Skip to main content
Intended for healthcare professionals
Restricted access
Research article
First published online March 13, 2022

Navigating Design Spaces: Finding Designs, Design Collections, and Design Subspaces


Generative design systems can generate a wide panoply of solutions, from which designers search for those that best suit their interests. However, without guidance, this search can be highly inefficient, and many interesting solutions may remain unexplored. This problem is mitigated with automated exploration methods. Still, the ones typically provided by generative design tools are mostly based on black-box methods that drastically reduce the role of the designer, while more straightforward white-box mechanisms are dispersedly found in specific applications. This paper proposes the Navigator tool, which gathers a set of white-box mechanisms that automate the generation of default, random, similar and hybrid designs and design subspaces, while also supporting the generation of design collections. The proposed mechanisms were tested with two generative systems that create, respectively, tower and chair designs. We expect that, by providing understandable mechanisms for navigating design spaces, designers can become more engaged in the search process.

Get full access to this article

View all access and purchase options for this article.


1. Sheikholeslami M. Design space exploration. In: Elements of Parametric design. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2010, pp. 275–287.
2. Matejka J, Glueck M, Bradner E, et al. Dream lens: exploration and visualization of large-scale generative design dataset. In: Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference. 2018, Palais des Congrès de Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada, 21–26 April 2018.
3. Woodbury R, Burrow A. Whither design space? Artif Intelligence Eng Des Anal Manufacturing 2006; 20: 63–82.
4. Erhan H, Wang IY, Shireen N. Harnessing design space: a similarity-based exploration method for generative design. Int J Architectural Comput 2015; 12: 217–236.
5. Mohiuddin A, Woodbury R. Interactive visualization for design dialog. In: Design Computing and Cognition ’20. 2021, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA, 14–16 December 2020.
6. Castro e Costa E, Jorge J, Knochel AD, et al. Enabling parametric design space exploration by non-designers. Artif Intelligence Eng Des Anal Manufacturing 2020; 34: 160–175.
7. Autodesk. Autodesk project refinery, (2016, accessed 10 February 2021).
8. Lawson B. How Designers Think: The Design Process Demystified. 4th ed. Oxford, Burlington, MA: Elsevier/Architectural Press, 2005.
9. Bidgoli A, Veloso P. Deepcloud: the application of a data-driven, generative model in design. In: ACADIA 2018: Recalibration. On imprecision and infidelity, Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City, Mexico, 18–20 October 2018.
10. RomanFour chairsall M.and the others – eigenchair: data driven design. In: Computation and Performance – Proceedings of the 31st eCAADe Conference, Faculty of Architecture, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands, 18-20 September 2013.
11. Stiny G, Mitchell WJ. The grammar of paradise: on the generation of Mughul gardens. Environ Plann B 1980; 7: 209–226.
12. Pugliese M, Cagan J. Capturing a rebel: modeling the Harley-Davidson brand through a motorcycle shape grammar. Res Eng Des 2002; 13: 139–156.
13. Chase S, Ahmad S. Grammar transformations: using composite grammars to understand hybridity in design, with an example from Medieval Islamic courtyard buildings. In: Learning from the Past a Foundation for the Future (Special publication of papers presented at the CAAD futures 2005 conference), Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria, 20–22 June 2005.
14. Orsborn S, Cagan J, Pawlicki R, et al. Creating cross-over vehicles: defining and combining vehicle classes using shape grammars. Artif Intelligence Eng Des Anal Manufacturing 2006; 20: 217–246.
15. Garcia S, Romão L. Style and Type in a Generic Shape Grammar: The Case of Multipurpose Chairs. In: Complexity & Simplicity: Proceedings of the 34th eCAADe Conference, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland. 24–26 August 2016.
16. Pereira I, Leitão A. More is more: the no free lunch theorem in architecture. In: Imaginable Futures: Design Thinking, and the Scientific Method: Proceedings of the 54th International Conference of the Architectural Science Association (ANZAScA), Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand, 26–27 November 2020.
17. Leitão A, Castelo-Branco R, Santos G. Game of renders: the use of game engines for architectural visualization. In: Proceedings of the 24th CAADRIA Conference, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand, 15–18 April 2019.
18. Garcia S, Menezes Leitão A. Shape Grammars as Design Tools: An Implementation of a Multipurpose Chair Grammar. Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design. Analysis and Manufacturing 2018; 32: 240–255.

Cite article

Cite article

Cite article


Download to reference manager

If you have citation software installed, you can download article citation data to the citation manager of your choice

Share options


Share this article

Share with email

Share access to this article

Sharing links are not relevant where the article is open access and not available if you do not have a subscription.

For more information view the Sage Journals article sharing page.

Information, rights and permissions


Published In

Article first published online: March 13, 2022
Issue published: June 2022


  1. Generative design
  2. design space exploration
  3. randomness
  4. hybridity
  5. similarity

Rights and permissions

© The Author(s) 2022.
Request permissions for this article.


Published online: March 13, 2022
Issue published: June 2022



António Leitão
INESC-ID, Lisboa, Portugal
Universidade de Lisboa Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisboa, Portugal


Sara Garcia, INESC-ID, Rua Alves Redol, 9, Lisboa, 1000-029, Portugal. Email: [email protected]

Metrics and citations


Journals metrics

This article was published in International Journal of Architectural Computing.


Article usage*

Total views and downloads: 214

*Article usage tracking started in December 2016

Articles citing this one

Web of Science: 1 view articles Opens in new tab

Crossref: 0

There are no citing articles to show.

Figures and tables

Figures & Media


View Options

Get access

Access options

If you have access to journal content via a personal subscription, university, library, employer or society, select from the options below:

Alternatively, view purchase options below:

Purchase 24 hour online access to view and download content.

Access journal content via a DeepDyve subscription or find out more about this option.

View options


View PDF/ePub

Full Text

View Full Text