Plato’s Cave

After reading Plato’s Allegory of the Cave I am interested in this idea of using photography to represent ones perception of the world. There seems to be something futile about the idea of trying to capture your impression of the world, as in the reading where the chained person is released and they struggle to understand the world they see outside the cave, I feel like it is hard to for someone else to see what you saw then you were taking the picture. This is not to say that trying to capture a photo with a specific meaning is futile, I just hadn’t considered that someone else might see something else in a photo and that this should be something that informs your photography.

In Susan Pontag’s On photography  there was another message which I found equally pertinent;

“…the photographer stays behind his or her camera, creating a tiny element of another world: the image-world that bids to outlast us all.”

This idea that photos will outlast us has become even more true with the invention of the internet. In 2014 there was on average 1.8 billion photograph uploaded each day, resulting in 657 billion photos for the year, this number is only going to grow. This number of photos being uploaded everyday is creating a extensive archive of how we live, which in years to come historians may use to understand our lives. However if you asked people why they uploaded the photo, I think most responses would be in terms of the immediate or the near future, for example uploading a photo to facebook of a holiday you have been on to share it with your friends. In this endeavor to share with your friends is the central focus of the upload and there is often very little thought into how long these photos will last and how they will be perceived in the future. I know I am guilty of this as I am sure I have photos which I completely forgot about and would rather not be associated with now, however it is not something I think society considers often enough.



3rd Year Initial work

Over the last three years I have developed my understanding of my practice, I now see my work as largely research based with physical outcomes.  The research aspect of my practice is focused around computational design through algorithmic design and digital manufacturing techniques. I use natural studies and patterns as inspiration for my designs and then try to mimic the conditions that create these phenomena within computational

table script

An example of the types of algorithm I write to design objects

design. I also recreate natural processes such as evolution as design tools, which allow me to sift through the large number of outcomes of an algorithm in order to find the best designs. I believe that this method of design lends itself to digital manufacturing due to the subtle complexity of the designs which are produced. This complexity would mean making the design by hand would be either incredibly hard or sometimes impossible. Sometimes the designs I produce will require me to develop my own tools in order to produce functional versions of the design. For example a design of a lampshade I produced

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The cellular lampshade I designed last year in black and white nylon 

last year requires a 3D printer which is much larger than those I have ready access to, therefore I developed my own printer which to meet these requirements. I see this side of my practice is very important because it allows me a greater understanding of the tools and processes that I use, which in turn influences my designs. I think by having a developmental or research attitude to both these aspects of design will allow me to push thethe boundaries and I hope that the outcome won’t be the only useful aspect of my work. I am particularly interested in the emergent design and parametricism as I believe they are at the forefront of modern digital design and use them as guides for my own work.

bubble chamber

In terms of research so far I have been looking to particle physics for inspiration. This research harks back to my a-level physics  in which we would look at the diagrams that came out of the bubble chambers  which were early tools used to detect particles.
I liked them because although they look entirely random and chaotic, they are in fact predictable and with a little background knowledge easy to read. The causing factor  for these patterns is magnetic fields,  so I have started developing algorithms which mimic the effects a magnetic field would have on a particle however I taken out the decay effect on particles in order to develop more fluid patterns, with the aim to use these patterns in order to develop a piece of furniture.

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An example of patterns create through the algorithm

Initially I was interested in designing a large scale piece such as a pavilion, as a following on from the collaborative project I was involved with at the end of my second  year, however I was advised that I might be able to produce a better outcome with through prototyping and testing, and although I might be able to do scaled down tests, ultimately the first full scale test would also be the final piece I produced.  I think this is good advice and although in the future I would like to work on this scale I have decided to adjust and design a piece of furniture. I am also researching different manufacturing methods. I am interested in the idea of producing a piece out of fibre glass using robotic milling in order to create the shape out of polystyrene and then lay the fibreglass over the top. I am split on this technique as it as the digital manufacturing side which links itself well to my practice, however ultimately it has to be finished by hand. I am not necessarily adverse to this combination however I think the outcome needs to justify the means so to speak. An alternative method I have been looking at is Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) this is a very new and experimental technique and as such would fit well with my practice. The technique uses a robotic arm and an advance MIG welder in order to 3D print metal, it can easily produce large objects and is a relatively cheap technique when compared to other metal 3D printing techniques, however as it is so new and experimental there are very few places offering it as a service, the main being MX3D who are based in Amsterdam which would cause its own difficulties in terms of shipping and working with the company in order to make sure the design was produced in the way I envisaged it.

