Algorithm Art Design

Design By Code: Algorithmic Art

Algorithmic art
Algorithmic art

Algorithmic art is a subset of generative art that is the result of an algorithmic process—devised by an artist—usually using a random process to produce variation based on external inputs.

If that run-on sentence sounds like a bunch of gibberish, think of the algorithm as an elaborate recipe and the inputs as your assorted ingredients. Where it gets interesting, is that in this type of art you can generate an infinite number of results by using different “ingredients” based on the original recipe.  These inputs can be random number generators or some other source of data like frames from a movie.

I first became interested in algorithmic art back in 2006 through a project by BMW. BMW commissioned artist and designer, Joshua Davis, to develop an algorithm to generate a set of 500 limited edition prints, based on the forms found in the Z4 coupe that they were launching at the time. The pioneering aspect of Davis’ work was that each print was entirely unique and comprised on average of 120,0000 layers and 50,000 vectors, all generated by the algorithm. It was a highly complex process that required Davis to check countless iterations of his code to ensure that it would produce viable results. After months of intensive code refinement, his computer and printer begin to generate the artwork, as he supervised each output, print by print.

One of Artist Joshua Davis' illustrations
One of Artist Joshua Davis’ algorithmic illustrations

Paul Krix is another artist who I recently discovered who uses algorithms to individually laser cut jewelry that is aesthetically informed by patterns in nature. The early seeds of his inspiration were planted when Krix read a paper that compared city street networks with common leaf vein patterns, concluding that pictures of either were indistinguishable to most people. Krix decided to use this research as a foundation to his modeling algorithm, and drew inspiration from various natural patterns and processes that are both beautiful and complex: crystal growth, moth wing patterns, leaf veins, tree growth, petals, and the zoological colorings/patterns.

Pieces from Paul Krix's jewelry line called Neat Objects
Pieces from Paul Krix’s jewelry line called Neat Objects

The idea of “one-of-a-kind” is something that is lost in this age of perfect digital copies and mass production. It’s fascinating to see how designers and artists are pushing  technology to create artwork that is entirely unique, and yet at the same time repeatable because it is digitally informed. This is where it’s worth emphasizing that the artist’s self-made algorithms are an integral part of the authorship, as well as being the medium through which the ideas are conveyed.

So if you’re inspired, learn a new programming language. Become your own factory. And start creating.

Sun Yun VP, Experience Design At Grafik, Sun provides keen insight and strategic thinking for websites and online marketing that's enthused industry leaders for global brands such as Toyota, Cisco and Johnson & Johnson.

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