Ian Keough — How to Make Better Decisions Faster
Simplify your life. Do less, better.


Ian Keough (@ikeough) is the founder of Hypar. He writes code from his garage to automate the generation of the built environment to help stakeholders make better decisions faster. Trained as a fine artist and architect—and known as The Father of Dynamo—Ian believes efficiency breeds quality and automation yields better, higher-quality products. This episode uncovers the Ian Keough beyond Dynamo—including his life habits, tactics to get into the flow state and avoid distractions, and his new adventure to disrupt the architecture, engineering, and construction industry.

As a sculptor, Ian built big commission artworks for artists in New York—rationalizing them with a pointing machine—with the help of early versions of AutoCAD.

Before Hypar, Ian worked in the automation of building information modeling (BIM) workflows at Buro Happold, developing tools for the construction industry at Vela Systems, and developing Dynamo at Autodesk.

He is surprised that the technology we envisioned years ago is not here yet and that, instead, all sorts of sophisticated and complicated technologies solve problems we don't have.

I had a lot of fun talking to him. You can get a sense of the topics we discussed in the episode notes. We talked about daily habits, how he reserves time to exercise selfishly (and tries to run up to five times a week and surf at least once), his amazing commute, having a garage as an office, his use of social media, how he understands success, and a lot more.

You can find Ian on Twitter at @ikeough and @HyparAEC, and at Hypar.io. Enjoy!

Episode Notes

  • Who is Ian Keough? [00:43]
  • Hypar is Ian's new adventure to automate the generation of the built environment to help stakeholders make better decisions faster. [2:07]
  • How would you define yourself? [2:40]
  • Diller Scofidio is an interdisciplinary design studio that integrates architecture, the visual arts, and the performing arts, based in New York City. [3:24]
  • Ian's experience as an artist. [5:58]
  • Drawing with a "CAD station." [7:15]
  • "La macchinetta" or the pointing machine, is a machine used to accurately copy physical models, by registering three-dimensional locations in space. [9:15]
  • How does your day-to-day look like? [13:30]
  • Commute. [14:58]
  • Work. [16:08]
  • The flow state: Getting uninterrupted time to work, and doing email two days a week. [16:55]
  • Dynamo is a visual programming language that Ian started while working at Buro Happold around 2010—to automate Revit workflows—an open source tool now maintained by Autodesk and a community of contributors. [18:37]
  • A picture of the grid-shell ETFE roof of the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center by HOK and Buro Happold in California. [19:09]
  • Stephen Elliot, from North Eastern University, spent a summer as an intern at Autodesk developing what would become the second version of Dynamo. [21:48]
  • What's your current involvement with Dynamo? [23:44]
  • Open-source in architecture, design, and arts (and the appearance of "super-users"). [28:29]
  • Does visual programming help code beginners? [29:57]
  • Processing is an open-source computer programming language and development environment commonly used for creative endeavors such as live installations and digital art. [31:06]
  • GenerativeComponents is parametric CAD software developed by Bentley Systems first introduced in 2003. [31:50]
  • Explicit History was one of the early versions of Grasshopper, a visual programming language developed by McNeel that ships with Rhino.
  • DesignScript is, in words of his creator Robert Aish, a programming language "at the intersection of design and programming," used as part of parametric and associative modeling workflows in architecture, engineering, and construction.
  • "They had to have a language." [31:16]
  • What is the mission of Hypar? [35:31]
  • "That's not design." [36:57]
  • What is the role of the architect or designer in this process? [38:40]
  • What is the role of automation in our lives? [41:03]
  • Daily habits. [47:20]
  • Meditation. [51:04]
  • Finding focus in the flow state. [52:30]
  • How do you disconnect? [54:39]
  • Do you ever get bored? [58:52]
  • What's your relationship with social media? [59:42]
  • Melinda Keough (@melinda_keough) is a creative and art director, and illustrator, based in Los Angeles. She has worked in advertising with companies such as Apple and Pepsi. [1:02:30]
  • What apps and services make your life easier? [1:04:30]
  • Are there any mobile apps you don't install in your phone on purpose? [1:08:04]
  • "Technologies that solve non-existing problems." [1:12:16]
  • A user interface you enjoy. [1:17:00]
  • Markdown is a plain text formatting syntax, which is frequently used to generate HTML. [1:18:58]
  • Unity is a cross-platform game engine used to create indie games, mobile apps, and interactive three-dimensional, augmented reality, and virtual reality experiences. [1:19:02]
  • Revit is building information modeling software for architects, engineers, designers, contractors, and other professionals, developed by Autodesk. [1:19:37]
  • "All of human emotion is flattened into a couple of possible responses: I like this thing or I retweet this thing." [1:25:11]
  • "Mall art." [1:28:23]
  • A purchase of $100 or less that makes your life easier? [1:31:15]
  • What do you use to sync your data to the cloud? [1:34:00]
  • "Efficiency breeds quality." [1:45:22]
  • "Quality comes from the reproducibility of a process." [1:46:07]
  • "Automation can give you a better, higher-quality product." [1:46:17]
  • pix2pix is a generative adversarial neural network (GAN) able to learn a mapping from one style of image to another from a training set or image pairs. [1:50:51]
  • Katerra "is on a mission to change [the global construction industry] by optimizing every aspect of building design, materials supply, and construction." [1:51:44]

People Mentioned


Thanks for listening!


If you enjoy the show, the best way to support it is by rating it on Apple Podcasts, or by becoming a Patreon to support it financially. Share this episode on Twitter or Facebook.


August 1, 2018

Podcast