A research into generative tableware and ceramics fabrication. Adri Schokker and Wouter Reckman

Genetic Cup

On Charles Darwin and (Un)Natural Selection

‘English naturalist Charles Darwin developed the idea of natural selection after a five-year voyage to study plants, animals, and fossils in South America and on islands in the Pacific. In 1859, he brought the idea of natural selection to the attention of the world in his best-selling book, On the Origin of Species.
Natural selection is the process through which populations of living organisms adapt and change. Individuals in a population are naturally variable, meaning that they are all different in some ways. This variation means that some individuals have traits better suited to the environment than others. Individuals with adaptive traits are more likely to survive and reproduce. These individuals then pass the adaptive traits on to their offspring. Over time, these advantageous traits become more common in the population. Through this process of natural selection, favorable traits are transmitted through generations.
Natural selection can lead to speciation, where one species gives rise to a new and distinctly different species. It is one of the processes that drives evolution and helps to explain the diversity of life on Earth.
Darwin chose the name natural selection to contrast with “artificial selection,” or selective breeding that is controlled by humans.’ (quote National Geographic)
In this sense the procedure to generate a coffeecup in the ‘Gene Cup’ generator is similar to artificial selection. You, the human, decide which cup is crossed with another cup based on an aesthetical reaction. Not the adaptive traits, but taste and intuition.

Several works of art stemming from genetic evolutionary processes were the inspiration for the development of “Genetic Cup. One well-known work is Virtual Evolving Creatures by Karl Sims, developed in 1994. In it, simulated Darwinian evolutions of virtual block creatures are tested for their ability by performing various tasks, such as swimming, tracking and competing with other block creatures.

Like the use of neural networks to train algorithms to find patterns, the use of Darwinian genetic algorithms is also a form of artificial intelligence.

New cups are continuously generated from previous generations based on a small set of genes. It starts out with eight cups generated from two parent cups. These are presented to you in pairs and you can pick your preference from each of these four pairs. Then the four cups you selected are presented again in two pairs and the two cups you select this time will be used as the two parent cups for the next generation.

This process can be repeated endlessly and gives you the opportunity to search for a cup you like. As soon as you’ve found one you like, you can save it to a file to print it, and bring it into existance in the physical world.


  • Click on the left or right cup to choose your favorite, the next two cups will be automatically presented to you.
  • Note the cup numbers in the upper right corners. The number before the dot is the current generation, the number after the dot indicates which cup is shown within that generation.
  • At the end of every selection round (generation), the two remaining cups are shown (blinking blue) before it starts a next round.
  • To rotate the cups, hold down the right mouse button and move the mouse. With a trackpad (mac), click with two fingers on the trackpad, hold down and move the fingers. On most PC trackpads, hold down the right trackpad button and move one finger around on the trackpad.
  • Press the buttons below to download the cups, or to restart.
Save left
Save right

Please share your experience with us by filling out a short questionnaire. Thank you in advance!