Dynamo for design

Revit has developed itself over the past decade primarily as a documentation and coordination tool, rather than a design tool. This, due to the overwhelming number of non-designers who vote up exclusively documentation features like the ability to tag mullions, enhance text tool,s and stripes rows in schedules. This trend seems to have a massive effect as well on Dynamo which should have been a well-balanced tool for architects on the one hand and engineers on the other. But likewise, with Revit, the Dynamo team is knocking out a huge number of nodes related to documentation and coordination, while modellings tools are being neglected completely. This is understandable if no one uses it for design. And the very few packages that are design-related, are either discontinued or not updated. As a matter of fact, Autodesk encourages the use of Grasshopper for design work instead of its own proprietary Dynamo. But before I abandon the idea of having a tool that can design, automate and document, is there a Dynamo Ideas forum similar to Revit Ideas where users can request certain features of enhancements?

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Why not begin working on a design focused package yourself? That’s the beauty of an open source movement/package, the users drive its development to a large degree. Be the change you want to see in the industry.

Also try out Grasshopper/Rhino Inside as well. They can do many design related tasks and send them back and forth between Revit as well. Many ways to skin the cat.

Edit: Jacob found a better repo than me, ref his post!

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I think you may be confusing the development of Dynamo with the development of Dynamo for Revit.

Most of Dynamo development efforts have been around the Dynamo tool itself, not a specific task. For task based stuff there has been a bunch of design focused aspects, off the top of my head: the many geometry updates; increased geometry interactivity; solar analysis to inform design direction; pattern toolkit, integration to Civil 3D, Alias and FormIt (two of which are almost exclusively design tools). And all of this before I even mention Generative Design.

For a few releases now the Revit interaction isn’t done by the Dynamo development team - the Revit development team is the ‘owner’ of those tasks. Even so many tools (ie: path of travel nodes, surface manipulation nodes, geometry conversion nodes) were undertaken with a design focus. Yes there are a bunch of updates to the Dynamo for Revit node set which may feel more focused on documentation, but automating away those tasks is a big desire among the user base (as you noted, can be a documentation focused cohort).

That said, I totally get where you are coming from. Much of the ‘news’ in social media is focused around documentation, but that is often user generated. This is fine - if not laying out sheets is the ‘big win’ for an office than it should be celebrated in all forms. But don’t take that to mean this is all Dynamo can do or is what the tool is built for. If we only judged a project only by how people used it you might re-evaluate some of our favorite buildings (Almost all commercial office spaces were ‘dead’ in the last year, but this doesn’t mean commercial office space is always ‘dead’).

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a long way to go on the design side. The team is always looking to improve on the tool for all users in any application where people have a desire. Towards that end If you have feature requests which are design focused (or not), let the development team know by submitting it to the Dynamo Wishlist github, found here: GitHub - DynamoDS/DynamoWishlist: This is a repository for all wishlist items for Dynamo Core. They look this over periodically, and assign the resources they have to the tasks which the community will benefit the most in the time available (ie: picking up a github submission for a node which places views on a sheet could be done in an afternoon between meetings, reconfiguring the interaction of a slider with code created from scratch cannot).

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Rhino inside Revit is great, but it should be an alternative for Dynamo. Those that aren’t proficient in Dynamo can use Grasshopper in a design team and seamlessly integrate both software. Unfortunately, many firms including mine forbid the use of Dynamo even amongst those that are proficient with the software for design as it too limited and slow for a fast-paced design phase. By the same token, Rhino inside Revit somehow reliefs Autodesk for its obligation to further develop tools for design as the need for that has decreased dramatically with the availability of Rhino inside Revit. That is my big concern. Now we rely heavily and solely on a non-architectural tool to create geometry because the purposely built architectural tool lacks the proper tool.

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Autodesk encourages the use of Grasshopper for design work instead of its own proprietary Dynamo. <<

Is this true? Where do they say this?

Thank you for the link. I will definitely submit a couple of highly requested wish list items of our firm. I just hope that requests are not selected by a voting system as seen on Revit Ideas forum as the current demography of users will vote differently.

You’ve also mentioned FormIt that ironically has had the same development strategy as Revit where anything but the modeling tools has been addressed since the first release. Yet FormIt should have been Autodesk’s answer for SketchUp and Rhino. After 9 years, you still can’t loft profiles organically, you can’t fillet of bevel more than 3 edges like any other tool, and there are no subd modeling tools.

This brings me to the next question. Is the Autodesk AEC division completely entity within the company. Fusion, Inventor, Alias, etc are all tools that can get you from design all the way to fabrication in one application. The modeling tools are absolutely suburb. Why is it so difficult to do the same in the AEC portfolio?

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Pretty much everywhere. One place where it’s even more evident is at Autodesk University. Check out this screenshot of one of their presentations

Another subtle proof id this is their own Autodesk Pavilion where they used Grasshopper (not Dynamo) to design the building. Computational Design and Digital Fabrication Pavilion - YouTube

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Autodesk university is taught by a lot of industry professionals not associated with Autodesk though? Not necessarily official Autodesk ‘policy’?

