As we enter full bore into the digital age, our quest for efficiency and technological capabilities has redefined the way we interact with the computers our work relies on.

Efficiency is the art of doing a lot of work in a small time, and ultimately the premise behind a Parametric Modeling strategy is to perform multiple, similar but unique tasks simultaneously.

Here is an example of a parametrically generated image:


Lets dissect it into 4 actions:

Drawing Elements.jpg

It is based on a grid, each grid point has a line attached to it, each line rotates towards a point, and finally each line is colored based on its rotation.

Now it is completely possible for someone to draw this manually, however they would have to calculate the color and rotation of each line one at a time. In order to direct a computer to calculate these values simultaneously it needs to be directed by a set of rules or parameters, hence the term Parametric Design.

For this example we will use Grasshopper, a Parametric Modeling program to describe to the computer the rules that define our drawing. The image below shows the Grasshopper interface. The Blocks are known as nodes, they are little chunks of computer code that perform functions. These Nodes are attached together with wires, this is how we build a computer program, connecting small functions to complete a larger task.



This definition is comprised of the arguments we defined earlier:

We will use a node that makes Point Grids, in order to work we need to tell it the spacing of our desired grid, and the number of points in each dimension, these numbers are fed to the Point Grid node with what are known as wires, the product is displayed in the Rhino Viewport.

Next we attach a line to each point with the Line SDL node. Feeding it the Points from our grid as well as a length parameter.

We need to rotate our lines toward a point so we wire up a rotation node, a point and a vector to calculate rotation. We right click on the point node to load a point in rhino and we are up and running.

Now we apply color nodes and display settings powered by our rotation data.

Here are the nodes, highlighted and associated with the functions they perform:

Definition Diagram.jpg

And there you have it, a parametric drawing, and because we used adjustable parameters to produce it, we can produce multitudes of interactions, of ever increasing complexity with minimal input. Here is a sampling of the range of drawings the definition we just made can produce:


This is a relatively simple task we have programmed but think about how this type of design logic could effect the way you do your job, what monotonous or repetitive tasks could you make more efficient by creating a parametric tool? We have a great opportunity to expand our capabilities as designers and builders using Parametric Modeling, leveraging  speed and technical ability to create designs and complete tasks thought impossible only a few years ago.

Stay tuned for my next post, where I will explain how the elements of this simple definition helped us set up parametric lighting in virtual reality.