Nervous System

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Courtesy Nervous System

Nervous System
Sommerville, MA

Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg met while they were both students at MIT. Jessica graduated in 2005 with degrees in architecture and biology and then went on to get a masters degree in architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Jesse graduated with a degree in mathematics and then got a consulting job with Gehry Technologies, where be worked on modeling and design automation. In 2007, the pair got together and formed Nervous System, merging their interests in computation and design in a generative studio that uses algorithmic and physical tools to create innovative products—everything from kitchenware, to jewelry, to puzzles, and light fixtures.


While solidly rooted in the digital realm—the studio writes all of its own design software programs—Nervous System draws its creative inspiration from nature. “Typically we become interested in a natural processes of pattern foundation, such as leaf veins, coral aggregations, and geological formations,” said Louis-Rosenberg. “We research what people understand about that particular phenomenon and write an algorithm that simulates it. Then we manipulate the patterning through the software to create novel, unnatural patterns for design.”


Unlike many designers, Nervous System does not create a single form to be reproduced ad infinitum, but develops a process by which design patterns can be manipulated in endless variations. The studio uses JavaScript and Processing to build most of its software, much of which it makes available for free online in the form of downloadable apps. This open, democratic way of running a design studio allows customers to craft their own personalized products within the parameters of the pattern type. For example, with Cell Cycle people can shape, twist, and subdivide a mesh-like cellular formation into nearly any perforated object imaginable: lampshade, coaster, wastepaper basket. Another app, Dendrite, uses an algorithm called diffusion limited aggregation, which models the growth of dendrites—treelike crystals. The software simulates the random aggregation of particles found in these structures and provides users with a control panel that allows them to influence the final form, which can then be forged into a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry.


In addition to digital processes of design, Nervous System relies on digital processes of fabrication. The studio has a CNC router and laser cutter in house and contracts its 3D printed matter to Shapeways. It also works with a wide variety of materials, everything from plastics, acrylic, and nylon to silver, gold, and stainless steel. At ICFF this year, Jessica and Jesse will be showing off their new line of customizable CNC routed tables and giving a DesignX workshop on digital fabrication and 3D printing.

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