Procedural Generative Design with Houdini

The Generative Design approach has pushed me to explore the possibilities of using Houdini for design tasks. Amongst the many tutorials out there I find myself re doing other people’s work, which itself is a copy of a copy.  

So i’m trying to start with simple design driven procedural systems inspired by 20th century designers.  

Back then this objects had to be designed carefully, sometimes produced im mass but the design variations were limited. This I imagine was due to the fact that iterating through design options was very costly.  experimentation was a manual labour intensive process. But now computers give us superpowers.  

Houdini is mainly used In large studios for visual effects, and is so amazing that you and I, as designers now can have access to such immense powers of creation.  

My idea was simple, find a model, and apply a generative design solution to it in order to iterate over the given design

I chose a product from the 20th Century Taschen Book of Design, trying to start simple since im still learning Houdini, I always make the mistake of trying to create overly complex networks that get out of hand quickly and I don’t even understand.  

Then I would come up with a way in Houdini to reproduce the object, not just 3D model it, but study the principal characteristics of how the object was designed and create a system that could produce many variations based on those simple design restrictions.  

I found this design, by Alvar Alto.  

Simple yet beautiful  

I Designed a two way system prototype to see if I could make it work.  

First i create a Surface Operator network that takes care of the main skinning of the vase, it generates a base mesh that can be dynamically changed in height.  

Then i used a Vops approach to generate the wavy pattern that makes the vase,  

The final result should indeed produce an object that has all the attributes of the original piece but offers the designer an interface to interact with the design and modify its characteristics to produce a variation with ease. Once the system is established in can be automated to produce thousands of design variations of the vase. Something that I hardly think Alto had at his desk, imagine what he would have designed.  

This is where most of the work happened I used a simple normalized curl noise, to displace the points of the profiles for the skin surface prior to skining.

I create a ramp interface that maps the curl noise to be able to adjust the curl intensity. Also promoted most of the noise properties to the final interface.  

After clean up I ended up with a simple 20th century copying machine, that can produce many of this style of vase. Here are some cool results from this experiment . I’ll will start doing this with a lot more design complex objects in the future. For now, i’m happy with this.    

Next level would be implementing a PDG automation that can create and save 100 obj ready for render in one go. Maybe next time