Joris Laarman studio dragons

“Dragons” by Joris Laarman Studio An example of a design produced using WAAM

I think that I need to look into more manufacturing techniques as my design work develops however as I said before  I try to uses these two aspects to inform each other and as such I feel it would be hard to decide on a manufacturing technique so early in the design process. Parts of my feedback were also linked to the manufacturing processes I was looking at. I was advised to consider what effect I was trying to get out of the processes I was looking at and consider the limitations of these in terms of longevity of the design and productive. For example I was made aware of the fact that fibreglass designs rely on an incredibly high quality of surface, and even slight damage to this surface can easily ruin the design. I think this longevity  aspect of a processes is something that I don’t consider enough, and is something that I really need to pay attention to more in the future as I think a lack of this consideration would lead me to design objects which wouldn’t last and would become more throw away, and I am aware that I’m not design for a cheap market so this wouldn’t be acceptable



Through this project I hope to develop my computational design skills well as  my knowledge of manufacturing techniques as they are going to be integral to me achieving both my long term  and short term goals within my practice. As an ultimate goal within my practice I want to set up my own studio which is focused on developing new techniques of design and manufacturing much like The verymany or Joris Laarman Studio. This includes possible developing design software’s, I like the idea of developing designs from the bottom up and as such developing programs would become an essential tool. However I think there are many obstacles standing in my way of achieving this goal, firstly I lack the knowledge required to run my own business. My internship over the summer did allow me some insight into the complexities of running your own business as I was involve not only in design and research but also I looked at methods of making the manufacturing sides of the business more efficient however this was only a glimpse into what it you need to do to run a business. I think that before I start my own practice I would like to become a researcher within a university or design group, I am particularly interested in the type of research coming out of Harvard GSD’s Robotic design Group, or the University of Stutgart’s  Institute of computational design. However these jobs tend to require that you are able to teach within the university which would require me to have a Masters degree. In the short term I aim to go on to do a masters focusing on computational design and the inclusion of technology within manufacturing and design. I have found masters around the world including at Harvard GSD, IAAC, The architectural association and Carnegie Mellon, which I am in the processes of applying to. These are incredibly competitive courses and often ask for more professional experience than I have at the moment as a result I am also preparing for the idea of working for another year or two and applying again for these masters. I have been offered a research and development role within the company which I did my internship at and would be more than happy to go back as I feel the skills I bring are useful and the research I would be conducting is really interesting. At the moment however my short term future seems to depend heavily on whether or not I get into a masters this year.




3rd Year Progression

Since my last post I have carried on the work with simulating the particles in magnetic field in order to generate patterns. I am happy with this line of research as I think it links well to the scientific side of my practice. I also like it as a starting point because it produces a lot of information which can inform the design process meaning it links to the emergent side of my practice as well. In fact just by using the curvature value of the pattern at any given point to make it 3D dimensional I can produce almost limitless forms, many of which are completely useless for the purpose I require. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, it has driven me to find an efficient way to sift through the designs to find the most appropriate results. The best way I saw to do this was to use an evolutionary solver. With this method you tell the solver the qualities you want in the design and it uses these as a “fitness” to measure all design iterations against, It goes through generations combining different parameters from different version of the design in order to develop the best result. Much like natural selection in nature, designs with low fitness levels are removed from the pool of designs and those with a high fitness value progress. I think this method not only suits this project but also my practice as it includes the computational and scientific side of my practice. I have left this process running over night and it produced 125 different generations of the design the result was a large variety of useful designs.


