Computational by Design (2019) is a book by Viktor Malakuczi, designer, PhD and researcher (RTDa) at Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. For any information don’t hesitate to contact

[ abstract ] The contemporary material culture—everyday objects surrounding us—is dominated by mass manufactured products, but Digital Fabrication together with Computational Design (also called generative or parametric design) promises a shift towards substantially personalizable products, in a relatively cost-effective way. Considering this shift an opportunity for designers, the book argues that in order to consolidate the practice of developing personalizable products, designers need to change their focus from convergent to divergent user needs and desires, leaving room for the creative contributions of the users in the design of their objects, thus converting them from simple users to (computational) co-designers. Albeit such “on-demand” products are still rare in the everyday environment, there are numerous appreciable examples, which led to the recognition of six recurring personalization principles—or user motivations—of both mechanical and cognitive nature. Based on these, the book proposes a design approach the systematic replicating the observed principles on any product typology, with the support of a new design tool: a canvas that guides the designer’s thinking towards product concepts to which personalization is essential. The proposed tool might help designers to spread personalisable design across many product categories, thus creating new business opportunities coherently with the recent development of the Industry 4.0 paradigm. On the long term, this might promote a more active role of the user in shaping the material culture, both through improving functionality and through new ways of creating meaning.

The book was published by the Common Ground Research Networks, and it is available both physical and digital format here. Hard copies are available also on, Amazon UK, Germany, Italy, etc.


The book starts from the assumption that the flexibility of digital manufacturing could and should be used to match what people need, as closely as possible.
Designing an unforeseeable multitude of products requires a different approach compared to designing serial products.
User divergence shouldn’t be circumvented, but considered as a resource for creating deeply personal artefacts.


Case studies highlight six recurring reasons which typically motivate a personalisable product. These can be organized in two groups:
- Mechanical Variabilities:
     for physiological, ambiental or functional aspects
- Cognitive Variabilities:
     for aesthetic, cultural or narrative aspects.
Most cases allowed configuring different parameters that may influence user perceptions from different aspects.


The system of 6 dominant values helped to develop a new concept design method, facilitated by a new tool: Computational Concept Canvas
Inspired by many similar formats, this Canvas guides the initial design process through 3 main modules:
- module A to understand the product typology;
- module B to decide the personalization principle;
- and module C to describe the concept in detail.
Each field offers a stimulating question to bring the process forward.
[ schema ]



The evolution of software tools is helping to overcome some technological challenges, for which personalizable product design was far too complex for most enterprises until recently. CAD tools determine not only the possible shapes, but also the possible user experiences. These tools range from simple solid parametric modelling to visual programming and to textual programming for web. The higher level of abstraction imply the higher difficulty of implementation but also better possibilities of distribution thus influencing also concept design.

Level 1: solid parametric CAD
he most approachable tool, which allows some moderate personalisation, but requires an expert’s service.

Level 2: visual programming
Tools such as Grasshopper enable more advanced geometries through a higher level of abstraction.

Level 3: web programming
Working directly with code can allow computationally efficient, real time configurators for the widest possible audience.



Several workshops have shown that Computational Concept Canvas can help to design products according to all of the identified personalisation principles. The experience suggests that, with some effort, even unexpected product categories can be extended and made personalisable.

The proposed tool is open for feedback and I am glad to provide guidance or to organise workshops. For further information or inquiries don’t hesitate to contact


In order to maximize the utility of the proposed tool in a variety of contexts, several versions are provided in different dimensions, for individual or group use, with or without post-it notes, allowing both continuous development (post-its on big canvas) or rapid iteration (direct writing on small canvas). The following formats are offered:
Large canvas: canvas for working in groups, using standard post-its (3x3” or 76x76 mm). Canvas dimensions: 1500x630 mm, foldable to A4 format for portability. Download
Small canvas: canvas for individual work or small groups, using small post-its (2x1.5” or 52x39 mm). Canvas dimensions: 1000x360 mm, foldable to 200x360mm. Download
Compact sheet: mini-size canvas for individual work, for direct writing on the sheet. Dimensions: printable both A4 or A3, for cheap printing to stimulate iterations. For convenient writing in the restricted space, the small sheet contains a vertical (rotated) version of the canvas with simplified graphics. Download
Triple sheet: mini-size canvas for individual work, cut in three pieces for convenient handling. Dimensions: printable on A4 or A3 sheets (3x), suitable also for A3 sheets. Offers slightly more space than the compact sheet and instructions for all fields are included on the first sheet. Download
Regardless the format, all versions of the canvas share the same fields, which are identified with the same icons and letter-number combination (e.g. C5).
Download User guide | A5 booklet (for printing on folded A4)
Download User guide | A4 horizontal (for screen view)
Download Full Toolkit | ZIP



The book Computational by Design and the Computational Concept Canvas tool were derived from the doctoral research of Viktor Malakuczi, under the supervision of Prof. Loredana Di Lucchio at Sapienza University of Rome, PDTA Department. The research aimed to provide better design methods and tools for the development of personalisable products, building on two increasingly widespread technological possibilities: Digital Fabrication and Computational (or Parametric, Generative) Design. Within the University, the tool was experimented mainly through the university course “Design Post Serie”, which aimed to prepare design students to the contemporary cultural and productive environment, characterized by a strongly segmented market, saturated with a wide offer of alternative products. In order to promote competitivity in such environment, the course was focused on personalisable products, and in order enable designing them, the aim was to provide both conceptual and technical skills. Beyond the didactic objectives, the course demonstrated that digital manufacturing and parametric design are applicable to a wide variety of products. The course was held at Sapienza Università di Roma, BSc in Industrial Design, 3rd year, Atelier di Product Design, A.A. 2017-18. The course was led by Loredana Di Lucchio (Associate Professor), Viktor Malakuczi (PhD), Alex Coppola and Ainee Alamo Avila.