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Interactive generative systems for conceptual design: An empirical perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 1999

Department of Design and Innovation, The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Department of Computing, The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Department of Computer and Information Sciences, De Montfort University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom


This paper argues from extensive research findings in design psychology and industrial design processes, as well as our own observations, that interactive generative systems can be powerful tools for human designers. Moreover, interactive generative systems can fit naturally into human design thinking and industrial design practice. This discussion is focused on aesthetic design fields like knitwear and graphic design, but is largely applicable to major branches of engineering. Human designers and generative systems have complementary abilities. Humans are extremely good at perceptual evaluation of designs, according to criteria that are extremely hard to program. As a result, they can provide fitness evaluations for evolutionary generative systems. They can also tailor the biases that generation systems use to reach useful solutions quickly. We discuss an application of these approaches: Kelly's evolutionary systems for color scheme design. Automatic design systems can work interactively with human designers by generating complete designs from partial specifications, that can then be used as starting points for designing by modification. We discuss an application of this approach: Eckert's garment shape design system.

Research Article
AI EDAM , Volume 13 , Issue 4 , September 1999 , pp. 303 - 320
© 1999 Cambridge University Press

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