Graph produced by evolutionary solver

Admittedly it also resulted in quite a few completely useless designs which are at least in part a result of my lack of experience with the process, and as such the way I developed a fitness value may not have been the most efficient. I have researched how to develop better finesses however there is little information available, I think this lack of information is going to be an obstacle I face throughout my work as it is such a new territory of design. I have done further experimentation with developing the design using information contained within, I measured the deformation of the desk designs and then tried to add thickness only in the areas which required it. I produced 3D printed models which showed the deformation pattern. I like this idea however I think that it is completely unnecessary on the scale I am currently working, however it will be a tool I aim to use on larger projects in the future. For our Unit X project I have been doing numerous projects and live briefs mostly in collaboration with other students within the School of Art, including textiles and fashion students. I really like working with people from different genres of design, as they inevitably bring a whole different knowledge base.  I have been working on a competition with Katie Quine, a textiles student for an exhibition in the Benzie building. Our design was for a series of patterned tensile sails which would span the floors as you walk into the building.


Scale model of competition entry with Katie Quine

Our individual skillsets allowed us to work efficiently together as I generated the patterns for the sails and simulated the tension and positioning within the building through algorithms, whilst Katie bought a strong knowledge of materials and how they behaved as well as another way of looking at the design process other than my self-admittedly computational-centric view. I am happy to say our entry won and I think this is due to this crossover of skills and knowledge. I want to carry on collaborating with designers from different fields as it challenges my views on my practice and stops me getting into a kind of rut.

The feedback I have been receiving has been largely centered around the construction my designs, since my last post I have looked into more experimental manufacturing including robotic milling, large scale plastic and metal printing, I find these processes really exciting and I think other people would as well however I was also advised that I needed to produce a final product at the end of my design and although these processes are interesting they are also logistically hard to achieve. For example the only place I could find to print In metal with the technique I wanted to was in Holland and so organising the design being produced and shipped back creates a large number of complications and possibilities for something going wrong, which when I am coming to the end of my degree is not something I can afford. I think that the idea of needing to stay grounded when surrounded by these technologies is a really important to my practice, as there will inevitably be a lot of new processes I am excited by but I need to be able to recognise when it is appropriate to use them.


In terms of my future practice, I mentioned in the previous post getting a masters was my short term goal and essential to achieve many of my long term goals. I was recently offered a place at Harvard Graduate School of Design on the Master of design studies (Technology , which was my top choice for a masters. I think this has really changed my perceptions of what I can achieve within my practice and I am really looking forward to going on to develop my skills and experience on a completely different style of course. This is an exciting opportunity which I am looking forward to and will teach me different skills which I hope when used with those I have been taught on 3D design will allow me to develop my practice and achieve my long term goals of running my own research lead studio.

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Unit X: Blue sky thinking – Reflection

This project was really useful in developing an understanding and the skills in required to design and build large scale My structureobjects. This is new ground form me and has highlighted simple lessons that now seem obvious, but have led on to a wider appreciation of the importance of balancing design parameters.  For instance I now realise that the tolerances within a larger object need to much greater than those on smaller object. Whilst this seems obvious   it was still valuable to recognise how much bigger the tolerances need to be and how this in turn impacts on other design decisions. Given that the final structure was too tight to fit together properly, in future I will not only need to increase the widths of the joints, but also ensure this does not compromise the ability of the finished structure to support itself. So there is a middle ground I need to find through future experimentation.

The majority of the project was familiar and the way we were working was similar to the way I would normally work. However I haven’t really had to pitch to a client before. Our pitch went well mainly because we had practiced beforehand as a group and we all knew what we were talking about, however I found that when I became nervous I started forgetting what I was meant to say so in future I will practice more so I don’t script structure

There are a number of other lessons that have proved useful. I am glad we ended up choosing to work in plywood. If we had worked with a material that posed so many difficulties, as the black plastic initially considered would have, due to its lack of rigidity, we would have spent so much time trying to compensate for the material. Ultimately other aspects of the cuttingdesign would have suffered.  I also think we should have finalised the structure of the design slightly sooner, as by the time we ordered the materials it was getting quite tight for time. It worked out fine in the end, but it would have been good to have more time to practice assembling and I would certainly not want to repeat the experience of cutting on the router on the morning of the exhibition.  In that regard the choice of the CNC router proved critical, as  allowed us to create a more interesting and complex object, which wouldn’t have had been possible in the time frame if we were using traditional techniques.

