How Machine Learning Unleashes Human Creativity

LBM Hardy Frame Shearwalls

The robots aren’t taking over just yet. At least, not for designers. Wasim Muklashy for Redshift recently explored the evolving role of technology in design.



It’s true that automated processing can “kill” an industry, but in reality, it is far more likely to transform it instead. Some degree of automation has been influential in design for decade– CAD is an acronym for “computer aided design.”



One benefit is the added time. As Mike Mendelson of the Nvidia Deep Learning Institute says of automation, “through automation, we’re able to save time doing repetitive tasks, and we can reinvest that time in design.”


Not to mention, a partnership between humans and machines can play to human strengths. “We can still leverage the things that humans are really good at—the human intelligence, creativity—but then also leverage the machine intelligence,” says Jim Stoddart of design studio The Living.


Data-Based Design

Designers today use BIM and other technology to construct realistic, data-rich models. Virtual reality is poised to take that a step further, incorporating the perspectives of end users in the design process. Zane Hunzeker of Swinerton Builders describes a process his company has for enriching user experience: “…our software in VR [virtual reality] will track where you’re looking, and if you’ve stopping and looking at something for more than a half a second, it’ll put a little tick mark in that viewpoint.” This tool often effectively models real-life experience in a space. As Huzeker says, “You do this for 25 people in this office, and then all of a sudden you know where people want to look, where they want to be, and then you can feed that into learning.”


Machine Learning

With enough data, a robust machine learning system can be created. This goes way beyond fixing flaws in a plan or resolving conflicts—the designer of the future will optimize projects. As Stoddart puts it, future designers may ask themselves questions about more than basic functionality– instead it may be, “‘Is this exciting or not? Is it inviting? Is it beautiful?’”


While data does not replace human knowledge, it is a powerful tool and its capabilities to alter the way we think about design cannot be denied.


Virtual reality has revealed that we don’t know as much about how space is utilized as we might think. Says Stoddart: “[W]e have to address our hubris in understanding our ability to predict solutions to increasingly complex problems.”


In other words, machine learning may take human creativity to new heights.