A look back at how Philippe Starck, Kartell and Autodesk Research created the first-ever production chair using generative design and unveiled it at Salone del Mobile 2019.
Remember 2019? To be honest, I barely do. But while I was looking back to pre-pandemic times, I found myself reminiscing over my trip to Milan for Milan Design Week 2019 and how energized the city center was with exhibitions, public installations, and trade shows. Though Salone del Mobile isn’t geographically the heart of design week (it’s a decently far train ride away), the tradeshow is the foundation of why many companies flock to the city for the week. Picture miles (yes, miles) of trade show booths packed with themed apartment-envy worthy displays, over-the-top furniture design, and a section for exciting student work.
But during 2019’s iteration of Salone del Mobile, I noticed a new thread subtly poking through in the thousands of designs I saw: technology emerged as a celebrated part of the furniture design process. Leading the pack was a chair displayed at Kartell‘s booth that stood out from the company’s usual design ethos. Its organic form didn’t look like anything I had ever seen before (cut me some slack, I didn’t work at Autodesk yet). It turns out that it was designed in collaboration with French designer Philippe Starck and Autodesk Research using generative design in Fusion 360. The chair, aptly named A.I, was the first production chair created by artificial intelligence (AI) in collaboration with humans.
Starck is known for his futuristic approach to design—from acrylic takes on traditional furniture to alien-like lemon squeezers to space hotels—so the idea that he would be the first furniture designer to collaborate with AI at this scale made sense. But then I remembered: at the time, Starck didn’t even own a computer and therefore didn’t typically work with furniture design software. Though CAD software like Fusion 360 is widely used by designers worldwide, this AI co-sign by such a revered designer signaled a step forward for human-machine design collaboration.
To bring the chair to life, Starck contributed the overall vision and provided parameters. Then, the generative design algorithm provided various options that would meet Kartell’s injection-molding manufacturing requirements. “Even if I twist my brain in all directions—if everyone twists their brain in all directions—if we are all geniuses, all great designers, we will always come out with pretty much the same thing because our DNA, our ‘background,’ our structure does not allow us to do it differently,” Starck explained in an interview with Redshift. “The A.I chair is the beginning of a great freedom—a great revolution—that human revolutions can no longer offer.”
I thought I’d share this project here (and some furniture design tutorials below) in case you’re in need of some design inspiration this weekend. Oh, and remember when I said A.I was made for production? It’s still available for purchase today—you can buy them in sets of two over on Kartell’s website.
Ready to take your own furniture design process to the next level? Here are 10 ways Fusion 360 can enhance your furniture design workflow. And if you’re in need of some tutorials, check out this extensive five-part series on furniture design in Fusion 360:
Oh, and if you haven’t already, download Fusion 360 today.