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21st Century Doily: Algorithms Create Frilly Decorations, All by Themselves

Designer Lionel Theodore Dean invents algorithms that generate and produce decorative chair covers, on their own.

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holy ghost

You’ve probably seen Phiippe Starck’s Louis Ghost chair–it’s an icon of post-modern design, a modern plastic chair whose form mimics a classic Louis XV chair. But Lionel Theodore Dean, founder of FutureFactories, wasn’t content to leave it alone–instead, he asked himself, How could you decorate such an iconic piece, to give it a truly 21st century flare?

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His answer: Holy Ghost, a custom-made, frilly plastic sleeve that fits over the back of Starck’s original. But Dean didn’t design it, per se: Instead, the process began when he created a “generative algorithm” that designs the product on its own, using both random inputs and precise rules to create a one-off decorative pattern that looks like interlocking sand dollars or jellyfish. Over time, the shape builds itself around a 3-D model of the Louis Ghost chair; when the design is done–that is, when the program stops running–it’s automatically sent to a rapid-prototyping machine for manufacturing.

Dean will be presenting the project this week at SIGGRAPH.

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About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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