Computational by Design

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The contemporary material culture—everyday objects surrounding us—is dominated by mass manufactured products, but Digital Fabrication together with Computational Design (also called generative or parametric design) promises a shift towards substantially personalizable products, in a relatively cost-effective way. Considering this shift an opportunity for designers, the book argues that in order to consolidate the practice of developing personalizable products, designers need to change their focus from convergent to divergent user needs and desires, leaving room for the creative contributions of the users in the design of their objects, thus converting them from simple users to (computational) co-designers. Albeit such “on-demand” products are still rare in the everyday environment, there are numerous appreciable examples, which led to the recognition of six recurring personalization principles—or user motivations—of both mechanical and cognitive nature. Based on these, the book proposes a design approach the systematic replicating the observed principles on any product typology, with the support of a new design tool: a canvas that guides the designer’s thinking towards product concepts to which personalization is essential. The proposed tool might help designers to spread personalisable design across many product categories, thus creating new business opportunities coherently with the recent development of the Industry 4.0 paradigm. On the long term, this might promote a more active role of the user in shaping the material culture, both through improving functionality and through new ways of creating meaning.