What is Generative Art

Generative Art is the idea realized as a genetic code of artificial events, as the construction of dynamic complex systems able to generate endless variations following the Nature world. Each Generative Project is a concept-software that works producing unique and non-repeatable events, like music, images, or 3D Objects, as possible and manifold expressions of the generating idea identified by the designer as his/her subjective proposal of a possible aesthetic world.

Generative Art: endless variation of chairs, 1991-2004
Endless variation of Chairs. Generative Art of Celestino Soddu, 1992-2004

Generative Art and human creativity

The Idea / human creative act identifies and realizes an unpredictable, amazing and endless expansion of human creativity. Computers are simply the tools for its storage in memory and execution. This approach opens a new era in design and industrial production: the challenge of a new naturalness of the industrial object as a unique and unrepeatable event, mirror of the uniqueness and unrepeatability of man and nature. Once more man emulates nature, as in the act of making art.

Idea Vision in Generative Art
Structure of Idea Vision and Creativity in Generative Art

Generative Art term

Enrica Colabella and Celestino Soddu used in a public event, for the first time, the term Generative Art for the Generatve Art first annual conference, in 1998 (https://generativeart.com). The meaning of ART is “ability to make events”. In this significance Generative Art meaning is “ability to generate things, events in different fields like architecture, product design, music, poetry, visual art, web-art, and so on".

Generative Art tools

Generative Art is not only a category of tools and procedures. It is a philosophy. Each artist creates own tools. It’s possible to create tools with algorithms but also without using computers. For example with chemical procedures, writing notes in spartiti, poetic words, drawings as fragments of visions etc.

Generative Chemical Art
P. Pedeferri, Generative Art using chemical procedure by controlling titan corrosion

Generative Design term

Generative Design is the term that Enrica Colabella and Celestino Soddu have coined for the genetic code of artificial ware that, like DNA in nature, identifies not only an object but also a species of objects. Industrial design will no longer be the idea and realization of an object, but also the idea of a species of objects and its industrial generation. Using Generative design term they have founded, in 1993, the Generative Design Lab at Politecnico di Milano University.

Generative Design and Industrial Production

The three-dimensional models produced using Generative Art and Design, multiple results of the idea, can be directly utilized by industrial manufacturing equipment like numerically controlled machines and robots, which already represent the present technologies of industrial production. This generative and automatic reprogramming device of robots makes it possible to produce unique objects with the same equipment and with costs comparable to those of objects that are identical; like a printer that can produce pages that are all the same or all different, at precisely the same cost.

Generated rings
Generative Design for industrial production of all different jewels. C. Soddu 2000

Historical References for Generative Art & Design approach.

Designing the generative algorithms, the artificial genetic code is an enthusiastically creative operation. Generative Artists have found themselves returning to the Renaissance cultural approach, capable of combining science and art. They have created ideas formulating a code of the harmony that, as it is born of the history of man and his relationship with nature, identifies and represents own subjective vision of the possible, the imprinting as a designer. The code of harmony, like all codes, contains some rules that trace certain forms of behaviour. Therefore it is not a sequence, a database of events, of forms, but a definition of behaviour patterns: the transformations from what exists to the complexity of contemporary objects in a state of becoming.

Generated baroque architectures. 3D prints
Generative Design: 3D printed generated Baroque Architectures. C. Soddu 2019

How Generative Art changes the designing approach

The design act changes from forming to transforming, because each form is only one of possible parallel results of an idea. Moving to transformations is moving to algorithms instead of forms.

Generative Art and Design first examples: Celestino Soddu

Celestino Soddu is a pioneer of the generative design approach. He began his design challenge since 1987. The first Generative project was made generating 3D models of Italian typical Medieval towns. Then performed Generative Projects of architecture, cities, industrial product design and visions of art. Today these Generative Projects have become extremely complex and directly operative as interfaces with productive systems.

Generated Medieval towns
First Generative Design Project: typical Italian Medieval towns. C. Soddu 1988

How to do Generative Art and Design projects

The best generative approach can be made by defining and constructing own generative tools. Each visionary people must, first, create his own tools. It’s also possible do that with commercial software, but it is really difficult to move from homologation and reach generated events recognizable as belonging to own vision.

