Design software goes Darwinian

A new software tool developed by US start-up Affinova blurs the line between market research and nitty-gritty product design.

The days of manufacturers dictating the way a product looks and feels are long gone, and today any design house worth its salt employs teams of psychologists and market researchers to find out exactly what the consumer wants.

A new software tool that blurs the line between market research and nitty-gritty product design could now take this consumer-driven approach one step further.

Developed by 2 year-old Massachusetts start-up Affinova, the software relies on an ‘interactive genetic algorithm’ that combines the feedback of a large number of people and translates it into new designs that more closely mirror the preferences of respondents.

Dubbed IDEA (Interactive Design by Evolutionary Algorithms), the software captures a massive range of product attributes and variations and presents it to participants who then sort through these design possibilities and zero in on their favourites.

Describing the software as a market research and design tool rolled into one, an Affinova spokesperson told us that not only does it allow ‘product designers to featurise all elements and combinations of their ideas’, but also ‘allows far greater latitude for customers to make their preferences known to product developers.’

One of the chief advantages of the software is the huge amount of time it can take out of the product development process. Rather than having to wait months to compare responses from focus groups and interviews, a company using IDEA can coordinate and analyse an enormous sample of responses almost instantaneously.

Currently being used by Crayola to develop a new range of marker pens, Affinova was established by Dr. Noubar Afeyan Noubar who recently played a critical role in the sequencing of the human genome at Celera Genomics.

The software supports Solidworks 3D and Pro E as well as 3D Studio Max, Maya, and Alias Studio Tools.

On the web