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antÉ – Institute for Research in Anticipatory Systems


Computational Design

Excerpted from "Computational Design: Design in the Age of a Knowledge Society", in form/diskurs Journal of Design and Design Theory, 2, 1/1996. Frankfurt/Main: Verlag Form, pp. 40-60.

The future of living, thinking, working, learning and collaboration is not out there to be discovered, but to be invented, more precisely to be designed. In the age of computation, to be computationally designed.

Nadin was the first to maintain that digital technology ∗the computer∗ was not ∗just a tool.∗ As opposed to tools that are extensions of human physical abilities, the computer should be considered an extension of the human mind. Designers of artifacts with embedded intelligence must realize how to make this intelligence easily available to the user, given the limitations and abilities of the devices and of the users. The new designer ∗the computational designer∗ makes the age of ubiquitous computing possible.

The new tasks of design in the context of the fundamental change we are experiencing result from the recognition of the new fundamental pragmatic condition of the human being. The tasks of design education cannot be less affected by this condition. Therefore, to practice design and design education proactively, not merely in reaction to technological developments, means to make the medium of computation, and any other information processing medium, part of design. In short: not that books, posters, brochures, or cars, toasters, chairs, and lamps are invalid design subjects, in the studio or in college education. Rather, knowing only how to design such items does not prepare a designer for those qualitatively new problems we are facing. To use the computer for design cosmetics, doing what traditional tools can do just as well, is unproductive and unsatisfying. The computer has to be creatively integrated in the design process, in the new products designed. This is something the computer industry does not know how to do but is trying desperately to achieve. Those who work in the computer industry know that faster chips, more storage capacity, and better compression schemes are only means to a goal that is fundamentally in the realm of design. Accordingly, computational design will make designers become partners in the ubiquitous computing revolution.