Generative design develops complex forms and structures similar to those found in nature, taking advantage of automated tasks and high-scale computing power. This approach benefits designers in the creation systems that are efficient, resilient and visually engaging. These systems follow specific rules for form generation and meet clear design goals in terms of shape, strength, mass, and other physical attributes.

There is a large number of methods for creating generative systems, based on establishing desired outcomes and behaviors for how components relate to each other. Examples of methods include L-Systems, Shape Grammars, Swarm Intelligence, Form Optimization, Lattice Design, and many others. From a designer’s point of view, most of the approaches fall into two categories: by subtraction and addition. In a subtractive process, objects are analyzed based on specific targets for strength, mass or similar attributes, and any sections that are unnecesary to satisfy them are removed. An additive approach predefines design goals and constraints for a given problem and generates large number of iterations of potential solutions that meet such goals. Subtractive processes have relatively small learning curves but they tend to offer only incremental improvements over current solutions. Additive processes provide more benefits and flexibility for form generation and automation of processes but their steep learning curve makes them hard to use, discouraging designers without adequate knowledge on mathematics and programming.

While the use of any of these two approaches provides great potential for design development, it is common for designers to pick one of the two approaches early in their development process and not make an effort to include the other approach along the way. The combination of subractive and additive methods, however, can lead to solutions that are more effective and cohesive. This paper discusses an integrated method based on iterative design processes where designers refine their concepts multiple times, achieving higher levels of success. This integrated, iterative process puts designers at the center of the process, providing tools with varied benefits and levels of complexity, that maximize automation and computational processing power.

Date of creation, presentation, or exhibit

Summer 8-15-2018


This is the pre-print/post print of a paper presented at the Norddesign 2018 Conference. Linköping, Sweden. August, 2018.

Document Type

Conference Paper

Department, Program, or Center

School of Design (CAD)


RIT – Main Campus