My contribution and involvement within most aspects within the project, has been positive. As a group we kept each other quite structured and made sure we all knew what we were responsible for doing. In terms of the research stage I offered a lot of research into design processes using Grasshopper. Also I researched anthropometric measurements in order to make sure our design was functional. I believe this research was invaluable and   will be incredibly relevant to my own practice. It is something to be developed in future projects. Overall I think my involvement throughout the project has been good, I have been involved in modelling, group tutorials and research. However I feel in the future at the start of project my research needs to be broader.

In terms of the work we produced I think as a group we all collaborated really well. Each member knew which part of the project they were responsible for delivering, yet maintained a role in decisions affecting the final outcome. For example I was most focused on the structure itself and how it would be assembled. But I also contributed to the dialogue that fed into every aspect of the design.  Collaborating on the basis of each member focusing on a single element, meant that  we could get more work done in the time than if we had all tried to concentrate on the same part all the way through.

I think that a testimony to how well we worked as a group came as Atul Bansal, whose roof we exhibited on, has asked the group to design him another larger structure, as well as asking to keep the pavilion which we constructed for the exhibition.

Of course there are areas of our design I believe we could improve on, and I have already mentioned that I could have made the tolerances larger, which would have mean the structure would have fitted together better. But also I would have liked to develop the design a little further and have it reach the ground in more interesting ways. However, at the time at least I didn’t know how to script this well enough and so is something I aim to include in future designs

My main motivation throughout this project has been to develop my skills in generative design and to learn some of the skills needed to design and construct larger scale projects which will become fundamental to my practice as a parametric designer who works on various scales.



Unit X: Blue sky thinking – Investigation

Since the last post I have been researching new scripting techniques in order to design on a larger scale. I produced models like the one shown below so I can check that the script is working. The technique I have found most useful is Karamba, as I mentioned in the last post. This works well and has allowed us to develop designs a lot faster than the methods previously used. I also found a better means of labelling parts as they come off of the CNC router. This will be really helpful because in the past I have struggled with assembling models because I didn’t know what part was what.

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To produce the scale of the object we want within the timescale for delivery we need to use the CNC router.  We found out recently we can’t cut the Stokbord plastic on the CNC router in the workshops. This has meant we have had to change the material we are going to use, from the plastic to plywood. This is a bit of a relief because the plastic sheets we have are quite thin, so it would have been hard to produce a stable structure.  Also by using plywood we have less limitations and can focus more on the form of our design. This has given the group new opportunities to look at other materials and textures we might introduce into our design. This is something that I tend to overlook, as I tend to concentrate on form, but because I am working in a group with multiple disciplines I have become more aware of wider possibilities.  This has been a valuable lesson, as it has led to some interesting interactive ideas that I shall now explore within my own practice. One of the ideas that I particularly like is covering some of the panels in a reflective material so that the design engages people differently relative to where they are standing.  From this we are going experiment in laser cutting patterns in the materials and see what effects it would create.

Having resolved the design process we can now think more creatively about how we want to develop the form of the object and thinking about how the pavilion will be realised. For instance I need to concentrate on making the design the right size for people to engage with. As I am interested in designing larger object this part is really important experience and will be a large learning curve. On a more practical level we need to finalise the structure itself in order to work out how much material we need to order and come up with the cutting files. Because of the construction methods we have selected,  actually building the structure shouldn’t take too long as each component comes ready to use once it has been  cut on the CNC router. It only then requires slotting together to assemble.


render of design with smart material covers on

The only thing I can think of that would take longer is the application of the texture or reflective material, but we will have a better idea after further investigation and testing. We also need to research into more of the conceptual side of our design and in particular the covers which would open and close automatically. This could be done mechanically, using an Arduino for example. However, a more interesting prospect might be using some smart materials which will react to changes in the environment with no need for any mechanical input.


Unit X: Blue sky thinking – Research

I have started unit X doing two different projects; the MIF competition with a group of 3rd year 3D designers; and the Blue Sky Thinking rooftop project with a mixture of Textiles in practice and 3D students.


