Simulation and Nature in Design
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Technology changes the way we understand our world. Computation gives us new ways to explore and understand the processes that create the natural world. These new tools and insights enable us to develop new strategies in art and design borrowing from natural structures like the network of leaf veins or the form of soap films

Through numeric and algorithmic techniques, computational design explores the creation of media through the creation of a process. Instead of designing a specific object, a process can be used interactively or generatively to create an infinite variety of outputs. Concretely, this involves writing computer programs to generate forms. Usually, this breaks down into two tasks: 1) choosing and creating the process (e.g. growth or subdivision), and 2) realizing the geometry and form (i.e. creating the curves, surfaces, color, etc.).

This seminar is a project-driven survey of techniques in computational design. Example techniques include particle systems, multi-agent systems, network analysis, and finite element methods. We will explore some applications of these techniques to a variety of topics, ranging from fluid motion to reaction diffusion patterns to tensile surfaces. We will also cover topics in form generation and the geometrical tools needed to realize forms, from basic operations on lines and planes to NURBS surfaces and data structures.

The goal is to develop a broad understanding of approaches to simulation problems and how to translate these approaches to the tasks of design. During this survey of techniques, participants will be working to develop their own computational project.

Depending on the projects developed and some circumstances to be determined, computer controlled fabrication equipment may be made available for prototyping participants' projects, and projects may have the opportunity for a gallery showing.

Examples in the class will mainly use the Processing programming environment.


The program will meet on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6:30-9:30 starting on May 26. The first session a week will primarily be a talk/workshop on a method and corresponding examples; the second weekly session will be a free-form meeting to work on your project or explore topics of immediate interest.


On Wednesdays, we will meet in room 66-160 on MIT campus. Thursday meetings will be held at Sprout, 399B Summer St Somerville, MA.


The seminar will be led by Jesse Louis-Rosenberg, co-founder of Nervous System, a design studio focused on the computational design of consumer products. Their work is sold in museums and boutiques worldwide, and has been featured by Ars Electronica, Metropolis Magazine, the Washington Post, and SIGGRAPH. Before founding Nervous System, Jesse worked in modeling automation with Gehry Technologies.

The seminar is being run as part of the spring programs at Sprout. They will be helping out with the design of the program and providing space for the free-form work sessions.


If you have any questions or comments please contact:


suggested $520 for the course. If this does not work for you, please contact us and we will find some accommodation.

If you are want to recieve updates and information about the seminar


Schedule subject to change

Week 1: What is computational design? What is simulation? Diffusion limited aggregation
Week 2: Particle systems. Integrators. Tensile surfaces
Week 4: Multi-agent systems. Flocking
Week 3: Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics. Fluids
Week 5: Cellular automata
Week 6: Finite difference, PDEs, reaction diffusion
Week 7: Finite difference II. Fluids
Week 8: Optimization. Genetic algorithms. Simulated annealing
Week 9: Networks
Week 10: Finite element analysis and structures (1D elements)
Week 11: Finite element II
Week 12: TBD