Learning computational design


Hi all!

How to learn computational design methods? I have been exploring Grasshopper on my own and can do some stuff there, but the problem for me is not the tools, but rather the methods and their underlying logic.

What would be the best way to learn about algorithmic design? Given, there's a lot of materials available on-line as well as books, but I get lost in the abundance:) What would be the good starting point?

Anything would do for me: videos, blogs, books, whatever.

Dec 26, 16 12:50 pm

Probably the best method is to think of a project and then come up with how to do it via testing and googling the problems as you get to them.  You can also go through videos mimicking their work and then riff off of that - creating your own iterations.  As you grow and develop, you can revisit earlier projects and see if you can streamline the process or add features.  There is no magical solution that will take you from 0 to pro.    

Dec 26, 16 9:03 pm

The best way depends on the person, but for me the best way to learn computational design was as SpatialSojourner described. So rather than finding the ultimate grasshopper resource, for me it was about trying to find particular solutions for my own design problems/challenges. Sometimes you get there by yourself after tinkering for a bit and understanding the underlying logic of the software and how it was designed. If you're stuck at a specific point you can go on-line and see how people solved similar issues or just ask how people would approach your particular challenge, and interpret/customize it from there. There are so many different ways to approach the same issue and everybody will obviously have a preferred work flow. 

Dec 27, 16 7:10 am

All good points above but the fact remains that computational design is a daunting subject in itself. You need to come to terms that you may not actually be able to find solutions in the web and thus will be forced to alter your original design objective to something you might be able achieve instead. Probably also explains why highly proficient comp. designers are so highly sought after.

Dec 27, 16 7:51 am

Thank you for the great advice!

I will try to learn in practice, but maybe there is a good source to get started? I have been working with Grasshopper for ~ a year, but all my experiments with it seem to be a child's play.

But maybe I should just try being more patient=)

Dec 27, 16 4:21 pm

It really is a broad field but tips I would suggest are:

- do case studies. a lot of built work that involve computational methods have very precise rules underlying them - in the case of sculptural geometric work (zaha, preston cohen) it's all about aligning geometries. Or for shell-like structures there is often some iterative physics solving at play.

- learn real programming. python is probably fine to begin with.

Jan 4, 17 12:20 pm
Lynda and Think Parametric are great paid tutors. Lynda is great at teaching fundamentals and TP is great at case studies which include: Zaha's Heydar Aliyev in Azerbaijan and the Centre Pompidou-Metz by Shigeru Ban.
Jan 4, 17 4:32 pm

Nick Senske has been by far my favorite!  

If you live in a major city or go to university, Lynda could be free - worth checking out but IMO, their gh section is quite lacking.  Think Parametic has some nice ones but IMO Nick is the place to go for gh.  

Jose Sanchez is pretty good too with gh, processing, and beyond.

For python, I would recommend starting off with a computer science course to get the logic down.  MIT has a good one.  Codacademy had a nice interface and felt smooth but after getting done with it, I was left being like, well I don't really know what I actually learned.  

Shout out to Shiffman for general programming with p5 or processing.


PS, there is a lot of things that you could be learning.  IMO, pick a focus and get good at it.  It can be the foundation for future expansion, they are all built on the same principles. 

Jan 4, 17 8:11 pm

I strongly recommend you learn algorithmics, as much as you can. This way,  you will develop some of the mindset and approach required for good computational design.

It's not an easy learning, but you will reap tremendous benefits in the long term.

A good starting book is The Algorithm Design Manual by Steven S Skiena.

Jan 6, 17 11:51 am

I took programming classes and started parametric design where we had to write everything in C# - also take classes in programming design where you learn software process

Jan 6, 17 12:47 pm


Can you find and attend a course like this one at The Bartlett? I hear MIT has a similar one at your end (assuming you are US-based).

Jan 6, 17 1:32 pm

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