An Alternate Design Langauge

Parametric Intention outlines a novel teaching method for logic-based thinking through step-by-step and feasible scale exercises. I presented our findings at the 2018 DCA (Design Communication Association) conference.

Sept 2017 – Oct 2018

Role / Skills

Paper Coauthor & Conference Presenter


Rhino 3D, Grasshopper

The Catalyst

I first became interested in parametric design as an alternate design language; as a novel framework to express my design ideas. Rather than more predictable paths of representation like sketching or hand modeling, logic structures determine relationships of form. In this way, parametric modeling can exactly follow an original design concept.

The Approach

Under the guidance of Professor So-Yeon Yoon, Ph.D. candidate Yixiao Wang and I worked to develop a pedagogical method through research and iteration. I had no prior experience with parametric design, so I served as the “Guinea pig.” As I learned Grasshopper under Yixaio’s guidance, we discussed hurdles that I faced to understand the overarching parametric concepts. Advancing through examples and tutorials allowed us to further focus our understanding of the parametric method and how to best teach it.

The Method

We propose a viable approach to incorporating parametric modeling in interior design studio curriculum. We aim to teach parametric design as a relevant design tool that can aid and foster innovative design and open doors for further exploration of logic-based computational thinking. Using Rhino 3D with the Grasshopper plugin, our method centers on custom-built modular Macro Units of composite Grasshopper functions to help accelerate the learning process.

We propose three steps for using Macro Units:

1. Create Understanding in a Familiar Way

For most students, popular parametric geometries are intimidating in their seeming complexity. We aim to show students that complexity is built from geometric transformations of simple geometries such as points, curves and surfaces. The purpose of this introduction is to build up confidence for the students and to pave the path for introducing the concept of “Input & Output”.

2. Introduction of “Input, Operation, and Output” Logic

Inputs, the starting point of a geometric transformation, are usually simple geometries that can be built in Rhino. Operations are the geometric transformation process applied to the Input. Operations can be very simple, but can also gain complexity when they are strung together and perceived as one complex Operation. However, this also means that no matter how complex one Operation may seem, it can always be decomposed step-by-step. Output is the transformed geometry after performing a certain Operation on an Input. To keep things simple, we only introduce these three concepts in this class for parametric modeling. Through in-class discussions and hands-on assignments, students can begin to grasp the essential concepts behind the parametric modeling method.

3. “Macro Units” for Rapid Prototyping

Macro Units are a set of logically integrated operations fulfilling a specific and useful function relevant to the students. For example, a Macro Unit could generate planar topographical patterns for use in ceiling or wall applications. We would provide pre-built Macro Units to the students. These would serve as living organisms, open source code for students to experiment with, manipulate and break, acting as an accessible entry point into the parametric method.

Next Steps

Having learned the basics of Grasshopper, I will continue to develop my understanding and capabilities with the software. I have some promising ideas I want to bring to fruition that benefit from the characteristics of parametric design.

Below are samples of possible interior design elements derived from simple parametric functions.