Nervous System works as a generative design studio to create art that combines technology, science, and art. The studio is largely inspired by the natural world, but uses technology to realize their works. The design studio says:
“Our work at Nervous System combines scientific research, computer graphics, mathematics, and digital fabrication to explore a new paradigm of product design and manufacture.” Nervous Systems, (2016) Nervous System Projects.
In 2014, Nervous System worked on a project called Floraform, which was inspired by the plant growth such as blooming flowers and growing leaves. Using technology, the studio was able to simulate the growth of these plants and create a sort of digital garden. Within the digital garden, you can explore biomechanics and how plant biology systems work. The technology uses various growth rates, space, and time to create unique forms. Nervous System says,
“We consider this work a kind of digital gardening, except instead of growing plants we’re cultivating algorithms” Nervous System, (2014) Floraform.
When the studio is satisfied with the computer model of these forms, they will 3D print them into sculptures and jewelry. You can then purchase these products here. The items are sold at a range of prices, depending on the print material used. The design systems used to create these forms are generative because they have no fixed outcome. Therefore, every piece is unique.
Like plants, Nervous System uses differential growth to create unique beauty in the work, Floraform. Differential growth allows various pieces of the shape to grow at faster rate than others, rather than uniformly across the form. In the image below, you can see the process of a flower forms growth from the Floraform collection. It starts as a basic sphere, like a plant starts as a single cell. Then various parts of the cell grow more than others, resulting in a carnation appearance.
Floraform, also explores plant behaviors such as phototropism and thigmotropism. Phototropism is when a plant bends in the direction of its light source and thigmotropism is when vines wrap themselves around another plant form. Additionally, the studio wanted to recreate a flower called Cockscomb. Cockscomb is a mutation of Celosia that blooms densely and has tree-like blossoms. The figures they produce that have a ruffled shape are recreations of the Cockscomb or “brain flower.”
When looking through the form creations of Floraform, we can see there are different types of forms being created, point-based, line-based, and edge-based. The point-based forms start growing from a single point, which them splits over time. Line-based forms also start as a single cell, but they never split. Instead, the form keeps growing an expanding line. The last form is edge-based, which means that the form continues to grow from the edge. This is how the “brain flower” is formed. The edge-based forms are also some of the most popular and distinctive shapes in the collection.
Not only does Floraform create sculpture and jewelry works; they also have computer elements called digital gardening. Digital gardening allows the studio to control and manipulate the growth process of the forms to create the most beautiful shapes to later print. You can watch the process through videos found on Nervous Systems blog and website. These videos show time lapses of the forms being 3D modeled, and they highlight the growth points in different colors.
3D Printing Industry discusses Nervous System’s next steps for Floraform:
“Right now, they’ve mostly worked with edge-based growth, but they have a lot more to cover, including new para maters for controlling the direction, speed, and material properties of the growing object. They’re also looking into using to create 4D objects that change with time upon printing, such as their own Kinematics Dress. And, even more exciting, Nervous System wants to unleash their awesome tool onto the world with a cloud-based version of Floraform, currently being developed. Molitch-Hou Mon, Michael, (June 22, 2015) Get Ready to Create Stunning 3D Printed Art with Nervous System’s Nature-Inspired Software.
Overall, Floraform is a generative design project executed by combining science, technology, and art to create beautiful sculpture, wearable, and time-based art. These designs, which are derived from nature, represent a cultural significance in the digital art world because they represent the intersection of the oldest forms of beauty with the newest. Today there is fear and excitement about our increasingly digital society. While Floraform honors natural beauty by replicating it, there is something sterile about the final product. Unlike, the plants and flowers that are colorful, soft, and delicate, the final products in Floraform are crisp, rigid, and inflexible. The commonality between real plants and Floraform is generative beauty. This makes us question where our society is headed and how much more our natural world is being recreated or replaced by rigid, man made forms.
Field.io is another art creative studio that creates generative work and transforms the digital to the physical. Like Nervous System that creates 3D models and prints to create sculpture and jewelry, Field.io has created a work called 10,000 Digital Paintings, which takes generative designs and prints them to create 10,000 unique artworks to be used on paper brochures, for a client out of their London-based studio. Field.io, like Nervous System recognizes the infinite possibilities when you work with generative design. Both of these works find a synergy with generative coding and creativity to express a unique view of their concept. 10,000 Digital Paintings is a series of Print Test brochures that will be used for a branding campaign for a client of the firm Field.io. The idea behind the work is to create a something that builds upon itself, which can then relate back to their client. Similarly, Nervous Systems shows the idea of growth by coding examples of nature in Floraform.
NodeBox, developed by Frederik De Bleser and Tom De Smedt, is a programming code that creates various art representations of their generative art software. One piece, Superfolia, can be compared to Nervous Systems’ Floraform. Superfolia shows the evolution of a small ecosystem and how plant life can evolve. The generative piece starts off by creating the roots of the plant, which is almost weed-like. This is comparable to the early stages of the flower forms in Floraform because they are both at the beginning sprouting stages of growth. Later, Superfolia will continue to grow into an ecosystem full of plants for fly’s and animals to live in. The digital environment will become sustainable for life. Like Nervous System, NodeBox also uses technology and science to create their forms. The mathematics allows them to create complex plant and flower forms, similar to Nervous System in Floraform.
Floraform, Nervous Systems, June 22, 2015. http://n-e-r-v-o-u-s.com/blog/?p=6721