Equity in Practice: Making Digital Tools & Training Accessible to All

Grasshopper Training

The digital revolution may be changing the architecture, engineering and construction industry, but professionals and students still struggle to develop and perfect the skills necessary to apply new digital design methods in practice. While this has been an issue impacting the profession for quite some time, leaders from within SmithGroup and INFORM Studio teamed up to address this concern, developing a webinar series of comprehensive, free, on-demand training videos to help others master these important skillsets in an easy-to-manage timeframe.  

Grasshopper, a visual scripting platform for Rhino, is fast-becoming one of the most popular platforms among designers looking to take parametric modeling, generative design and computational thinking to new heights. While it is a robust and impactful tool, design leaders within SmithGroup and INFORM Studio realized a common thread among many self-taught or early adopters – even those that were interested in the platform and sought out opportunities to undertake Grasshopper training often lacked the complete range of comprehensive skills necessary to effectively utilize the tool in real project scenarios.

This realization gave rise to an idea: the industry needed a tutorial series that could introduce users to the most practical yet advanced methods that Grasshopper has to offer while also helping them progress through the platform’s learning curve as quickly as possible. If packaged properly and made widely available at no charge to users, this program could successfully deliver a solid foundation that users could build upon through applied practice.

Believing that all parties – students, designers, firms, clients – benefit from a digitally literate workforce, teammates from SmithGroup and INFORM Studio decided to co-develop a Grasshopper webinar series and then release it to the industry for use.

Understanding that design professionals learn by doing, this Grasshopper webinar series walks users through the production of a realistic design example, gradually building up a critical understanding of the techniques and logic that underpin parametric design, supported by a healthy dose of tips and tricks.

The webinar series is split into five volumes:

  • Volume 0: Into to Grasshopper is for first-time users and can be skipped if one is already familiar with Grasshopper. It introduces users to the Grasshopper interface and the basics of visual scripting.

  • Volume 1: Designing with Lists begins the design example. While building a panelized façade that reacts to attractor curves users will learn the fundamentals of parametric design logic, Grasshopper lists, and the most useful Grasshopper functions.

  • Volume 2: Designing with Data Trees jumps into advanced territory with the introduction of data trees, the most confusing and powerful aspect of Grasshopper. While adding shading devices and frit to the façade generated in Volume 1, users will learn how data tree structures allow simple bits of code to embed complex nested logic into a design.

  • Volume 3: Designing with Metrics delivers a quick introduction to data through the example of an automated cost calculator. Users will learn how to clean, tidy and import data from Excel and then align it to the geometry developed in Volumes 1 and 2. This opens the door to designing with custom metrics.

  • Volume 4: Rhino.Inside.Revit makes newfound Grasshopper skills applicable to existing workflows by teaching users how to translate Grasshopper geometry into a Revit model using Rhino.Inside Revit (RiR).

Certainly, in some instances there is value in establishing a proprietary or competitive edge within an organization. But there is also value to creating and sharing a resource that helps to advance the design and engineering practice overall. We believe that organizations that embrace disruption together will be more successful than those who face it alone. And we believe that the decision to cooperatively develop a shared Grasshopper training resource brings a layer of equitable practice to the architecture, engineering and construction industry. Thanks to the partnership of SmithGroup and INFORM Studio, this series can be explored when and where individuals are interested in learning and allows users to proceed at a pace that aligns with their needs and abilities. And at the conclusion of the five-part program, users will understand the advanced parametric modeling techniques needed to apply Grasshopper on real projects.

Interested in learning more? Find the complete webinar tutorial series here on YouTube.