Philipp Schmitt & Steffen Weiß

The Chair Project (Four Classics), 2019 – a case study examining collaboration between human and machine in the creative process

The Chair Project is a series of four chairs, designed with the aid of machine learning and hand-made by craftsmen. The project serves as case study for applying generative adversarial networks for creative collaboration between human and AI. We explain our development process and particularly take a look at the inspirational potential of GANs. We dissociated ourselves from existing thoughts of automation from the tech-industry, that aims to generate photo-realistic or fully functional results in order to replace human activities. The results of the project are not functional pieces of furniture, but discursive objects. The series enables a new perception of the “worldview” of artificial intelligence, combining the familiar (dimensions, materials) with the unknown (form and unusable nature for humans) in a physically manifested experience. By showing how AI can spark inspiration and offer the element of surprise, we aim to stimulate discussions about value, benefits, challenges and opportunities of machine learning within the design process.

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Philipp Schmitt (b. 1993, Würzburg) and Steffen Weiß (b. 1991, Gelnhausen) met at Hochschule für Gestaltung in Schwäbisch Gmünd, studying Interaction Design and Product Design respectively. Steffen continued with an MA in Strategic Design at HfG, and is working as a Service Designer. Philipp started working with machine learning during his MFA at Parsons School of Design, NY. Schmitt’s work has been presented worldwide in numerous exhibitions. The Chair Project was displayed at Vienna Biennale 2019 as part of the exhibition Uncanny Values at Museum für Angewandte Kunst.