Brainstorming ideas as a group to create our manifesto

For Blue Sky Thinking we started by creating a manifesto within our groups. I think this was really useful because it gave us a focus around which we could start our research. To create the manifesto we each found a design manifesto to show our personal interests. I looked at the Parametricism manifesto written by Patrik Schumacher. This is a manifesto I have looked at in the past and I try to use many of the principles within my own work. We realised after looking at all the manifestos we collected that we wanted our groups manifesto to focus around modern design processes and construction techniques. Also looking at practitioners such as Zaha Hadid, Frie Otto and Mark Fornes from Thevarymany has been very useful.


Group research for manifesto

I found this development of a manifesto really useful because by reaching an agreement the group could reduce the time that might have been taken up with unnecessary research. I think maybe in future projects I should try and focus my projects in a similar way. After we created our manifesto we had to present it to everyone on the unit.  The feedback we got was that we were being too broad and not focused enough. We believe this is a result of some of the people in our group being interested in other motivations behind their work, as a result the group was reorganised and a couple of people chose to join a different group. I think we will benefit from this as now our group will be more dedicated.

The  group decided we would create a shelter or pavilion through generative design in order to keep with the modern focus of our group. This has meant I have had to research scripts which will design and test structures so I know they won’t fall down.  I already know how to use the Kangaroo plug-in for Grasshopper to create structures in the way shown in the video. However this is quite limited in terms of variables and is intensive on the computer. I know of another plug-in call Karamba which I am going to learn as it allows for more control, is a much more efficient way of designing and allows for testing the structure. So I have decided to research this. The extra control Karamba allows should create a more developed design and give the group more control of the outcome. We plan to use a CNC router as the main tool in the construction of our design because it means we can avoid repetition within our design without incurring an increase time in manufacturing. We have also chosen the materials we want to use to construct our design. Building up these skills in these processes of manufacturing and design will be invaluable in developing my practice as a parametric designer.

Kangaroo script

Kangaroo script

Kangaroo simulation video

We had to choose from a variety of materials laid out in front of us including a lot of recycled materials. In the end we chose to work with Stokbord, which is a black recycled plastic, some reflective plastic, as well as a few other sheet materials. I wouldn’t normally pick the material I am working with this early in the design process, so it will be interesting what effect it has on our design.


All the materials offered to us


Understanding context

Throughout this unit I have been working on a bench design as a hypothetical commission from Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield. Due to the need to make my design site-specific, my contextual research has been essential. I started b

A Sculpture by Barbara Hepworth at YSP

A Sculpture by Barbara Hepworth at YSP

y researching the sculpture park it’s self through a visit and online sources. This allowed me to get a sense of the scale of the park as well as the type of sculptures exhibited with its grounds. On my trip to the park I took photos of the sculptures in the park as well as parts of the park itself, this allowed me to document the layout of the park and also it’s scale. I also researched the ethos of the park which was fundamental in designing an object that fitted in. The ethos of the park was to

display works which challenged and informed amongst other things, as a result I wanted to use my skills in generative design to challenge the traditional idea of a bench. After my research at the park I decided to research some of the artists whose work is displayed within the park including Joan Miró, Andy Goldsworthy and Nigel Hall. I was particularly drawn in by the forms by Barbara Hepworth, in her “Winged figure” sculpture as well as her “oval sculpture 2”.  I used profiles and outlines from these sculptures which I then manipulate to create my design.

This has been one of the biggest influences on process however my research into generative design using the Algorithms-Aided design book by Arturo Tedeschi. This book has helped influence both my ability to manipulate objects as well as make my designs physically realisable. One script that I found particularly useful was the ability to use graphs to influence the scaling of an object. This also fitted in with the ethos of the park as it challenges the preconceived view that if an object’s influences are heavily based within mathematics then it’s form must be quite angular and geometric, however by using a sin graph I can create a very flowing organic object which is fundamentally mathematical. As a result the object fits within the context of the park far better than if I had ignored this factor. I have learned a lot about the importance of in this research file, for example I spent a lot of this unit struggling to create starting forms for my design, however I now realise this was due to a lack of research and as a result in the future I would need conduct greater amounts of research at the start of the unit in order to develop designs efficiently. The research in creating algorithmic scripts has also allowed me to really start developing my own scripts and I have a greater understanding of how the logic works within the program.