I’m asking because I’m wondering if I should learn grasshopper… #DoNotRealyWantTo :laughing:

@JacobSmall what are your thoughts about this and moose please.

What is lectured at Autodesk University is indeed not necessarily Autodesk official policy. However, I can assure you that will never see or hear keynote speakers advise attendees to use Samsung for selfies instead of an iPhone at an Apple convention.

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Why make Dynamo do the exact same things Rhino Inside and Grasshopper are doing? May as well have two tools focus on different things rather than force a fork and spoon to be two knives when we don’t need any. The same logic will prevent people exploring such avenues as Python because ‘the custom packages should do this for us’. If you wait for others, you’ll always end up being dissapointed in my experience. Take the bull by the horns.

Whilst Grasshopper may not necessarily be explicitly architectural, the same goes for Dynamo. Like Jacob said, it was not developed to be an architectural tool - it has its own sandbox environment and was merely adopted by Autodesk as a tool to enhance their platforms’ features. How you apply it to your workflows is what makes it architectural - look at VisualArq for Grasshopper for example, very much an architectural integration for Grasshopper.

If the thought leaders at your firm are restricting the tools users can use and not providing solutions for what they are asking for, then they are not doing their job well in my opinion. Where I am working (as a sub-consulting computational leader), we develop solutions in all three platforms (Dynamo, Grasshopper and Rhino Inside) which capitalize on the strengths of each approach where it works best, as well as the user(s) it is being built for.

Much of our form generation so far involves a mixture of Dynamo and Grasshopper/Rhino Inside, for example we use RI to guide adaptive components, but develop the components native to Revit. We may process their data within Dynamo, for example applying a conical numbering system to them - using geometry as the path for numbering rather than the placement guide itself.

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I’d encourage you to try it out. It can do a lot of amazing things, and I’m glad to have both Dynamo and Grasshopper available in my skillset. Geometry does not concern me like it used to when I was limited to Dynamo only.

The same logic can also apply to anything else in this world. Why are most car manufacturers developing electric vehicles nowadays if Tesla already cornered the market? Why are more streaming services entering the market if we already have Netflix? Why more and more social media platforms offering live broadcasting if Facebook already exists? It’s simply because people want to be able to choose.

If Autodesk isn’t interested in the design aspects of the industry and made that clear, well that’s absolutely fine. But unlike Archicad which integrated the modeling tools for design within their flagship bim tool, Autodesk released FormIt almost a decade ago in an attempt to provide a solution for architects. And they went as far as to integrate Dynamo within Formit. This to me is a clear indication that they also want to target that market.

Don’t get me wrong, the use of several tools and workflows in a large firm is obviously the way to go. You want to use the best tools for the job. However, you can’t expect smaller firms to have copies and knowledge of Rhino Grasshopper solely to fill the gap for Revit Revit and Dynamo.

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Most (all?) Apple sponsored conferences are completely by and around just the Apple eco system as they have a rather specific goal of getting everyone into an Apple only eco system. Even so you will hear and see Apple talk about syncing their devices with Windows devices all the same - in fact when they ‘syncs to your PC’ in places like their main stage this is what they mean without stating the competitor brand, as they refer to their computers by name or the encompassing ‘Mac’ name. So it happens, but in a way which is less direct than first recognizable. For them the conference is about them and them alone, and is really just a big sales pitch to their target audience.

(Quick legal disclaimer: I am not a spokesperson for Autodesk, and my efforts on this forum are in no way associated to my role at Autodesk, and as such what follows is my personal opinion and in no way reflects that of the company I work for.) (Quick personal disclaimer: I advise you to never let your hobby and your job become so fluid as mine… I do love both though and am glad the community and my employer welcome me in that respect.).

Conversely Autodesk does highlight interoperability and have done so for many years now, in all industries but very much in AEC. Overall the act of design is a process which requires data from a limitless number of sources - digital and analog, geometric and statistical, qualitative and quantitive. BIM by it’s very nature requires this approach - that’s why Revit has had a robust API for ages, and why it is as open yet closed as it is.

In the end Autodesk wants you to succeed in achieving your desired outcome at whichever point you have elected to use the software. In fact that is the very heart of my actual role at Autodesk, and there are a good number of ‘me’ at Autodesk - there is an entire organization built around that as a concept.

So yes - if ‘Tool X’ helps you achieve your desired goal, integrate it into your design process. Doesn’t matter where it came from or how it gets to where you want to be. This doesn’t mean that you should stop looking for better tools because you found one that works for now - technology as a whole is ever evolving, and your desired design outcomes likely should be as well.

@Alien, I really happen to have a fondness for moose as a concept, and have take me several road trips to go moose spotting. Oh and your goal should be to learn every software you can - the more you know and learn on those fronts the better you will be at leveraging technology at a high level. CAD, BIM, visual coding, programming, word processing, spreadsheets, web stuff… Knowledge is a powerful thing in design… take in all you can and enjoy the ride.

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You can’t get smaller than a sole-practitioner (like me) and I have no intention of learning anything new nor acknowledge any gaps.

I would rather push the abilities of the tool I’m comfortable with and further my skills by exploring the untapped and unpublicized potential of the tool to obtain desired /acceptable outcomes.

