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AI, Design, and the Future of Creativity


Space10 KV

Words Design HotelsDate 12 February 2024

Curiosity for machine creativity is part of the new technological paradigm shift, with AI being used in inventive ways in the design world and beyond.

Leading studios are pushing its efficiency and productivity as a commerce tool, and are opening up new realms of expression and innovation. One such example: In mid-2023, former Copenhagen research lab Space10 used AI to design a flat-pack sofa weighing only 22lbs. The modular sofa, called “Couch in an Envelope”, was conceived in collaboration with Swiss designers Panter&Tourron and fits inside a large envelope. According to SPACE10, the project began by testing prompts and eventually reached a pivotal point with the words “conversation pit”.

As part of the Design Hotels 2024 Further Forecast, we interviewed Georgina McDonald, former Creative & Partnerships lead at Space10, and Stefano Panterotto, cofounder of Panter & Tourron, about the the couch in question and the role of AI in design—read an excerpt below.

What prompted the collaboration between Panter & Tourron and SPACE10, and what did you both set out to prove?

Stefano: It was motivated by a shared aspiration to challenge conventional design norms, focusing on the impracticality and environmental impact of traditional couch designs. We aimed to prove that through innovative thinking and the use of AI, it was possible to create a couch that is not only functional and comfortable but also sustainable, lightweight, and adaptable to modern living needs.

How essential was leveraging AI in achieving your “Couch in an Envelope” project?

Georgina: It was used as a collaborative tool; an always-on creative partner to assist with concept development. It wasn’t essential but the inclusion of it within the process opened up new opportunities and flaws within the algorithm when it comes to design.

Stefano: By experimenting with alternative prompts and descriptions like 'platform,' 'lightweight,' 'sustainable,' and 'recyclable,' we were able to use AI to generate a series of forward-thinking couch designs. As Georgina mentioned while AI played a significant role, the collaborative approach emphasized that human intervention and craftsmanship is crucial to push the boundaries of design beyond what AI can achieve alone.

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The “Couch in an Envelope” prototype weighs less than 10 kilograms and folds up into a vacuum-sealed, hand-held pouch. Photo by SPACE10

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“The collaborative approach emphasized that human intervention and craftsmanship is crucial to push the boundaries of design beyond what AI can achieve alone.”

Stefano Panterotto

How did the team regard generative AI in this process?

Georgina: At SPACE10, we always believed in an open and collaborative approach to innovation and testing, and hacking new tools is no different. You must experiment, explore, and persevere in order to have an opinion.

What does the human versus machine relationship look like in this new design process?

Georgina: When it comes to the human and machine relationship, I don’t believe this should be equal; I believe the human should always have the final say, be the one driving. This could be seen as a very naïve point of view, to consider this even as a possibility with the speed at which this is evolving, but it’s certainly a relationship or “state of affairs”—who’s leading who? That needs to be addressed from an ethical standpoint. Do we want to assist the machine, or would we rather the machine assist us? Depending on the industry the answer to this will most likely vary greatly.

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SPACE10, Everyday Experiments, Extreme Measures, In collaboration with FIELD, Visual by FIELD

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Navigating AI: Creativity and Design IKEA’s SPACE10

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SPACE10, The Urban Village Project, In collaboration with EFFEKT Architects, Photo by Hampus Berndtson

Where do you see the future taking these types of projects?

Stefano: We consider AI as a versatile tool rather than a stand alone project in our design process. Currently, AI is seamlessly integrated into our daily workflow, refining texts, exploring early imagery, and gathering preliminary information. Our focus remains on leveraging AI as a dynamic tool, complementing human creativity, and pushing the boundaries of design innovation.

Georgina: We had many different views at SPACE10 on the future of AI, so there isn’t one answer on this. I can say that whatever we did contributed to our mission—to create a better everyday life for people and the planet. How we use or promote the collaboration of AI technologies should be in ways that uphold healthier and more sustainable ways of designing and ultimately living.

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The former Space10 headquarters in Copenhagen. Image courtesy Space10

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