Generative Gestaltung – the book

2009 Sep

The term Generative Design describes a design method which is implemented in various design fields (Art, Architecture, Communication Design, Product Design). Thereby the most essential is that the output – image, sound, architectural models, animation – is generated by a set of rules or an algorithm.

A book focused on the designer’s point of view
In 2007, Julia Laub and me got together as we were thrilled by the possibilities of this domain. We decided to use our Diploma (Generative Systems) to dive into its essentials and its underlying algorithms. A year later Hartmut Bohnacker and Claudius Lazzeroni teamed up and with the help of Verlag Hermann Schmidt we were finally able to share our thoughts and findings with the rest of the world in form of a book. “Generative Gestaltung” tries to focus especially on the designer’s point of view: the creation of images and visualisations by using code.

Visualising ideas by using code
Images are no longer created manually but through a visual idea which is translated into rules and then implemented in a programming language in the form of source code. The result is a piece of software which hopefully creates the desired images or even permutations. To cut a long story short: design is created by coding software instead of using software. Sounds a bit abstract, hu? So what can actually be done with? Here a few possible fields of application and related best practice examples.

  • Information Visualisations: “Eigenfactor” is an interactive visualization to explore citation patterns between scientific journals. The goal is to map the structure of science.
  • Corporate Design: “COP15” is a Generative identity for the COP15 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen in 2009. The logo consists of 192 lines, one pr. member of the United Nations, conceiving the concept of a world in continuous dynamic chaos unifying to the ideal constellation – a state of perfect balance.
  • Art & Photography: “Extracts of Local Distance” existing architectural photographs are merged into multilayered shapes. The resulting collages introduce a third abstract point of view next to the original ones of architects and photographers.
  • Rapid Prototyping / Fabbing / Fabrication: “Reflection” Reflection is a CNC-milled sound data sculpture, inspired by a musical piece by Frans de Waard.

Transforming signals and noise into information and knowledge
My motivation (as one of the authors of “Generative Gestaltung”) was to provide a solid foundation for others on how this modified design process can be used. Or in other words to empower people to do projects like the ones above as even nowadays too many designers think that coding is geeky and complicated stuff. In my opinion it’s a powerful tool that fuels creative solutions and will help us to solve future problems. Generative Design will become more and more important in order to turn the growing numbers of signals and noise into useful information and knowledge.

A foundation to build upon
Last but not least you can get access to the complete source code as we’ve made it available under an Open Source License. You can grab them from the website that supports the book. We would be glad if you let us know of your experiments, ideas and explorations that might arise from our little seeds.
»In my opinion, Generative Gestaltung is by far the most exciting book that uses Processing published to date. The book is an extraordinary achievement …«

2010-08-24, Casey Reas, co-founder of Processing

Generative Gestaltung – the lecture

Because the book was a tremendous success we had the opportunity to give lots of lectures all over in Germany, Austria and Switzerland … a live recording of the lecture (german) goes here:

Editions and Translations

Generative Gestaltung (DE)
Designing, Programming, Visualizing with processingHartmut Bohnacker, Benedikt Groß, Julia Laub, Claudius Lazzeroni (Ed.)published by Verlag Hermann Schmidt, Mainz. ISBN 978-3-87439-759-9

Design génératif (FR)
Concevoir, Programmer et Visualiserpublished by Editions Pyramid, Paris. ISBN 978-2-35017-215-6

Generative Design (EN)
Visualize, Program, and Create with Processingpublished by Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN 9781616890773

Generative Design (JP)
Processingで切り拓く、デザインの新たな地平published by BAN. ISBN 978-4-8025-1013-4


Cover image for Design Génératif @ Editions Pyramid

Design Génératif @ Editions Pyramid


Book, “Design génératif”, ISBN: 978-2350172156, Editions Pyramid, Paris. Hartmut Bohnacker, Benedikt Groß, Julia Laub, Claudius Lazzeroni, FR


ADC Silver (best project in category)


ADC Silver (best project in category), DE


Distinction Designpreis Rheinland-Pfalz


Distinction, Designpreis Rheinland-Pfalz, DE


Distinction Joseph Binder Award


Distinction, Joseph Binder Award, AT


Nomination ADC*E


Nomination, ADC*E, EU


Generative Gestaltung Tutorial Artikel @ Page Magazine


Feature Article, Tutorial, “Generative Gestaltung”, Page Magazine, February Issue, DE


Generative Gestaltung @ Form Magazine


Feature Article, “Generative Gestaltung”, Form Magazine, January Issue, DE


Generative Gestaltung @ Page Magazine


Feature Article, “Generative Gestaltung”, Page Magazine, January Issue, DE


Generative Gestaltung Lecture Tour


Lecture Tour, “Generative Gestaltung”:HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd, DEFH Salzburg, ATHTW Berlin, DEFH Augsburg, DEHTWG Konstanz, DEBA Mannheim, DEAKA Stuttgart, DEHGK Basel, CHand more …


Cover image for Generative Gestaltung @ Hermann Schmidt Mainz

Generative Gestaltung @ Hermann Schmidt Mainz


Book, “Generative Gestaltung”, ISBN: 978-3-87439-759-9, Hermann Schmidt, Mainz. Hartmut Bohnacker, Benedikt Groß, Julia Laub, Claudius Lazzeroni, DE