What is it all about?
Inkbeagle is a plugin for Grasshopper3d that offers a tool for (structural) designers to gain insight in the behaviour and characteristics of multiple design alternatives. With the help of interactive data visualisations, comparing the different designs is eased.
This showreel shows the goal of inkbeagle: interactive exploration of parametric data. The video is based on the proof-of-concept toolbox to investigate this informed way of parametric design based on data.
Why are we developing it?
In today's design practice, parametric design is gaining importance. The design space can be explored and a myriad of design alternatives can be generated very quickly by changing parameters. It is important to understand the differences between the design alternatives that are generated.
However, no well-suited tools exist in our opinion to compare design alternatives qualitatively on their structural behaviour... It is important to fully explore the design space architecturally and structurally. For that reason we are investigating the application of data visualisation and the extensive use of the available structural data to quickly gain insight in the proposed structural solutions.
Are the existing tools not sufficient?
In the paper Web Based Data Visualisation Applied to Creative Decision Making in Parametric Design, it is correctly stated that the quantitative data output of structural analysis software is often shown in table format and that 'this fits into current workflows where often engineers manually copy large tabular information into Excel spreadsheets, which are developed individually by the engineer to generate new tables and further calculations to summarize and digest this information'. This paper has the opinion that this way of working is not appropriate at all for comparing various designs and to understand the influence of certain parameters on the structural behaviour.
Source: Matejka, J. and Fitzmaurice, G. (2019). Same Stats, Different Graphs.
In addition, the use of visual data representations is underrated. The recent publication Same Stats, Different Graphs shows the importance of visual representations in order to understand the relations in a data set. While all datasets have identical summary statistics, the datasets are totally different. In the case of structural data (internal forces, displacements...) these summary statistics will lead to false assumptions since they have rarely a clear center point and often form different clusters, exhibiting different structural behaviours.
Informed design facilitates an integrated design approach
This tool fits within the scope of the doctoral research by Lennert Loos at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. The global focus of this research is to investigate novel ways to understand and compare structural models and solutions while designing. The specific focus of the research is the use of interactive data visualisations and graphs as a tool for informed decision-making. It's philosophy is framed within the overall idea of integrated design. An integrated design approach searches for interdisciplinary design solutions in which all of these disciplines are working together as a whole, as a synergy. With this approach in mind, the search for the strict structural optimum is pointless since it is on the one hand not able to consider non-numeric design criteria, such as aesthetics, functionality and program. On the other hand the search for compromises with other disciplines is necessary and therefore the strict structural optimum is canceled.
Furthermore, the human design process is complex, highly non-linear and often includes design parameters that are non-numeric and hard to include in optimisation algorithms. Because of this, the search for new tools that allow for a guidance-based design process while being informed about the different design solutions is desirable, especially during the conceptual design phase. Inkbeagle is an ongoing project that attempts to peel off the current difficulties in understanding and comparing structural alternatives while designing.