Generative Art practice and experimentations

Generative Art & Design has permitted, first of all, practical experimentation such as the realization of books that all have different covers, of unique and unrepeatable jewellery, and of different scenarios of spaces that are incessantly transformed. Other possibilities include computer-produced artworks that reproduce the unrepeatable uniqueness of an artistic event, or experimentation on generative industrial production of lamps, chairs, coffeepots, cars, and any other products.

Generated cars
Generative Design of Cars. Celestino Soddu 2016

Generative Art and Design opens new fields of creativity

The Generative approach suddenly opened the possibility to rediscover possible fields of human creativity that would be unthinkable without computer tools. If these tools, at the beginning of the computer era, seemed to extinguish the human creativity, today, by allowing us to creatively, directly operate on codes of harmony, they become tools that open new fields and enhance our understanding of creativity as an indissoluble synthesis between art and science. After two hundred years of the old industrial era of necessarily cloned objects, music, architectures, communications the one-of-a-kind object becomes an essential answer to emergent contemporary aesthetical needs..

Generative Art Uniqueness

Generative Art is an essential answer to the long-neglected human need to live a world in which each artificial object mirrors the uniqueness and unrepeatability of every person. In an epoch marked by repeated attempts at the cloning of natural beings, design returns in advanced technological fields such as non-linear dynamic systems to the notions of artificial life and artificial intelligence, the aesthetic and ethical pleasure of rediscovering the processes and characters of nature.

Why Generative Art

With Generative Art the artworks are strongly recognizable as a vision belonging to an author: artist / designer / musician / architect / mathematician.

Generative Art and Design innovation

The Generative Approach opens a new era in Art, Design, and Composition: the challenge of a new naturalness of the artificial event as a mirror of Nature. Generative Design create the artificial species where each individuals, like in Nature, are unique and unrepeatable.

Generative Art Variations

Generative Art results are set of variations. Variations, like in Bach music, are the best strong communication of the Idea. Once more man emulates Nature, as in the act of making art.

Generative Art: Species versus Events

Managing the multiple parallel lives of each projects. The concept of variation as the only possibility to communicate an idea. Following the natural concept of species. Going to the Design of Species

Generative Art & Science

Generative Art and Design opens new fields and enhance our understanding of creativity as an indissoluble synthesis between art and science.

Generative AI Singularity

Generative approach, generating endless different events following own subjective point of view fits the new trend of Artificial Intelligence, the singularity. It opens the possibility to control new fields of complexity as subjectivity can do.

Generative Art process

Generative Process organizes reasonable sequences able to structure a poetic logicThis order, following the “Lucidus ordon and callida iunctur” by Orazio in “Ars Poetica” is similar to the natural configuration of a genetic code, varium at idem.

Generative Art Methodology

GA methodology is defined by a poetic generative language for designing visionary scenarios.

Generative Art Philosophy - Logic and Ordo

The GA philosophy walks on Logic, performed on the ability of transforming the reality into its possible recognizable creative evolution.

Generative Art as Art of process

Generative Art is the Art of process and not only of result. GA works using the rules of the alive world, as a mirror of Nature. In line with the motto by Jean Vignot, 1392, Ars sine scientia nihil est, the process is performed as a chaotic not linear system, in order of a methodological procedure structured following T. S. Kuhn, Ilya Prigogine and R.Thom.

The word “generative”

For the first time the word generative was used by Bauhaus, defining very well their organic vision. The cultural power of that time recalled it degenerative. The same happened when we start in 1990 calling our creative approach generative! GA marks the passage of the last 30 years from homo faber to homo creator. Overcoming the artefacts characters of the last century, industrial, serial, component, standardized, quantified, optimised, anonymous, obsolete etc, synonymous of generative are unique, digital, organic, complex, meta-poetical, recognizable, endless, experimental, morphogenetic, variable, mirroring, imaginary etc.

Precedents of Generative Art

Precedents of GA are Michelangelo, Leonardo, Piero della Francesca, Pacioli, Mantegna, Borromini, Piranesi, Gaudì, Caldano, Mozart , Schubert, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Rembrandt, Bruguel, Swift, Bach, Goethe, Leopardi, Flaubert, Florenskij, Van Gogh. Melville, Baudelaire, Poe, Seurat , Cézanne., Matisse, I Futuristi, Picasso, Klee, Kandinskij, Eisenstein, Pollock, Mondrian, Pound, Auden, Bacon, Borges, etc. The list is long and open. Here it will be investigate: the codes of Harmony; the proportions; industrial era and Le Modulor; Generativism, starting from the Chomsky structure; Bacon; "Il non finito"; the tale by Enrica Colabella "The child, father of man"; the GA structure. Dedication and wish.

