Delusion & data-driven design

As data and its use becomes ever more central to creative practice, designers must decide who is making the decisions – them or the computer? Francisco Laranjo argues that a thorough understanding of the technical, social and political workings of algorithms and AI are key to the profession’s future

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  • Mark Webster 30/03/2017 at 4:25 pm

    I just wanted to add to my first comment. We are at the beginnings of computational design. A lot of what I have seen over the years in this field falls short of fully engaging work because it too often falls into a demonstration of technique. Many content to present to us the latest technology as is. What is happening though now, is that we are slowly getting over this and we are beginning to ask ourselves what can we do in this new medium. Designers have been a large part of that shift and we can be thankful that computational design is being taught in some of the best art and design schools in the world. Even in those where the typographic press greets every visitor at the main entrance ;–)

  • Mark Webster 30/03/2017 at 4:06 pm

    Hi, thank you for such an insightful article and well done to Creative Review for curating a mix of opinions and views on this topic. In this article, you dig up some good material for discussion and debate.

    From what I read, there seems to be a need for clarifying certain points. By definition, a computer is just a machine that executes operations on data. From the moment you turn it on, everything you do is the result of data being manipulated. The fact that nowadays we have the possibility and ability to access those and sometimes on quite low levels makes for some daunting possibilities and challenges.

    The challenge for the future of design (and indeed for anyone using a computer), is to inspire and cultivate the motivation to learning more about the computer. Do you want to be a passive user or an active creator? Do you want to be a filter applying style or a designer applying thought? Do you want to not only engage with tools but also conceive and make them? I firmly believe that those who do make the effort to summon the power of computation will have an edge above the masses. It’s a clear advantage for any future designer to be able to think computationally and harness that power with other skills we learn as designers. The more I read articles like this, the more I’m convinced that is it becoming increasingly important to learn not only how to read but also to write with this new ‘digital’ language. There’s a whole new generation of kids coming (especially in UK) who will already have the key to unlocking that knowledge a little easier than past generations. They are going to be hungry too for learning more about the computer. Not to fear it nor to succumb to the push-button society that seems to have taken hold.

    Designers will adapt to these changes because humans always adapt. That seems a forgone conclusion.

    A comment about this particular thinking:
    You say, “The designers let computer parameters with no input or knowledge about music, the LSO or its history, define a standardised visualisation based on data generated by the movement of the orchestra’s conductor…”

    Firstly, algorithmic/computational design is not magic. For the computer parameters to do anything within a program, they need data and they need operations on which they can apply that data. These need to be formally described – i.e. conceived of and written (usually be a programmer)

    Secondly and in line with that thought, to write a program that does what the so called designers used, actually implies that you have some understanding of design. Algorithms are real human concepts encoded with computer code. The programmer’s skill is in being able to formally describe concepts – in this project, complex visual concepts – and write those in a logical, systematic and dare I say design thinking manner. It may be bad design in your eyes, producing ‘standardised visualisation’. It’s design all the same though.