to do so. Not only by applying the methods, but also by giving workshops and talks about the topic, we started to pave the way for Generative Design to become an established method.

— To search for new ways of creative expression through technology is what Generative Design got us to pursue right from the beginning.

Where it all began: »Generative Design« is the book we co-wrote in 2009 allowing us to enter a world we became experts in.

Based on our profound knowledge and experience in this field, we have engaged in a great number of diverse projects over the years – both self-initiated and in cooperation with inspiring partners and brands. Now, we still appreciate and apply Generative Design methods in our own projects and consult clients and partners on to best apply it – and which limits it might have.

Building ingenious branding tools

One of the most hands-on ways of applying Generative Design is in branding, either by developing reactive brand material or even bespoke branding tools that simultaneously offer custom-built solutions and simplify complex processes. To simplify, in this case, means that once the tool is built, it is easy to utilize it in-house and produce aesthetic output across different kinds of media. By developing a bespoke software for a brand that considers the Corporate Design and integrates specific, company related data, Generative Design methods enhance the branding with individuality and integrity. In close collaboration with renowned branding agencies, we have realized a number of such projects in the past.

— By developing a bespoke software for a brand that considers the Corporate Design and integrates specific, company-related data, Generative Design methods enhance the branding with individuality and integrity.

The branding concept for »Genesis Beijing« includes a corporate design tool that enables the simple, but dynamic implementation of brand elements.

Together with brand agency Wolff Olins, for example, we developed a flexible branding concept to create a generative visual world for »Genesis Beijing« (2016), including a Corporate Design tool that enabled the simple implementation of the visual language throughout a whole range of brand elements and across different kinds of media. From unique marketing material to a spatial brand installation, the output, created by the custom-tailored tool, holistically expresses the Corporate Identity. Once developed, such tools achieve great results for a variety of deployment opportunities like campaigns, product- or even customer-specific brand experiences.

Another example of a Generative Design concept focussed on the customer experience is the »Oi« (2016) rebranding, where the logo is brought to life through data input. The key visuals change in real-time by reacting to the voice of the user, creating a customized brand experience and a unique logo for each customer. In its ability to define the input and control the output, the application of the Generative Design approach is incredibly adaptive to different needs and goals. Once the parameters are defined and implemented, generative methods are easy and efficient to apply, creating unique customized visual outputs that express the brand values in an engaging way.

— From unique marketing material to a spatial brand installation, the output, created by the custom-tailored tool, holistically expresses the Corporate Identity.

A vivid example of how Generative Design can personalize branding and enhance the emotional connection with the user is the dynamic logo for »Oi« (2016).

Entering new visual worlds

In contrast to the hands-on branding tools which help convey a consistent visual message, Generative Design offers possibilities to eccentrically combine different kinds of disciplines and media to create something bigger than the sum of the single parts. The approach embraces the interplay of diverse inputs to make novel outputs come forth; in other words: to enter new visual worlds. In particular, mesmerizing pieces like »unnamed soundsculpture« or »Collide« thrive on the interdisciplinarity that Generative Design practically offers. As they are composed of human inputs like dance or improvised music which are then transferred into the digital realm by applying a variety of technical methods, these projects show how the approach expands human abilities. This combination allows for the creation of pieces that trigger not yet seen, enchanting and immersive sensations.

Two examples of the manifold interdisciplinary possibilities Generative Design has to offer through the combined input of man and machine: »unnamed soundsculpture« (2012, left) and »Collide« (2016, right).

Adding depth and complexity

With the many possibilities that Generative Design has to offer comes the agony of choice, which requires experience and expertise of creative direction. For us, Generative Design methods have proven to serve as a vibrant base for building digital art projects with a great visual variety and conceptual complexity. Extending our human capabilities, Generative Design has put us in a position to see our vocation in consulting, sharing our experience and realizing inspiring projects together with partners, brands and clients. Generative Design methods inspire us to think about concepts in new ways. The manifold opportunities to include various inputs allows the creative process to flow in new directions of experimentation. With the integration of peculiar data-sets or real-time information, a concept gains depth and a unique connection to a theme, brand or institution. At the same time, the visuals are enriched in complexity through the external input.

An example of how relevant, real-time data can drive generative visuals is »Coexist«, an installation in the commercial and cultural centre TX Huaihai in Shanghai. Related to the theme of urbanization, actual data from the metropolis of Shanghai is infused to the artwork and adds authenticity by transferring the real world to the digital in soothing, aesthetic motion. Conceptually as well as visually, data-driven projects create astonishing effects as the changes in the visual sequences are unforeseen, yet related to a higher context.

— For us, Generative Design methods have proven to serve as a vibrant base for building digital art projects with a great visual variety and conceptual complexity.

Uniqueness through variety: based on live data, the real-time content »Coexist« in TX Huaihai is never the same and creates a mesmerizing appearance.

— As the progress of technology is defining us and the way we think, we welcome it and thrive on integrating new tools and methods to our practice – just like Generative Design principles have taught us from the beginning.

Beyond Generative Design

With the pace of technological progress accelerating, new developments such as machine learning or A.I. open even more new dimensions to the design process. Its interdisciplinary nature allows Generative Design to evolve with new kinds of high-end technological developments. As the progress of technology is defining us and the way we think, we welcome it and thrive on integrating new tools and methods to our practice – just like Generative Design principles have taught us from the beginning. We strongly strive for a high aesthetic quality that is creatively expressed in unconventional ways. This can be realized with Generative Design methods, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. Being open to new approaches means to never stop learning and to be confident in entering unknown territories.


Feel inspired? Get in touch with us if you would like to add depth to your branding concept with Generative Design.