Monday, May 23, 2011

Combinations and Permutations

If creating something is simply a matter of selecting different combinations - choosing colour, fabric, texture, shape, pattern - then why would we say that a machine making these selections was not creative?

Thinking about this last night, I pondered upon the idea of writing a computer program that could 'design'. In my daydream, all that would need to be done would be to select a few inputs such as fabric/colour/garment type, or perhaps even a theme... and design options would be generated.

Of course, there would be millions of permutations of each design, so there'd need to be a filter to draw out the less successful ones. Maybe you could set it to present designs that would cost a particular amount to manufacture... or were judged against a certain aesthetic (perhaps picking out ones that conform to the proportions of the golden ratio?)

Because here is where it gets tricky. What makes a design more successful or not? A group of designers looking at the range of options generated would invariably have differing opinions on what the better designs were.

All designers undertake a process that at least vaguely resembles this computer program, I imagine. As I wrote the other day, we select 'inspirations' in order to narrow down our choices when designing, so that we're not creating every garment there ever was or ever will be. So what drives the design decisions we make? Why put a seam in a certain place and not another? Why choose that particular print?

The only thing I can think of at the moment is that there is a deep seated emotional response, or a recognition of 'yes, that's what I wanted to create'. We pick things that we like, that please us aesthetically. Machines are not (or should I say, 'not yet'?) capable of making these choices rapidly, at what we would call an instinctual level based on emotion or personality. The human mind is excellent rejecting anything it deems to be irrelevant.

Yeah, that's all I've got right now. Also, this has set me off on thinking about what determines an individual's aesthetic sense. Hmmm...

PS. Would the process of creating this 'computer program' be deemed creative, even if the outcomes are not?

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