What are generative processes?

“Generative design is the decomposition of the design process into a limited amount of steps, rules and parameters, and their combination into an algorithm, respectively the combination of several algorithms into a program.

A program is able to run countless iterations and generate a large amount of individual images or other graphical products.”

Mercedes variations

These processes can be automated, using programming languages such as Actionscript, or Processing, or they can be executed manually, based on predefined conditions and rules set in place by the designer.

To illustrate these principles with a familiar example we can look at the Mercedes logo. The underlying geometry of the mark has been analysed, and a program created to produce the form, with various parameters (number of points, sharpness, thickness of line, orientation), that can be manipulated to create an infinite number of iterations of the basic logo. This is known as parametric design, and has applications in the fields of art, architecture and product design as well as graphic design.

“The user of a generative application is more like a gardener than an operator.” 1

Systems design requires us to relinquish(放棄) a certain degree of auto-nomy to the programs we create, in order for new and unpredictable forms to emerge. We can then manipulate the underlying(相關) conditions to affect the range of outcomes produced, as if pruning and nurturing a rosebush(玫瑰花叢).

Furthermore, generative systems harness(利用,drive,draw) the power of automated processes to create large quantities of precise visual material in a small amount of time, allowing for ‘multiplicity and comparativity’(多重性和可比性)2 of the visual output.

  • 1Meta, Generative Design: Beyond photoshop
  • 2Manfred Mohr, Form and Code


What is generative thinking?

To me, “generative thinking” labels the process, or processes, that create, within the mind of the thinker, new ideas; it is the process of generating new ideas. Creating new (to the thinker) applications of “old” ideas would also be called generative thinking.
Generative thinking has parallels in the notion of biological natural selection: when one is in a generative mode, hardly ever does “just the right (best, perfect, etc) idea” come immediately to mind. Rather, we direct our effort at a challenge or problem at hand, writing questions and ideas nonstop, while delaying judgment on those ideas. When a particularly worthy idea is generated, the thinker recognizes its worth almost immediately. That idea, then, the “most adaptive” of these “intellectual mutations” is “selected” by the thinker for further refinement, or for further extension through generative thinking.
One of the most productive ways to engage in generative thinking is to begun by writing (pen, pencil, or keyboard) open-ended questions related to the subject or matter under consideration. Open-ended questions ask about possibilities, rather than for answers. Well-phrased questions do not ask for “the answer,” nor for “the best answer.” They ask about possibilities, options, considerations, and so on. This gives the thinker’s mind permission to explore, to generate possibilities, including the “maladaptive” ones. Natural Selection theory suggests that nature does not predetermine which of its variations will be installed in a given species; it selects the most adaptive variations after their creation, along with other variations.
So it is with generative thinking as a process to arrive at worthy ideas.


Definition of Generative Thinking.

Excerpted from Governance as Leadership by Richard Chait, William Ryan, Barbara
The hallmark characteristics of the generative mode can be summarized as follows:
. A different view of organizations. Organizations do not travel a straight line and rational
course from vision to mission to goals to strategy to execution.
. A different definition of leadership. Leaders enable organizations to confront and move
forward on complex, value-laden problems, that defy a ìrightî answer or ìperfectî
. A different mindset. Beyond fiduciary stewardship and strategic partnership,
governance is tantamount to leadership.
. A different role. The board becomes an asset that creates added value and comparative
advantage for the organization.
. A different way of thinking. Boards are intellectually playful and inventive as well as
logical and linear.
. A different notion of work. The board frame higher order problems as well as assesses
technical solutions, and asks questions that are more catalytic than operational.
. A different way to do business. The board relies more on retreat-like meetings,
teamwork, robust discourse, work at the organizationís boundaries, and performances
metrics linked to organizational learning.


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