Generative Art Imagination

For activating an actual process of imagination we need two basic things: 1.Poetic dimension 2. Complex reading of reality. So, the Generative Design Lab, founded by Celestino Soddu and Enrica Colabella in 1992 defined a generative methodology for gaining complexity. Complexity, a poetical vision of the complex reality, becomes a new area of investigation, performed on several multidisciplinary sectors of science, mathematics, physics, A.I., chemistry, cognitive sciences, etc.

Generative Art. Figurative and abstract expression.

Generative Art Vision

A Vision identifies how to transform the existent, the past into the future. It can be born, like in Renaissance, only from a deep knowledge of human cultural heritage in Art and Science. This knowledge allows us in setting up the rules for shaping the future. Leonardo da Vinci teaches at the best this need to define a code before defining a result, a solution. Generative Art refers to this cultural heritage.

Generative Art and Design methodology

Metodology: the creative path is a not-linear sequence of moments of discovery. It is based on a starting moment, not very important for the final recognizability of the own poetic result but important for the individual identity among variations. The discovering path is the flow of subsequent answers to upcoming needs coming from the artist’s Vision. Each answer is shaped with the use of transformation rules, strongly linked to the Vision, applied to the precedents.

The starting point of generative process of transformation.

The starting point of transformations is the topological paradigm drawn as catalyst, where the set of transformation rules, the artificial DNA, performing Alive Codeness, will operate. The creative process of Generative Art starts from an idea still not expressed in events. We can identify this "starting idea" as a structure in disequilibrium. It is an idea of "species" defined only focusing some characters


Complexity is the main character of generative processes. It is the result of stratifications, contaminations and iterations that happened during the discovering path.

Identity and recognizability

Identity and recognizability must be the main characters of generative artworks. There is a strong relationship between a well-identified Vision and the necessary generation of Variations. Identity is defined in the type of path to increase complexity, in the character of the synthesis and in the recognizability of each different variation.

How a Vision can be transferred into a design rule

Following our interpretation of human cultural heritage in the fields of Art and Science, we can design some rules able to be applied for shaping the future. Leonardo da Vinci teaches at the best this need to define a code before defining a result, a solution. Generative Art refers to the cultural heritage of Italian Renaissance. It works with transformation rules, with codes, and not with the form of the result. Doing that, Generative approach can define a Vision, it can identify a Poetics

New, Beautiful and poetics

When people design an object often people search for something "new", for an unusual shape, looking for a new form in fashion-magazines or in unpredictable random events. This is not a generative approach. And this is neither a creative approach, it is only the typical approach of buyers. Generative approach, interpreting at the best the creativity, defines a new approach on how to transform forms. Every form is good as starting point of subsequent transformations but it cannot enter in the final result(s). I identify this starting form as "catalyst": it helps to run properly the transforming path, by using subjective transforming rules, but it cannot enter in the final result, as the catalyst in chemistry.

Generative Art is a Philosophy

If Generative Art is to design a creative process, to define its peculiarity, identity and recognizability, to set up the generative rules for getting (from 2D-3D-phisical and more) scenarios belonging to desired characters and to construct a software as dynamic not-linear system able to generate unpredictable but recognizable endless results. If so Generative Art is, in other words, to discover and design the own poetics: as a philosophy of a creative process.

Complexity and Quality

Complexity is the main character of generative processes. Generative Art shows its power only through complexity because Generative Artworks are processes of self and resonance iteration of logics and complexity is the result of a "long" and repeated not-linear process.

Generative approach and Cities Identity

With Generative approach we could support the increasing identity and uniqueness of each city, discovering its poetics, its peculiar vision that we can call its "ideal city". When we have identified this "ideal city", or, better, one of possible interpretation of it by defining a code, an artificial DNA, as its unique way to look at future, we could use this code for the incoming transformations and for managing its increasing complexity. Architects, by designing many different architectures identified by different recognizable visions of the same "ideal city", can give to each citizen the possibility to mirror themselves in the increasing complexity of their environment, in the multiplicity of possible interpretations of their city, of their cultural heritage represented by the city variations.

