A story of aesthetic design

Shadow Tree "Ombrier I" in action
Shadow Tree “Ombrier I” in action

As I explore the nature of genetic fractals, I discover new angles that have me in awe. Recently I’ve been forcing myself to use them for designing ordinary objects, as opposed to exotic and bizarre things like the Shadow Tree (or worse!)

Following the story of the object

I have known for a while that the genetic fractal use of artificial DNA has no real design limitations. It is “just” another way of seeing the structure of objects. We are used to seeing objects from the outside, i.e. we look at their outline and shape first and then we begin to observe details that bring us deeper into our observation of this object.

The approach of design with artificial DNA turns this upside down: we look at objects from the inside out. What does that mean? Artificial DNA is an approach where we start from the root of an object, i.e. the point from which it springs. This could be an arbitrary point but in practice I look for a natural root. The root point of a chair would be in the middle of its seat, from which it evolves outwards. A lamp or a vase might spring from the center of its base.

Fractal chandelier with tiny LED flowers

The artificial DNA that is at the core of genetic fractals then determines how these objects evolve from that root point. Seeing objects in this way, we read them as a story of evolution and growth, rather than the outside-in story of “carving” an object from the space it occupies.

Barebones quadcopter

Here is an interesting consequence: when you design an object from its root point and follow its evolution, once you reach the object as it is (or as you imagine its design), there is no reason to stop there. The evolving object invites you to evolve it further. It suggests further growth and in doing so, is seeking its own improvement.

Quadcopter for stylish geeks
Quadcopter for stylish geeks

How different from the outside-in design approach. Once we have ‘carved’ an object out of the space it is in, we are tempted to work its surface and add more detail. So we end up with intricate carvings and ‘innovative’ detail. “What other minutiae can I add to this?” we ask.

Endless variations of an uninspiring theme

When I forced myself to use the artificial DNA of genetic fractals to design ordinary objects, I couldn’t help but follow the story of the evolution of these boring objects. They were telling me how they should evolve further. By following their lead, I discovered something that has been intriguing me and every other designer/artist in the world: if you listen to the story of an evolving object or artwork, it will lead to aesthetic design. It is about the artist and designer getting out of the way.

Shadow Tree "Ombrier I"
3D Printed  – Shadow Tree “Ombrier I”

The use of artificial DNA is only just starting. I am still at a simplistic design and art stage. But as is the nature of DNA, it almost evolves of its own accord. Evolution is built in to the very concept. My current focus is to create a tool for artists, designers and anyone interested such that they can join me in the experimentation with artificial DNA for object design. How cool will that be ?!

skeleton (extinct) genetic fractal
One-eyed spider now extinct (DNA preserved)

(photos and 3D printing of Shadow Tree by PrintaBit.com)


6 thoughts on “A story of aesthetic design

  1. Intriguing! Question: if you start at the center point, don’t you already know what the design is/should be? Or is it more the case that the perceived “final” design” is in fact just a new starting point?

    1. It is starting in Sydney with the intention of going to New York via London: you get distracted and lost. When you start at the root point of a computer mouse (its cable) you know roughly where you are going but you will either come with a different device altogether – or – overshoot the mark and find an innovative feature that you couldn’t have envisaged.

      Surprises me every time!

      1. I have no idea what you’re talking about, but i love it!

        It sounds to me you have to build in some loose AI, similar, perhaps, to the programming in the Life game?

      2. Time doesn’t stop. I just stop the growth and evolution and take a snapshot. If I were to continue that animation (I tried), the tree folds in on itself and shrivels up.

        Given that the DNA of that “tree” is just 6 genes long, its accurate mimicry of nature is a little scary.

        God here I come.

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