Another important form of research for me was looking at other practitioner’s place of work. I visited Joseph Hartley’s studio. Although my work and Joseph’s are very different there were still parts which were applicable to my work and it was interesting to see what it would be like if I started my own studio. One of the things I found most interesting was when Joseph started talking about how he was working on lots of different projects simultaneously. Currently we only ever work on one project at a time so it is easy to forget that this is not possible when you are rely on your work as a source of income. Also from researching other practitioners CVs you realise just how much you have to be working on at one time. This has made me realise how important organisation is to make sure you meet the briefs for each piece of work and the deadlines set by the client. Also joe was talking about sourcing materials, which again is something that is easy to overlook when you are in university and you can get all the materials just from the workshops however when you are operating under your own practice you have not only have to find the materials you have to also look at where you are sourcing them from, especially if any part of your practice is centred around sustainability. This being said I still think at some point I would like to set up my own studio, however I would like to get some experience working in one before I did so.

I have also learned both through research and design work, that for me to fit in within the field of design I want to I need to further develop my computation skills. When I look at work by Marc Fornes for example I realise that although I have developed a lot in terms of Generative design skills, there are still large parts I haven’t even touched on and these parts would allow me to create designs that currently I couldn’t start to draw. Also some of the skill I need to learn would allow me to test my designs and optimize them which could lead to more efficient uses of materials or objects which a more structurally stable.  I think these skills will become more necessary as I move on to designing larger objects. However I did create a script which would slice up forms into sections which could then be laser cut and then would slot back together. I

Test models from sectioning script

Test models from sectioning script

was really happy with the result from this test as it showed that I had developed my skills in scripting and it was also an essential skill for this unit as I want to employ the same technique to create my bench.  There are a couple of changes i need to make including having the parts labeled and these labels laser etched onto them as this would make it far easier to assemble however apart from that it has the script worked perfectly.

The feedback I received from our presentations was very helpful, at the time I was struggling to come up with an initial starting form which would be relevant enough to the park. I had tried drawing shapes from the photos I had taken at YSP however the forms I found always felt a little arbitrary and I wanted something with more grounding. The advice I received was to look at the sculptures made by the artists in the park, and pic features of those which I could then apply to the generative scripts I was developing. So using this advice I have looked in more depth at sculptures by Hepworth and Miró, and used aspects of the two Hepworth sculptures as my starting point. I think this way of thinking is something I need to apply to my design process in the future, as taking the advice has resulted in much better idea generation. This advice has also made me realise that in the future I sometimes need to step back and look at my project in a wider context rather than being very specific from the start.

Bench form finding script with some sectioning

Bench form finding script with some sectioning

I was advised that it was okay if I didn’t end the unit with a full scale prototype however if I can I still aim to make a prototype as I will learn about the structural and construction requirements of making large objects which I just won’t learn through making a scale model.  I was also advised to go into the workshop and try to find starting forms though modelling with clay or foam modelling.  I did take this advice and try however I struggled to find any forms I was happy with partly because I found the foam modelling quite difficult and frustrating. From now I aim to use the scripts I have developed to resolve my design, I will do this by altering the parameters of my scripts so that I can experiment with the form until I am happy. Assuming this happens in time I will then make my design in full scale

The project so far has taught me about the importance of identifying your designs destination and the context of that. Before now I had never really thought about designing for a context which meant this project has been a bit of a shock. I have found it harder than I thought I would to make my design site specific however through going through the project I have learned a lot about this. A mixture of research and project developments through modelling, affirmed my motivations for using generative design and modern manufacturing processes.  As a future practitioner I would like to initially work for a design studio or company possibly whilst doing freelance design work on the side like Oleg Soroko. However for me the ultimate goal is to set up my own studio once I feel I have learned the right skills necessary to do so.

In terms of my future practice I feel that my main drive behind my practice is to create designs which may not have been possible before very modern technologies or techniques, whether that is a process like 3D printing or, using generative design processes. I am enjoying working on a project that is site specific however I would also be happy working on more commercial design which can be put into production.