the Topological Idea

The IDEA performed as PARADIGM, following our references performed as CATALYST. The aim is to identify the organization of the incoming object, its ORGANIC structure

the Geometrical Idea performed using Dynamic Generative Geometries

The generative geometric logics works upon different logical interpretations of the same geometric entities. In the generative geometry, for instance, a cube is never the same geometric event, but it depends on the logic adopted for generating it. If the Geometry is defined as "part of the mathematics that studies the space and its figures" we could define the Generative Geometry as "part of the mathematics that studies the dynamics of the spatial transformations and the progression of its figurations."

the Codes of Transformation:

how each event will evolve following pre-defined subsequent Logics of Transformations (like, in Nature, the DNA codes) These are the codes of our DESIGN STYLE. They identify HOW we could end an object, HOW we could fold it, and so on, following the Design acts.

The main reference of Generaive Art and Design: ITALIAN RENAISSANCE, approaching ART & SCIENCE by using interpretative Logics for moving from PAST to FUTURE

Morphogenetic Meta-Project versus Project
Process versus Output
Idea versus Solution
Interpretation versus Analysis
Subjectivity versus Objectivity
Imitation versus Copy
Variations versus Optimisation
Identification versus Homologation
Recognisable versus Anonymous
Generation versus Cloning
Unpredictability versus Repetition
Random of requests versus Random of outputs
point of view versus data base
Teaching How versus Teaching What
Complex Synthesis versus Simplification
Transforming versus Forming
Layering versus Permutation
Philosophy versus Technology
Rules versus Forms
Organizing versus Choosing
Impervious versus Flat
Occasion versus Obstacle
Organic versus Minimalist
Interpretative Logics versus Deductive Logics
Interpretation versus Deconstruction/Reconstruction

Generative Design versus Form Finding

Generative Design involves the whole Design process
Generative Design is not only Parametric Design
Generative Design involves the Identity and “style” of the Architect, Artist, Musician and Designer
Generative Design performs the Design of Species
Generative Design constructs the Advanced Intelligent Production
from the Meta-Project of the Sixties to the Generative Design
The Executable Meta-Project
the Design of Recognizable Ideas before their possible multiple results (not solutions)

Dynamics of past-future

It can work re-reading the past artworks by identifying their harmonic structures. Better it could run by logically interpreting, through a peculiar creative subjectivity, the structures of harmonic transformations identifiable in the past masterpieces, by transcribing them in algorithms

FUTURING PAST is not a novelty

This act has always been effected by artists of all times. This ability of Art gave an essential contribution to communicate the progressive evolving from past in future. What could appear as static perfection of a masterpiece will be transformed in progressive harmony. Only quoting some of these "futuring past" actions, Picasso has done it, following Velasquez or Francis Bacon with Van Gogh. This is the main condition for tracing the innovation for the future.

Generative Art: d'apres Picasso 1997
Endless variation of woman portraits d'apres Picasso. Generative Art of Celestino Soddu, 1997

Generative Art community (in progress)

Over all the world now a lot of people are working using the Generative Art & Design approach. In architecture Celestino Soddu, John Frazer, Robert J. Krawczyk, Paul Coates, Manuel Baez, Renato Saleri Lunazzi, Nicolas Reeves, Chris Ceccato, Antony Viscardi, Bauke de Vries, Aant Van der Zee, in poetry Enrica Colabella, in mathematics Philip Van Loocke, Marie-Pascale Corcuff, Carla Farsi, Andrea Wollensak, Severi Virolainen, in art Harold Cohen, Celestino Soddu and Hans Dehlinger are following an abstract/figurative vision, with Alain Lioret, Bogdan Soban, Yoshiyuki Abe, KevinMcGuire, Umberto Roncoroni, Peter Beyls, Ferhan Kiziltepe. There is too the group of Evonet, Adrian Ward and his group eu-gene with the theoretical collaborations of Philip Galanter, the studies by Daniela Sirbu. In robotics Leonel Moura, Greg Hornby, Daniel Bisig and Tatsu Unemi, Thomas Fisher, in music John A. Biles, Gabriel Maldonado, Brigit Burke, Justine Marshall, John Eacott, Gordon Monro, Nicola Baroni, Jonatas Manzolli, Monika Karwaszewska, in performences Robert Spahr and Arne Eigenfeldt, Kathryn Ricketts in dance... The list is long and open. This is only a brief list dated few years ago, there are a lot of people that are working deeply and with enthusiasm in Generative Art. Look at over 1000 papers more artworks and performances in http://generativeart.com