The term Procedural Design indicates all those design processes where the creation of the final product is carried out through a pre-defined and repeatable procedure that uses a set of rules.

When applied to the world of 3D and computer graphic, it is often used the term Procedural 3D Modeling, which applies the general idea to a more specific context.

In this case the set of rules is used to generate 3D data of various type, and can be condidered as an alternative approach compared to the direct 3D modeling workflows, where the 3D designer creates the final 3D model through a series of manual steps that involve a continuous evaluation and judgement and that once the model is completed cannot be replicated or altered to generate similar objects.

The terms Procedural Design – and Procedural 3D Modeling – can also be seen as umbrella terms that indicate a number of other terms: Parametric Design, Algorithm Design and Generative Design.

In all these cases the creation process is driven by a procedure, with a different focus for each different term:

  • Parametric Design the emphasis is on a (usually small) number of parameters that determine the final shape and properties of the 3D model. It is often associated with the traditional parametric solid CAD techniques and the CAD and CAE world.
  • Algorithm Design puts the accent on the mathematical nature of the procedure
  • Generative Design indicates those workflows where the shape is mostly determined by a set of goals – such as optimization of certain parameters – and constraints, with the construciton of the 3D model carried out by an automated optimization process.

However, beyond the above indications – which are not strict definitions but only aim at describing the general meanings – in many cases all these terms can be considered interchangeable.