Footwear Design & Materials Research in the Era of AI: Two Case Studies, One Methodology.

Friday 28 October // 10:30 // Drawing Studio

In the last decade AI algorithms have become popular tools in several areas of software development, ranging through different fields applications. Particularly, AI-based image generators are finding practical implementations in the world of design, from graphics to products. These software can be divided in two categories: the first, rendering objects from an initial sketch, such as Vizcom AI; the second, such as Midjourney, are based on the activity of prompt engineering to realise images. These specific AI are able to generate accurate visualisations of what has been prompted, letting designers’ creativity overcome stereotypical and standardised visions in design projects towards more barrier-free concepts. Following functionalities of AI-based image generators, one methodology has become crucial in two different experimental explorations: beginning with a project’s brief and ending to a final output, both Vizcom AI and Midjourney have been central in developing numerous concepts within a reduced amount of time, increasing efficiency and efficacy during the entire design phases. The first approach has found suitable applications in footwear design processes. Departing from handmade sketches, Vizcom AI has transformed the pencil lines in 3D renderings, varying colour schemes, textures and small details of the overall shapes. Eventually, these three-dimensional renderings served as initial image inputs in Midjourney concept phase, where they merged with descriptive and technical prompts to create countless futuristic footwear concepts – far from our current reality. The second approach has been related to growing materials research and bio design speculation. Local secondary byproducts have been collected and photographed, in order to be utilised as initial image inputs for Midjourney. Here, prompts focusing on mycelium, bacteria and other microorganisms were helpful to generate portrayals of speculative future materials samples entangling waste to more-than-human beings. Finally, these hypothetical materials have been blended with Vizcom products’ renderings to generate prototypes of the next future.