When we first started thinking about the 2016 Core77 Conference we asked ourselves: What are the most interesting ideas and challenges in contemporary design practice? From this starting place, we made a list of interesting topics and people who are shaping design—through ideas big and small—in their daily work.
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One of those big ideas is the potential of digital fabrication and generative design. [Read more about designing with machine intelligence in our interview with recent New York Times R&D Lab creative director and conference keynote Alexis Lloyd.] In anticipation of next month's Core77 conference on design-led co-creation, we spoke with Autodesk tech evangelist and product designer Paul Sohi about the maker scene in London, his favorite open-source projects and what it will mean to co-design with machines.
Core77: As a product designer at Autodesk, what does your day-to-day look like?
Paul Sohi: My day to day is pretty hard to nail down, I travel a huge amount for work, and will hop all around Europe, and sometimes over to the US. Typically though, these trips are to meet with co-working spaces, start-ups and makers—to help them out with their projects, to get them up and running, or on project ideas.
Prosthetic arms from Exiii, a Japanese robotics company that Sohi is working with that focuses on democratizing bionics
You are based in London and are very involved in the open-source maker scene there. What are some trends you are seeing on the ground? How does that effect the work you do at Autodesk?
Right now, there's a bit of an obsession with clean technologies, open source sustainability ideas and drones—all of which are really cool. It's great to see more and more of the maker consciousness focus into areas that are for the betterment of humanity, and this really lines up with Autodesk's sustainability initiatives, and gives me a great opportunity to get more involved with these kinds of projects.
At the Core77 Conference, you'll be speaking about digital fabrication. What are some of your favorite recent projects that highlight the ways that collaborative design might change the way we work in the future?
There's almost too many to mention! One of my particular favorites is OpenDesk, a company that designs open source furniture for the home and office. The designs are beautiful, and fully free, so anyone with access to a maker space or fab lab can build their own stuff, I even have one at home as my dining table! Their openness with their designs, and the way they share them out has built a really strong community of designers submitting their own designs to be part of the open desk line.
We've recently been interested in the potential of collaborating with computers in the fields of generative learning and generative design. How will the role of the designer evolve with new technologies?
We've been flirting with generative and Computer Aided Design for a while now, but now we're looking to our computers and softwares to be more active in the design process, less of a passive logging of our inputs. Generative design allows us to rapidly produce thousands of design iterations which fulfill different criteria, letting us quickly process through the "how does it work" elements of design. Our computers will be able to give us better feedback on mechanical and engineering problems to solve them faster, but the designer is still the core of every product, generative design still needs our input to achieve the next line of great products!
Learn more about digital fabrication and generative design at this September's Core77 Conference in Los Angeles. Buy your ticket today!