Reticulate is a design software, learning tool, and series of tectonic artworks. The software provides a system for users to create physical objects based on the concept of reticulation. The objects can be exported and fabricated using a laser cutter. Reticulate explains the algorithmic concept behind the design both explicitly and through use of the software, producing a series of art objects that the user understands. ↗︎
RoleDesigner, Software Engineer
Infodeveloped using Three.js, fabricated using a laser cutter,
prototyped in Processing and Rhinoceros
photography Jordan Walters↗︎


Reticulate sits in between code, industrial design, and digital fabrication. I wanted to develop a design system that was both digital and physical, while also showing that computational design can be made understandable and accessible to anyone on the web. Using modern web technologies, Reticulate provides an interface that allow users to become designers and creators.


A well-designed user interface can empower unsophisticated users to create interesting things. Designing physical objects usually requires knowledge of complex 3D modeling software. I sought to reduce this complexity and provide users with only the most salient functionality to achieve a meaningful design, while handling any granular design considerations for them. Thoughtful human-computer interaction results in a streamlined design process, which provides space for the creative design-thinking that humans do best.


The result of the design system is a series of physical objects (tectonic artworks) that embody the concept of reticulation. They are manufactured using a laser cutter.


Reticulate began as an architectural study. I developed a simple Processing sketch that explored the use of lines to imply 3-dimenionsional, interconnected surfaces— what I later called reticulation. Translating the sketch into physical materials served as the impetus for future three-dimensional models.

Processing sketch output

Model created using bristol paper and thread

I expanded the algorithm into three dimensions in the architectural software Rhinoceros to begin to explore it's spatial possibilities. Creating continuous, lofted surfaces was a natural extension of the discrete lines used in the 2-dimensional approach.

Rhinoceros screenshot. Generated using lofts.


With a conceptual basis for a model, I proceeded to consider the tectonic concerns involved in designing and constructing one instance of the concept. Instead of fabricating continuous surfaces, expanding the discrete lines into rectangular beams allowed the entire structure to be created using only a 2-dimensional part file. Supporting these beams required four structural walls with rectangular holes in which the beams could be inserted. The width and height of the holes depends on the thickness of the material used to cut the model. With these considerations in mind, I did the basic math to determine the length of all parts and laid out the first three part files by hand in Autodesk AutoCAD.

Part file .dwg

Prototype Model

I laser cut and assembled the first three prototype models, all of which expressed a different variation of the reticulation algorithm with slightly different tectonic details.

Reflection & Abstraction

At this point, the project as an architectural study came to a halt. I spent multiple years as a software engineer and creative developer in a professional environment, architecting and building software systems, learning modern tech stacks, and working with designers, all while developing an understanding of the software ecosystem as well as the current state of digital design.

I began to see a future in which a design system for any purpose becomes as flexible as a piece of software that can describe it. Computationally-defined design systems would benefit both the designer by streamlining their workflow, and the consumer by offering interfaces that allow them to create and customize their own designs. I envision an era in which design isn't simply a collection of assets packaged by a designer and handed off to a company or consumer, but instead lives inside of the software systems that define it, which are continually iterated on to accomdate new uses cases and circumstances.

With this vision of the future in mind, I returned to Reticulate and codified the design process I had previously pursued into a web-based software system that designers and web users alike could access. I created abstractions around the design methods, bounded the problem of tectonics, and provided information on the foundations of the algorithm to enable any user to understand the system's core concepts.

Software Development

I needed to codify all aspects of the design process in 3D and build an interface that allows the user to create a design and configure its parameters. Seeing the final 3D model in real-time is crucial to the user, who would not be able to imagine the structure by simply looking at it's 2D parts. I developed the software using a combination of Three.js and vanilla javascript, and made attempts to create the look and feel of a 3D modeling software inside the browser.


A visually strong tooltip pane can go a long way in describing how to use as piece of software to first-time users. The tooltip are divided into three sections and explain all important functionality in the software.


The primary operations performed in the software are 'Select' and 'Create'. Select allows the user to modify or delete a reticulated corner instance. 'Create' allows the user to specify two adjacent edges on which to create a new reticulated corner.


A reticulated corner shape is parameterized by eight different variables, four of which are exposed to the user: position, length, beam count, and beam width.


There are three different views. The default Create View is used to design the desired model. The Frame View renders the auto-generated supporting walls for the model. The Part View renders the 2-dimensional representation of the model and allows the user to download a .SVG file of the parts which can be laser cut.


The software also includes validations to ensure that the virtual model can be assembled in the real world. Interecting and overlapping shapes are identified using both text and color.

Intersecting Objects

Overlapping Beams

Further Development

Reticulate is an instance of customizable, accessible design on the web that I plan to manifest in various forms in the future. It illustrates that Design can live dynamically within and through the software that defines it. I task myself with building systems and frameworks that enable design to be practiced flexibly by applying computational strategies to enhance design systems.