This design duo walk the line between chaos and control
August 12, 2015

Descriptiv use digital tools to generate wild shapes and uncanny structures influenced by the patterns of nature

Using powerful digital tools, generative design duo deskriptiv produce surreal shapes that stretch the flexibility of human imagination. Project partners Christoph Bader and Dominik Kolb team their studies in information design and computer sciences with a strong interest in 3D computer graphics and programming in their evolving, process-centred approach to the discovery of patterns and complexity.

“Instead of looking for a good colour combination or visually pleasing arrangement, we are endlessly hunting for recipes, algorithms and sequences of operations,” Bader and Kolb explain. Employing methods to encode processes through programmes, algorithms and procedures, the team focus on exploration and experimentation, working in what they describe as “a switch from a product orientated thinking to a process orientated way of working.”

The pair detail one benefit of their process-centered approach as parameterisation. “Varying parameters leads to a large number of variations which in turn leads to an exploration of possible shapes,” they explain. “If the specification of what you are trying to achieve ever changes, all you have to do is change the parameters of a process and re-evaluate it to match the new goals. This results in shorter design cycles.” The flexibility afforded by working digitally makes this onscreen space essential to the formulation of deskriptiv’s wildly elaborate shapes. As they are quick to acknowledge, “the digital worlds of our computers enables us to build tools which are extremely powerful. It empowers us to produce and explore shapes that would not be possible in any other way.”

The outcome of these digital experiments take on strangely familiar forms, morphing into impossibly intricate, interweaving mesh entities. Initially vertebrate-like, these complex growths resemble marine coral, while fine, hair-like wisps appear acutely like a satellite image of the ocean. Artificial and natural collapse into one another, as deskriptiv’s 3D-printed physical abstractions and their onscreen prototypes seem almost to adopt elements of the chaos and randomness of the natural world. “Randomness could be the way that certain aspects of an algorithm are controlled by random decisions or choosing an element from a set at random can be a key element of many processes. On the other hand, clearly defined processes might lead to visually chaotic looking outcomes,” Bader and Kolb argue.

The tension between chaos and control is enacted through tightly-wound sequences and structures, that are at once sprawling and restrained.  “We always try to fully interact and engage with the viewer in our works,” they explain. “Often our shapes have a lot of detail. The viewer can let their eyes wander and go on a visual journey. All things we produce are displayed in series, which allows the viewer to explore. In this exploration his mind might find connection to the underlying process and as such may find beauty in the underlying pattern.”

Such a journey is taken when watching their series of computational growth structures, a video in which shapes develop, expand and refine themselves fluidly. Created in cooperation with Dr. Neri Oxman from the MIT Media Lab during a recent 3D printing project about biological augmented wearables, deskriptiv takes the viewer beyond their role as voyeur of the digital designs. In the physical side to the project, living matter is embedded within 3D structures and four grown wearable pieces created. For this they became the first to achieve material gradients (e.g. smooth colour transitions) throughout the volume of a 3D printed model.

Currently, they are continuing their exploration into the generation of shapes by testing the possibilities of 3D printing.  By working at the intersection of digital techniques and aesthetics, deskriptiv are unveiling untapped possibilities for innovation in the structure of shapes, both digitally and physically.




For more information on descriptiv's work, click here

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