In 1952 Ernesto Nathan Rogers wrote that by carefully examining an object as simple as a spoon, we could understand the kind of city and society that produced it. Inspired by his words we worked together with algorithmic machines to create a spoon for our times - the Spawn collection. It's a spoon but it is not a spoon.
Spawns are a collection of eating accessories designed together with an artificial intelligence. The collection is born out of a constant dialogue between humans and machines, blending craftsmen's intuition with the limitless generative power of artificial intelligence — two seemingly distant worlds with no connections whatsoever, until now.
To create the Spawns, we had to teach our artificial companion how to generate new eating accessories. We handpicked images from the history of cutlery to create our own unique archive. The machine then started generating thousands of variations, from which we picked the most interesting ones, hinting at new unexpected aesthetics and functionalities.
Turning the output of the AI into something manufacturable required a new kind of process to bridge the gap from the multi-dimensional world of AI to traditional metal craftsmanship. We designed our own set of tools to turn a stream of simple images into beautiful three-dimensional forms, ready to be spawned into metal.
Instead of relying on the machines for 'digital manufacturing' of our AI generated designs we took the proposed geometries to skilled artisans to apply generations of experience to elevate the design beyond the pure visually derived 'results' of AI algorithms into a tactile, human experience. It then took us over a year to turn them into actual silver spoons, working tirelessly with Greggio Argenterie, one of the most important silverware factories in Italy, a landmark institution in the world of silver. The result is an impeccable set of products, hand-polished and soup-ready.
The Spawn collection is the result of a long research process at the intersection of Generative technologies and craftsmanship, to define our own perspective and custom process to create products in collaboration with AI, something that we call Artisanal Intelligence.
Artisanal Intelligence is a new design process that we are pioneering, involving a constant dialogue between human designers and a series of artificial intelligences, at different steps along the development line.
The decision to create tableware accessories as their first Artisanal Intelligence products can be traced back to an essay from Ernesto Nathan Rogers, titled: "From the spoon to the city". In his editorial for Domus Magazine in 1952, the Italian architect laid out a vision for a total architectural practice, one where the all-knowing designer could solve humanity's problems through design, starting from something as small as a spoon all the way to complex cities. Through the "Spawns" collection, we are envisioning a different reality where humans are not at the centre of the design process, but work together with other intelligences to solve complex challenges. A spoon for our times.
The fundamental innovation of the Spawn collection lies in the design process. Coined by the oio team as "Artisanal Intelligence", it involves the use of several machine learning algorithms combined with traditional craftsmanship and industrial manufacturing, from conception all the way to production. An open source machine learning algorithm called "StyleGAN" was trained on a bespoke dataset of spoon images, collected by the design team across available archives and in the real world.
The trained algorithm was then used to generate new spoon images, then selected based on their innovative form and potential functionalities. The selected images were then processed with the help of Jewellery designer Giosampietro in a second digital algorithm, used to obtain three-dimensional forms out of simple images. These 3D models were then used to interface with our manufacturing partner, a silverware factory, that were then able to produce the final items.
The result is a beautifully crafted series of three silver spoons, each of which presents unexpected aesthetics and possible functionalities. Even if the design process involves cutting-edge technology, the actual manufacturing was carried out through the ancient silversmith craft, forged by esteemed Italian silverware factory Greggio Argenterie. They are produced to one of the highest quality of silver specification, called: "The Grand Hotel Standard".
We decided to launch this product as a capsule collection of just 100 pieces, a limited run of the first product designed together with an artificial intelligence and actually made in real life.