Dean, Lionel Theodore, Atkinson, Paul and Unver, Ertu (2005) Evolving individualised consumer products. In: 6th International Conference of the European Academy of Design, 29-31 March 2005, University of the Arts, Bremen.

The origins of this project began in 2002 with experimentation into the application of computer generated random form to 3D product design. Advances in the Rapid Prototyping industry were offering the possibility of mass-produced one-off consumer products. Computer based 3D solid models were created that would randomly mutate within parameter envelopes set by the designer. At any given point the mutation could be halted and a real-world product generated via digital manufacture (Rapid Prototyping). This first stage of the work has already been reported on (Atkinson and Dean, 2003). The next phase of the program has been to introduce evolutionary development so that, via the computer generated random mutation, the model develops generation by generation in a desired direction (though not necessarily to a predictable outcome). This requires an element of selection. There are several examples of computer based evolutionary design experiments that use human by-eye selection methods, notably Richard Dawkins’ ‘Biomorph’ system (Dawkins 1993). The aim of this project is an automated system that selects on some measure of desirability and rejects outright any functional failures. Each FutureFactories product form is defined by a parametric CAD (Computer-Aided-Design) model. When evolution is initiated, a series of mutant designs are generated each with a single parameter, selected at random, adjusted by a small pre-determined step. The step may be positive or negative; this again is determined at random. The resulting set of mutant progeny is then assessed for their visual ‘success’ using a quotient. The quotient aims to access the level of visual interest in a form. As the application is 3D products, there are physical parameters to consider, for instance ‘hard points’ generated by the envelopes of internal components which may not be intruded upon. If any of the offspring do not meet the necessary physical criteria they are rejected. Animation is employed to extrapolate between iteration to present the evolution as a smooth metamorphosis. Product forms and associated development criteria have been created capable of evolutionary development over many generations. The resulting designs are both surprising and unpredictable.

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