Rules for Making: Kinematic Design, Shape and Structure

Harrison, Laura (2021). Rules for Making: Kinematic Design, Shape and Structure. PhD thesis The Open University.



The thesis examines the role of making rules, within the creative exploration of kinematic design spaces. As a process of searching within a conceptual space, creative exploration can be described using rules. When applied to design, this model for creativity affords the application of computational techniques.

In shape grammars, shape rules for ‘seeing’ and ‘doing’ apply a descriptive approach to the visual recognition, composition and modification of pictorial representations. This formalism can provide generative specifications and reveal the synthetic reasoning underlying iterative trajectories of design development. Making rules extend this approach to the tactile-visual representations of physical models and prototypes. When instantiating design representations within the material world, actions to construct and alter descriptions are grounded in material algebras.

This thesis has a focus in Kinematics, where physical models provide a synthetic alternative to analytic techniques for modelling motions. In this context, making rules describe how to construct designs, make alterations, and manipulate models. Kinematic connections afford variable spatial relations between kinematic parts, and rules for physically manipulating models elicit their motions.

Single closed-loop kinematic chains with full cycle mobility provide case studies for experimenting with making rules in design exploration, using both physical models and abstract geometric descriptions. An existing design creates a point of entry, where rules then afford the exploration of a surrounding kinematic design space. Applying alterations and transformations to physical models can identify the boundaries within which kinematic properties are preserved.

The experimental cases inform theoretical development of exploratory making, with special reference to the variable spatial relations in kinematic designs and the integration of visual and tactile sensing. The main conclusion is that: as making rules construct models, rules are abstracted into schema by comparing properties of similar designs. The schema explain the results of exploration, initiating new explorations and new designs.

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