For years designers have been using technology to speed up their work process and it has long been true that, to the layperson, the mention of “Graphic Design” conjures up images of computer-bound tech-focused creative types. As an industry, graphic designers know how reliant they are on computers (especially after losing hours of work to a crash!), but there is a new kind of thinking that embraces programmatic methods even more. It’s called generative design and should not be ignored.
“Generative” is a blanket sort of term used to describe design composed using algorithmic or random processes. A well-known example would be the music visualizers that featured in the earliest versions of Windows Media Player, creating visuals to accompany the music. You can see a selection of examples here. Some are not a world away from the visual characteristics of modern info-graphics in books like Information is Beautiful.
This kind of thinking is becoming more common, like in the standout SALT identity by Project Projects, which relies only on a dynamic font to establish the visual characteristics of an Istanbul art gallery. As the font is periodically altered by commissioned designers, so the whole identity is transformed.
That’s all well and good I hear you say, but what’s that got to do with print-based designers like me? Well, in this fascinating interview in Eye Magazine conceptual creatives Graphic Thought Facility speak to Nick Bell of the myriad approaches they adopt while designing books:
“AS: Systems is another strand. You establish a working method, solve the problem and it runs itself. It’s possibly less self-conscious because the system makes the decision.”
Their approach to the design of Stephen Bayley – General Knowledge stands out as more than just your ordinary grid design, as GTF explain:
PN: …The budget demanded a two-colour job, so we were thinking of all the possible ways to achieve richness. The fact that the printer works in sixteens meant that there were several economical place to change colours.
NB: But you sometimes change typeface in the middle of an article.
PN: Right – we changed it five times, I think.
NB: So it’s out of kilter with the content!
PN: Which we quite like – it’s that sort of “wrecking it” bit coming in. We wanted to reflect the fact that this work had come from different sources, but to do facsimile settings of the text was well dodgy ground. Using a system overrides that.
By letting the imposed system inform their design and create these odd typographic juxtapositions, GTF are engaging in something that isn’t just your everyday grid layout. As a developer/designer I am excited by these seemingly disparate fields influencing one another. Of course this is not a complete design approach overhaul, but may be something of a tool for that rare creative brief that asks for something conceptual and contemporary. Books like Dynamic Identities and Generative Design show quite clearly that I’m not on my own here either. How do you feel about the idea of a dynamic identity? Great or gimmicky? We’d love to hear your thoughts.