What is Generative Art?

Creativity + algorithms = artwork.

All of the artwork above was created, in part, by a computer algorithm.

‘Generative art’ is a term for graphic designs that are created with the use of an autonomous system. Using programs such as Cinema 4D, artists use algorithms and equations to create artwork that’s unique and slightly futuristic in style.

Generative design is used in various areas of design, such as art, architecture, communications, industrial design, animation, and music. The phrase generative music was coined in 1995 by musician and composer Brian Eno.

Feature image (left to right): Spiral wave backgroundsExplosion of Colorful Dust Backgrounds, and Abstract Generative Backgrounds

How it’s done: a look at the creative process

These neon field flow backgrounds are an example of generative art, created by Envato Elements contributor themefire. “I had to use a lot of parameters to get the desired result,” he says. “The software takes on a very important role on the end result of the product, using a set of rules or algorithms. The designer only directs the software by changing the parameters. Therefore, in the modern world, the designer needs to be a little bit programmer, mathematician or physicist.”

Neon Field Flow Backgrounds, Cinema 4D algorithm:

Neon Field Flow Backgrounds, finished design:

“A simple at first glance background, is created using complex algorithms that determine the position or source of particles, their vector direction, and so on. I was just Harry Potter with a magic wand, everything else has been done by the software.”

This process is beneficial for designers, and can sometimes be unpredictable. For themefire, it’s an art style that’s enabled him to make his creative designs come to life, and he says he often feels like a ‘DJ-designer’.

Using generative art techniques, artwork can be created from photos and other designs:

Before and After of Marmoreal Painted Canvas Backgrounds by themefire.

Sometimes, a similar design style can be created through generative art in a fraction of the time. For  example, themefire’s Polygonal Background Set, created in Adobe Illustrator, took about two days to create.

By contrast, these yellow polygon backgrounds were created in Cinema 4D in less than 15 minutes:

If you’re interested, you can watch the process of creating these designs in this  7-minute video.

Overall, themefire says that Generative Art isn’t as new as it seems, and it has improved each year. “Thanks to the basic knowledge of mathematics and physics, I can create realistic backgrounds for other people,” he says. “I’m just using parameters, settings and algorithms. It’s cool, when the imagination of a designer can be realized by smart software.”

Check out more graphic design trends:

Brittany Jezouit

About the Author Brittany Jezouit

Brittany is a Contributor to the Envato blog. She helped launch the publication and was its founding Editor. You can follow her on Twitter @brittanyjezouit.