Soon, our design tools will give us superpowers. They will be intelligent, intuitive, and connected machines that will collaborate with us to solve increasingly complex problems.
A Radical Change
Product development is undergoing a radical change. Today’s most dominant technology trends — cloud computing, mobile technology, social connectivity, personalization, and smart devices — are causing a fundamental shift in the behaviors of businesses and consumers alike. With this change, profoundly different ideas about the nature of products, design, and making have emerged (ideas that will rival previous industrial revolutions). While extraordinary progress is being made in manufacturing, material science, and software engineering, design teams are struggling to keep up.
The Information Age
That is not to say designers are not making strides. At today’s most profoundly impactful companies, teams are iterating faster and fabricating in ways previously unseen. Digital platforms are bringing together people, resources, and data, enabling designers to produce bolder and better-performing products that defy conventions. An abundance of data, and the technology to leverage it has allowed for massive change.
For example, footwear designers are using moldless robotic fabrication and 3D printing technologies to revolutionize product manufacturing. Fashion designers are using additive processes to re-imagine the form, fit, and function of garments. In the automotive industry, airless tires have given us a glimpse into the future of mobility, and designers are crowd-sourcing car designs and driving innovation (no pun intended) with micro-manufacturing. Designers are even disrupting existing supply chains with the introduction of bespoke clothing on-demand. Speedfactories are are starting to take shape and this is just the beginning.
An abundance of data, and the technology to leverage it has allowed for massive change.
Alongside these incredible feats, the vast amount of data produced is growing, and technology continues to advance at an exponential rate. Designers are certainly gaining knowledge around aspects of these developments, but with traditional tools, the learning curve is steep and the knowledge and skills gap is widening.
Design In The Near Future
Soon, our design tools will give us superpowers. They will be intelligent, intuitive, and connected machines that will collaborate with us to solve increasingly complex problems. These machines will function like studiomates, augmenting our creative teams and design capabilities through the incredible power of computation. This may sound far-fetched, but these new tools will be a natural extension of how we already experience the world (in the same way smartphones have augmented our perceptive, cognitive, and physical abilities). Whether posting images and stories on Instagram, navigating to work via Google Maps, or sourcing inspiration from Pinterest, we experience computation everyday and its ability to transform our lives. We may not recall when we became so intertwined with these tools, but the impact they have had on us is profound. This same force will radically change design in the near future.
Designers will need data, but data will also need designers.
This new paradigm will be fueled by data. Designers will need data, but data will also need designers. Although the coming age of design and production will be shaped by the magic of computation, its systems will rely on instruments designed and implemented by humans — algorithms. Designers will use algorithms to give structure and meaning to the vast amounts of data digitally stitching our world together, and these algorithms will be everywhere. Human talents will lead this new paradigm of product development, and our design tools will help to expand our collective imagination and extend our creative reach.
Designers will use algorithms to give structure and meaning to the vast amounts of data digitally stitching our world together, and these algorithms will be everywhere.
The problem is that designers cannot yet communicate with machines (algorithmically), or so we think.
The Future is Closer Than It Appears
While all design processes are inherently computational (designers are in the business of transforming product requirements into solutions), the systems, flows, and exchanges that currently shape our creative output are too loosely defined. We need to re-imagine how we design, and with what tools. As with the Information Age (and previous industrial revolutions before that), doing so will require new organizational forms, new skills, and a new mindset.
Computational design is a creative activity that uses algorithms to synthesize information, imagination, and intent. Because of this, computational designers can explore issues of product development at the deepest level (where data and the product it is informing are one in the same) and with exponential speed. They source inspiration by decomposing and abstracting patterns, allowing them to frame problems in new ways, leading to novel design solutions.
Because of their fluency with algorithms, computational designers can be curators of relationships…
Their tools and methods intertwine algorithms and data with the digital workflows (modeling, simulation, visualization, and manufacturing) necessary for design organizations to thrive. Because of their fluency with algorithms, computational designers can be curators of relationships, using data to facilitate the conversation between humans and machines, but more importantly, across domains — end-to-end connectivity with material scientists, engineers, manufacturers, and consumers. A new age of design and production is on the horizon, and computational designers are uniquely positioned to lead from the front lines.
Computational Product Development
Our plan is to work alongside today’s most audacious design leaders, and transform how the world designs. We will help them leverage the power of computation to drive business transformation and organizational change. Our team (computational designers, researchers, strategists, and software engineers) will provide innovation consulting and knowledge transfer, product design and development, applied R&D services, and craft tailor-made software for consumer product, automotive, and manufacturing companies.
Are you ready to transform how your organization designs?
We’re Mode Lab, a computational design consultancy and innovation lab. We partner with bold leaders who believe in a future where product development is more intelligent, intuitive and connected — a world where designers and algorithms collaborate to solve the most intriguing problems of our time.