March 2, 2021

Generative Design in Architecture & Interior Design: What, Why & How of It

Snaptrude Editorial Desk

What's in this post?

What’s in this Blog?

  1. Design. Decisions. Deadlines.
  2. What is Generative Design?
  3. The Game of Possibilities
  4. An Example of Generative Design
  5. More Power in Your Hands

Design. Decisions. Deadlines.

Doodle. Draw. Design. Discuss. Define. Discard. Do it All Over Again.
A typical day (or multiple days) in the life of architects and interior designers.

The design journey is all about exploration, creating multiple options, eliminating ideas and rethinking at every stage. Because, like any other creative field, you usually never get it right the first time.

However, this iterative design process does not follow a fixed, linear path. Like word mapping could help in idea generation and refinement for one architect, while Pinterest research could help someone else design better. Yet another might find her Eureka moments in creating visual analogies on a sketchpad. While, for some others, toying with shapes and objects online may lead to better design exploration.

While there is no common thread in these ideation and design approaches, what is common is that design thrives on possibilities.

The more the possibilities generated, the better the elimination of non-workable ideas, the higher the chances of innovation and the sharper the focus on the solution.

And, this is important. Because, even though the process may be non-linear, architects need to work in a framework of constraints, making multiple decisions as the design progresses. Every decision made has a domino effect on other aspects of the project. And, when you add deadlines to this mix, it puts more pressure on architects to generate multiple workable design options within a limited time.

That is where automation of design option generation i.e. generative design can help architects and designers in quick exploration and feasibility of ideas.

Architecture design quote
The iterative process of architecture design
Image Credit:

What is Generative Design?

Generative design, in simple words, helps you automatically find the best set of solutions to optimize your design concept to your decided goals.

Which means that the computer does not generate a creative design on its own. It requires you, as an architect or designer, to input an abstract concept basis which the computer uses artificial intelligence to automatically generate a bunch of solutions within the parameters set by you.

Generative design helps in design optimization in early stages of your project so that you can provide reliable data to stakeholders, for project development. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms for automating design logic.

With generative design, you can:

  • Auto generate a bunch of different design solutions basis your raw data
  • Assess them based on their performance
  • Develop them by optimising and generating new solutions

The Game of Possibilities

By creating multiple solutions, architectural generative design helps in breaking normal thinking patterns. It could help you discover new and unexpected ideas, which you wouldn’t have possibly thought of on your own. You can further synthesize all the concepts into a proper design workflow in order to get tangible solutions.

One question that arises is whether quantity or multiple design options can improve design quality? Well, let’s take the analogy of cooking. Say, you have one ingredient in your hand, potato and are unsure what to cook. There is a tight deadline as cranky kids (on the verge of a meltdown) are already waiting at the table. Then, there is the decision making involved whether you want to give them something healthy or focus only on taste. You quickly input ‘potato recipes’ on your device and at the click of a button, you get n number of possibilities about what to cook with it – French fries, garlic roasted potatoes, potato wedges, cutlets, potato pancakes, potato salad and even options you wouldn’t have imagined of, like potato cake. You pick the one most suited to your situation and feel mentally relieved as the burden of thinking of possibilities under a difficult situation is taken off your head. It makes your cooking much quicker, experimentative and enjoyable. It also helps you learn new skills, like presenting the same recipe like a pro.

Similarly, in architectural generative design, not all options would be suitable but the more the options mean more ideas to explore – one never knows, it could open up new thought processes. Also, the way generative design works, it ensures that the options generated are in the framework architects and designers set (basis the data they input). So, they are very relevant. It can yield very interesting ideas finding its way back to the original problem.

An Example of Generative Design

Generative design helps you not only look at the large aspects such as the position of the building but also the smallest element in your design, like a desk and its placement. It might be challenging for architects to take into consideration all these aspects on their own, at the same time, but with a computer, you can look at a lot more design options faster, ultimately finding well-thought through design solutions.

For example, using the power of generative design, Snaptrude generates innumerable furniture and layout options, within minutes. You can import CAD files into Snaptrude and start generating interior layouts instantly. Snaptrude’s auto-interiors feature uses the power of generative design to auto populate workstations, meeting rooms, cabins, cafeteria and spaces in a residential home with furniture.

You can also get a quick study of a floorplate’s capacity across innumerable design options, increase the spacing between furniture and get an automatically re-configured layout. Elegantly designed 3D components from the Snaptrude Library then allow the model to be presentation ready as soon as the floor plan is completed.

Snaptrude generative design
Snaptrude Building Information Modelling (BIM) tool uses generative design to generate furniture and layout options

More Power in Your Hands

Many renowned architects and designers in the industry are adopting generative design for creating futuristic looking buildings like Zaha Hadid’s The Heydar Aliyev Centre, Airbus Hamburg Factory in Germany or retail stores like Stamhuis designs and more.

The Heydar Aliyev Centre by Zaha Hadid Architects
Generative design used in the creation of The Heydar Aliyev Centre by Zaha Hadid Architects.
Image Credit: Wertuose, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Why does the industry need generative design tools? Because:

a) Generative design tools don’t replace architects and designers but improve their design conceptualisation.
b) Generative design doesn’t change the existing design process of architects and interior designers but adds more value to it.
c) Generative design gives designers and architects more freedom to explore and solve problems.

The art of architecture remains the same, but generative design acts like a new material that architects can use to improve design optimization.

So go ahead, rethink, revise, reimagine and repeat because generative design is here to stay.