Parametric Design Modeling

This spring, I’ll be exploring paramentric design modeling, which for those who aren’t familiar, is a way of using algorithms to enhance processes of designing products. For example, if I wanted to design a chair with legs that appear to have textures of intricately woven cords or vines, it would take a long time to achieve that kind of detail on my own. Plus, if I wanted to change directions it would take even more time and sunk cost.

Parametric modeling helps by maximizing my design abilities. What machines did for labor during the industrial revolution is what algorithms in parametic modeling can do for product designers.

In the chair example, I can create the basic shape of the chair and then create an algorithm that builds the textures of woven cords or vines on the chair for me. If I don’t like the way something looks, I can change the algorithm and the cords can be turned into the texture of smooth rolling waves.

In this course, we will be using McNeel Rhinoceros with Grasshopper — a visual programming environment for algorithmic modeling, to design parametric systems and how to translate digital objects into physical form through 3D printing.

Here are three product categories ripe for parametic design experimentation.


Parametric modeling in architecture is bursting with intriguing examples and these two highlight the immediate need for shelters in a disaster situation and building homes with the materials right on site. Designer Abeer Seikaly from Jordan designed foldable shelters that might be deployed as temporary shelters.

WASP, a company based in Italy, used parametric modeling in their work and created these 3D-printed habitats made from the reusable, recyclable materials from the area they were built on. This project is called, Tecla.

Along with the shape and design of the facade of a building, there are tools using parametric modeling to help resize and adapt the interior of environments depending on the size of a room. This example is from architecture studio Wallgren Arkitekter and Swedish construction company BOX Bygg.


Guatemalan artist, Alejandro Estrada is using WASP’s large-format 3D printer Delta WASP 3MT INDUSTRIAL 4.0 to create beautiful chairs and furniture. I think that the CMCI STUDIO and would benefit from purchasing the printer at $40,000 with accessories.

CNC Art (and Tables)

One of the main reasons why I would like to explore parametric designs is because of the applications of CNC milling of furniture. I would like to mill a table with topographic features, specifically the textures of a river bed along the route of the Snake River. With parametric design, I think creating this effect is totally possible.

Here are examples and inspiration related to this project:


Last year, I worked on a lasercut light project that I was very proud of and they really improve my home. Parametric modeling applied to lighting fixtures is very common and an entry-level project that can use 3D-printing as well as laser cut.

In this upcoming semester, I am interested in exploring 3D-printing at the Idea Forge in different materials and creating custom lights. Here is an interesting post by a past STCM student, Jonas Escobedo.



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Cal Brackin

Cal Brackin

Illustrator & Designer at CMCI Studio