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What is generative design?

Generative design mimics nature’s evolutionary approach to design. Designers or engineers input design goals into generative design software, along with parameters such as materials, manufacturing methods, and cost constraints. Then, using cloud computing, the software explores all the possible permutations of a solution, quickly generating design alternatives. It tests and learns from each iteration what works and what doesn’t.

With generative design, there is no single solution; instead, there are potentially thousands of great solutions. You choose the design that best fits your needs.

Benefits of generative design

Explore a wider range of design options

In the time you can create one idea, a computer can generate thousands, along with the data to prove which designs perform best.

Make impossible designs possible

Generative design lets you create optimized complex shapes and internal lattices. Some of these forms are impossible to make with traditional manufacturing methods. Instead, they're built using new additive manufacturing methods.

Optimize for materials, manufacturing methods, and cost

Set goals and parameters, and the software will create high-performing design options based on those constraints. The software resolves conflicting design constraints so you can focus on innovating.

Types of generative design

Generative design is a broadly used term. Here are the four most common methods of generative design.

Form synthesis

With this approach, designers or engineers input their goals and constraints, and the software runs artificial intelligence-based algorithms to produce a wide range of design alternatives.

Lattice and surface optimization

This method applies internal lattices and optimized surface structures to an existing component to make it lighter and stronger.

Topology optimization

This approach reduces the weight of an existing component by running analysis to remove unnecessary material, while meeting or exceeding performance criteria.

Trabecular structures

This method precisely scales and distributes tiny pores through solid materials, and creates surface roughness to mimic bone in medical implants to help patients heal.

See how people are using generative design


Aircraft manufacturer trims the weight of its A320 plane, helping to reduce the carbon footprint of air travel. (video: 2:07 min.)

Hack Rod

Hot Rodders pioneer a new manufacturing revolution using generative design, virtual reality and 3D printing.

Under Armour

Sportswear company creates the first dual-purpose 3D-printed performance training shoe for athletes. (video: 31 sec.)

Airplane Parts

Autodesk research teams explore ways to optimize the design of airplane seat frames to reduce fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. (video 2:05 min.)

Generative design for architecture

Autodesk’s new Toronto office is the first example of a generatively designed office space. We started with high-level goals and constraints, and using the power of computation, generated thousands of design options. The concepts evolved to create a highly functional and novel space.

Learn more about generative design

All the things ever imagined, designed, and created—buildings, bridges, cars, and more—have one thing in common: They’re all dead.

Autodesk CTO Jeff Kowalski envisions a more positive outcome for humans and artificial intelligence. And it’s already unfolding.

Learn how your computer can become your partner in creative design exploration.

Autodesk solutions

Project Dreamcatcher

Project Dreamcatcher is a research platform for generative design.


Netfabb additive manufacturing software has tools that help streamline your additive workflow and quickly get from a 3D model to successfully printed parts.

Within Medical

Within Medical generative design software creates porous and rough surface lattices to aid bone integration of medical implants.

Autodesk Nastran

Autodesk Nastran software lets you analyze linear and nonlinear stress, dynamics, and heat transfer characteristics of structures and mechanical components to create high-performing products.


Dynamo enables designers to create visual logic to explore parametric conceptual designs and automate tasks.

Project Fractal

Project Fractal helps users explore design alternatives generated through scalable cloud computation.

Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is the first 3D CAD, CAM, and CAE tool of its kind. It connects your entire product development process in a single cloud-based platform that works on both Mac and PC.


Inventor 3D CAD software offers professional-grade 3D mechanical design, documentation, and product simulation tools.

Research and news

Team ROK’s Life-Saving Drone, X VEIN, Takes Flight With Generative Design

Generative design software was essential in developing X-VEIN, a strong-yet-lightweight drone built for disaster conditions and search-and-rescue missions.

Airbus Generates Bionic Design for Flights of the Future

Using generative design software and 3D printing, Airbus created an airplane partition—which separates the crew from the passengers—that is 45 percent lighter than conventional partitions, resulting in huge savings in fuel and carbon footprint.

5 Industry-Changing Design and Technology Predictions for 2017 and Beyond

Find out how crowdsourced data and generative design will create happier workplaces.