reckless glitch design – benjamin kiesewetter

streetstag - bionic vehicle design


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the straßenhirsch (street-stag) with aditional components

Vehicle design studie
of a bionic light weight threewheeler
...klimate change, you know

During my design studies, I delved into several projects addressing the topic of gestaltung using computers. I am not talking about  using CAD-software or Adobe products. I am a huge friend of pen and paper or clay to find shapes in my first steps of devloping designs. But what happens if we give these first steps of shaping and modeling to a computer program? I am not even talking AI. AI currently (2024) just reproduces human ideas and mainstreams the hell out of it.
I mean procedures, calculated structure, hard math, or rather physics.

The procedure of topology optimization, like the finite element method originating from the realms of mathematics and engineering, can be perceived as a variant of generative design tailored to a specific objective: material conservation in structural components. This objective addresses a predicament that I have encountered throughout my life, especially as a product designer — the limitation and inherent scarcity of our living space resources. Let me say climate change, shortage of simple materials such as copper or sands for concrete. Despite their finite nature, humanity habitually interacts with these resources as if they were inexhaustible. I particularly observe a significant degree of waste in motorized individual transport. While this may seem like a minor aspect on a global scale, it is one in which every participating consumer can personally influence.


Okt. 2014 – Feb 2015


Hochschule Magdeburg-Stendal




  • Research bionic design
  • Market research
  • Building models
  • building a moc-up
  • testing
  • Gestaltung
  • Renderings
  • writing and layouting a 70 page theses (see below)



interactive book - click to read!

thesis - productdesign studies

This is my studies final Thesis. It is in German but most of it are pictures, so even if you cannot read it, have a peek inside.




cover material

The original cover I made from 1mm of plywood the same material I used for some models that I laser-cut in a rapid prototyping workshop and glued onto gray cardboard.

Printing Format

 I wanted something slightly bigger then DIN-A4 and wider, to give my images some space.

sheet: 354 x 224 mm
cover sheet: 358 x 232 mm
Double page size: 644 x 224 mm

iterations - developed with the finite element method

Topology optimization

Back in the days, products were made to last – they say.
Sure, if they wanted to make something last for a decade, engineers had to it, so old buildings, cars or other products may last centuries.
But when it comes to vehicles, over-engineering them ofte also results in mass.
So while over-engineering tries to make something last by brute force, or brute material, Toplogy Optimisation is an attempt to achieve it by clever developing of shapes. A simplified example: The cantilever problem – a weight is to be suspended at a distance from a wall (a). A thick beam across the shortest distance is the simplest solution (b). A compression strut against the bending direction of the beam allows for thinner beams (c). A tension cable replaces the compression strut (d).

A much better example are trees. They tend to last for decades or centuries by growing into the perfect shape for the job. Look at trees during storm. It looks impossible, how they bent and move and still carry their weight, without breaking – or at least before breaking. A reason for that is, that they grow into the shape they need to be in. But we cannot grow, let’s say a car. Or can we?
Kind of: there are actually different ways: By calculating, for example the Finite Element Method, and by examining existing natural examples, as described by the Soft Kill Option method, both having similar results.

The cantilever problem, a weight needs to hang near a wall. (a)
The simple solution: Brute force, using a lot of material to keep the lever from breaking (b)
Better topology achieves the same with less material (c)
Most Materials can sustain stronger pulling forces, than pushing forces, which may lead to bending and breaking (d)
Rastering of the construction space and calculated material-stresses under load
Resulting topology of the cantilever arm calculated by FEM
Finite element metod (FEM)

FEM is a way to solve a mechanical problems (resulting in multidimensional differential equations) by cutting the accessable volume into small pieces and then calculate for each piece, where it will need material to sustain certain forces.
That way, the solution for our centilever problem will look a bit more refined.

the programming: Millipede used in Grashopper for Rhinoceros 3d
Rastering of the construction space and calculated material-stresses under load

the zoo - my calculations -

I used the CAD software Rhinoceros 3d, and it’s programming plugin Grashopper with the FEM plugin Millipede to do my FEM calculations. I had them running on a 2011 intel core i7 PC for days. Initially experimenting with the boundary conditions and finetuning them and later running refining iterations took days of calculation. So I had to sacrifice quality to time efficiancy. One sacrifice was by reducing resolution and number of refining iterations. Another sacrifice was that Millipede, the FEM-plugin only alowed for static forces, while a vehicle has to deal with gravitation, acceleration, deceleration and centrifugal forces. Since the task was not to calculate the perfect solution, but to experiment with how to use such a calculated solution and make something out of it in terms of Gestaltung, that attempt was acceptable.


Rhinoceros 3d with Grashopper programming plugin and Millipede FEM plugin





length 2.5m

width 1.4m

height 1.0m


20 cells per meter




FEM calculations of a tricycle with various boundary conditions (in the reading direction) and in computational iterations (orthogonal to the reading direction)
My programming: Millipede used in Grashopper for Rhinoceros 3d

design interpretation - entwurf

For form development, I used Autodesk‘s T-Splines extension for Rhinoceros. It’s tendency to build minimal-surfaces helps a lot to fullfill the idea of SKO – it would seem.
However, this highlights a fundamental issue. I’m currently mentioning the fourth software module I use, while by now, there should have been some transition into the physical world.
Especially for form development, using pens, paper, and real materials is essential. This transition is challenging given the complexity of the framework. While the computer seems to offer better control over the structure, it remains a hypothesis. To briefly document the development and explain the next steps and approaches, the elaboration here is somewhat too detailed for this phase and, as it turned out, flawed.
Interpreting the "Bones" coming from FEM into something, accaptable, using core principle of SKO
Building a full scale mo-cup for ergonomical tests
Building a full scale mo-cup based on my calculated design
Building a full scale mo-cup in the cellar of my apartmant house


All theory is good, but will the driver feel comfortible entering, laying in and leaving the vehicle, or will parts of the frame obstruct the sight and where should I put the seat? I had to build a full scale moc-up to test it, before continuing. I found out, climbing through was not very comfortable, while climbing in from the front needed to be done very carefully, bot to step on the frame. It could use some tweaking here.
streetstag full scale moc-up, folded to be carried in public transport
full scale moc-up for ergonomical tests, folded to be carried in public transport.
Full scale mocup for ergonomical studies
My programming: Millipede used in Grashopper for Rhinoceros 3d

Soft Kill Option

Further experiment on physical models was neccesairy to actually find out about the stability of the frame. A good tool to tweak these statics beyond hard calculation is the Soft Kill Option (SKO). In very few words – SKO is a way to find optimized topology by examining the shapes of grown trees or bones.
These develop typical shapes reducing the stress on material by adjusting to that stress and these shapes stand in a high contrast towards the typical 90° angles, streight lines and semi circles of human made constructions. A very typical attempt is to replace pushing forces, that may lead to bending and breaking of straight beams, by pre bending beams and adding ‘ropes’ to create pulling forces.
Following the guidelines of SKO and daring to experiment, one progresses through agile methods over several iterations towards a goal, directly manifesting in the physical world.
Paper model scale 1:10 to determine bending and failing of the structure under stress
copper model 1:10, too rigid to do bending tests and predict failures
Static tests, polystyrole model 1:5, examination how it bends and how it fails under load
building a birch wood model, 1:5




laser-cut chemically welded
cotton and acryllic yarn


87 g (about 11 kg at full scale)




birchwood, multiplex,
laser-cut and woodglued
cotton and acryllic yarn


61g (about 8kg at full scale)

birch wood model