Generative Toy / by Alexander Hadik


We all find an innate pleasure in play; in taking raw materials and assembling something new and original. Part of the intrigue of play are constraints, and the innovation that is bred by these constraints.

I found a very unique parallel between this sense of play, and the way that nature assembles the instructions for living organisms in the form of DNA. DNA's structure is bound by the chemical properties of its building blocks. It forms into its familiar double helix not because an outside force crafts it that way, but because this is the most natural combination of the elements. These natural, almost divine interactions that structure our world so closely mirror the way the human mind approaches the constraints of play.

This project brings this parallel to life with a collection of cut 2D pieces that can be assembled by the user into a multitude of shapes. However, these pieces in mirror the nucleic acids of DNA, and the chemical bonds that form between them. From this, one can see how  the structure of DNA forms, where its weaknesses and strengths lie, and what other forms it might try to take.


Pieces were designed in Adobe Illustrator, and produced on a laser cutter. This quick production method allowed for fast prototyping and iteration.


I wanted to explore the chemical properties of the DNA double helix in a physical form, so I decided to model the molecules and chemical bonds of the helix from laser cut masonite. The user could of course assemble a double helix, however the real exploration was to see what other structural shapes could be constructed from the components of a DNA molecule. DNA does take shapes beyond the familiar double helix, and this toy uses play to demonstrate these complex chemical properties.