If you look at old media publications from several decades back, there is no doubt that the world looked vastly different to what it looks like today. One of the key factors in determining how the objects and world around us looks is design.

Whether it is cars, buildings, or objects we use on a day-to-day basis, the world has not only improve from a functional perspective but also from an aesthetics point of view.

Simon Bromfield, Territory Manager at Autodesk Africa.

One company that has played a role in how the world around us looks like, is Autodesk. They are the makers of the popular design software, AutoCAD, and recently, in 2018, celebrated 35 years of being in business. During this time, the company has helped designers, architects, engineers, visual artists, students and makers to create everything from buildings and bridges to cars and other physical products to movies and video games.

To understand a little more on how they have grown as a company, how the field of design is evolving, and their plans for the continent, I caught up with Simon Bromfield, Territory Manager at Autodesk Africa.

In my Q&A with Simon he also looks into the future of design and how technology like theirs is assisting designers.

iAfrikan: Autodesk has been around for years and best known for its CAD software, what are some of the design trends you've observed over these years?

Simon Bromfield, Autodesk Africa: At Autodesk, we make tools to help people with design challenges every day, we pride ourselves in being able to help our customers design and make anything, from skyscrapers and smart cars to bridges and blockbusters.

With our software we are also able to help customers automate how things are designed in the digital world and reproduced in the real world. Some of the best design trends we have noticed are - Design collaboration, Automation of repetitive tasks, integration of Machine Learning, Visualisation, Green Building, Building information Modelling(BIM), Smart Building, integration of IOT into the design process.

What are some of the unusual ways Autodesk software has been used over the years?

Our customers come up with the most incredible uses of our products, we always find projects where they have created incredible end products using tools that were originally designed for doing something completely different.

A good example of this is architects using a manufacturing tool like Fusion to create organic shapes. Generative Design has also lead to some amazing projects in the manufacturing industry. For instance, this technology helped General Motors design a seat bracket that’s 40% lighter and 20% stronger than the original part. It also consolidated 8 parts into 1. Imagine what’s possible when this kind of technology is applied to whole vehicles and whole supply chains!

From a design perspective, would you say we've moved into an age of experimentation and quick iterations based on user feedback or does it depend on what you are designing?

The shift to technology backed by Cloud computing has unlocked the ability to no longer be limited by the hardware. We are seeing users compute 1000’s of design options using these parameters, allowing them to think outside of the box and design without the limitations. Leading to incredible breakthroughs in design and unlocking their process of ideation.

This is what we call ‘generative design’, i.e. designers or engineers input design goals into generative design software, along with parameters such as materials, manufacturing methods, and cost constraints. Unlike topology optimisation, 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.

What can we look forward to in the next 35 years of Autodesk?

So much! There are so many interesting developments in the pipeline. Automation is changing how we work but, more importantly, it’s also changing what we work on. What we make. Automation play a key role in making things better. Through human innovation and automation, we can shape the world around us.

We cannot wait to bring these and see our customers using them.

What are Autodesk's plans for Afrika?

Autodesk believes in Afrika. We have a plan to develop the ecosystem within selected countries to create a sustainable market for Autodesk products and services. Our strategy is to help Afrika build Afrika.

Too often we see projects being delivered by international companies, our goal is to upskill and work with the local customers to do these projects themselves and build a legacy of design in Afrika.


Cover image credit: Autodesk University 2018/Autodesk Africa