While it wouldn’t be wise to limit designs to the capabilities of one tool or the other, as design shouldn’t necessarily be driven by strengths of a tool alone, it would be nice if Dynamo users could be challenged to produce the ‘designs’ it supposedly cannot :slight_smile:

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If anything I feel small firms are really the ones that could benefit the most from experimenting with different platforms and out-manoeuvring their competition. They only need 1 or 2 licences compared to a corporation where decision making is sluggish and costly. A rhino license forever is 1/3 the cost of an AEC collection for one year.

In my experience the main reason I see smaller firms holding off more than 1 platform is that the key decision makers bring their bias to the decision making process and pick what suits them, rather than the needs of the organisation itself. Not always the case, but it has been most places I have been able to see within.

Closed platforms, closed minds and closed wallets will lead to closed companies.

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To make my analogy of Apple a little bit more clear. Apple has a text editing software called Pages. Pages exports to word and vice versa. But you can also use Word on a Mac as well. The users can use whatever they feel comfortable in. Ideally, you would want the same with Revit, where you can either use Revit to do design work or Rhino which can be imported or linked within Revit without disrupting the design process.

Unfortunately, Revit doesn’t have design tools within Revit nor does it have separate high-end software for design in their AEC collection. Firms are fully dependent on non-Autodesk software to do design work and there is where the problem lies. By comparison, it is like owning a Macbook Pro, but need a Dell workstation to do some word processing, because Apple doesn’t have the software to do that.

This is the reason why I think that Dynamo could be exactly the design tool that is missing in Revit. And therefore it would be a shame if it would only focus on documentation.

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Revit has the massing and adaptive component environments which are built for making and editing form. Revit also has a quite direct tie to FormIt (which has come a very long way recently - the 2022 product line has come a long way recently, you should get the update installed so you can play around with it), and can leverage Rhino Inside, Sketchup, or other 3rd Party software. There is also AutoCAD, Inventor, Fusion, and Alias within the Autodesk eco system which can be leveraged for this as well. Just like word processing on a Mac, the designer can choose whichever one they like and feel comfortable in for the project they are working on. :slight_smile:

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Can you then explain why most, if not all, architecture firms use Rhino/Grasshopper or Sketchup for design and Revit for documentation, while you will most likely see ArchiCad used for design as well as documentation without additional software? The same applies for Fusion, Inventor, and Allias where they use those tools from concept to fabrication. Isn’t this a clear indication that the massing and adaptive component environment isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be?

Tools are tools. Use the best one at your disposal at the time you need them. If you have a Rhino/GH licence and feel Dynamo is lacking, then use Rhino.Inside, it is there for that reason (although, I’m sure deep down, Autodesk would prefer you use Dynamo! Ha!).

Also, remember that GH has quite a few more years on Dynamo and has a lot more community created Plugins which may make dynamo look like it doesn’t have all the things and why some practices prefer GH as they have a lot of experience using it. IMO, Dynamo can do most of what GH can do geometrically. There were once issues with computational speed, but I believe the latest updates to the engine have significant improvements to make it more comparable with GH.

Also, as mentioned earlier by Jacob, Dynamo for revit is meant to expand the revit users capabilities in revit, specifically simplifying the Revit API in node form so the end user does not need to spend lots of time learning C# and the intricacies of the language/Revit API to be able to write workflow/utility scripts. Since Revit itself is and always has been a BIM Documentation application and a lot of the Revit users work revolves around coordination/documentation, it would follow that dynamo nodes should encompass these aspects as well instead of a purely geometric offering… something Rhino/GH lacks perhaps. Also… Dynamo integrations are to some extent limited by the capabilities/constraints of its host… So while rhino can model all the things, and has very powerful tools to do this (which GH inherits), you can’t do some of the things you can in Revit/Dynamo (well, not without a 3rd party plugins). In which I reiterate my point, use the best tools for the job.

If you have specific requests/improvements though, I’m sure the Dynamo dev team will be happy to hear them. They are always keen to know how their users feel and only want the product to get better. :slightly_smiling_face:

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This is exactly what my concern is. As you stated GH has a few more years on Dynamo and has large community-created plugins. However, that community is predominantly designers who create plugins specific to design. Dynamo users on the other hand are mostly BIM managers and engineers who use Revit as a documentation tool, hence the reason why new features in Revit, as well as Dynamo, are documentation related. And while there is no way Revit will ever be a tool for design as the new features and enhancements are based upon user’s requests voting system, (technician outnumber designers by a huge margin) I was hoping that Dynamo has a different approach to implementing new features. One where architects and designers also have a voice. That is the only way the tool can ever match GH.

It does however surprise me that Revit and FormIt are treated differently than Fusion and Inventor. Both Fusion and Inventor are engineering software primarily for documentation and fabrications which is at the far end of the process. Yet they have a highly advanced modeling toolset. What is the logic behind the fact that a guy who designs $5 vacuum cleaner plastic casings gets a complete set of modeling tools within one application while an architect who designs a $60 million museum gets one-tenth of the modeling tools?