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3 Tips For Incorporating Tessellation Into Product Designs

Posted by Dave Sherman on Monday, June 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »

In our previous blog about tessellation, we gave a brief overview about what are tessellations and provided a few examples for how these patterns can be used.  So now that you’re up to date on the term tessellation, here are a few tips for how you can incorporate tessellated patterns into your next product design.

3 Tips for Incorporating Tessellation into Product Designs

1) Don’t sacrifice function over aesthetics.

Keep Mother Nature in mind and ensure both function and aesthetics are working together to get you the best end results.  The market is already too flooded with designs that either function well but look hideous, or look great but fall short on performing the task they were designed for.

So before we jump to the drawing board, we first must do our research.  This involves asking a number of questions around:

  • What problem(s) does your product try to solve?  Is it the right problem?
  • How will your products be used by your customer?
  • What aspects of the current design pains or bothers your customers?  What do they do to compensate for these pains?
  • If being worn: What areas of the body need to flex?  And in what directions?
  • If being worn: Where should breathability be incorporated?
  • If an impact protection product: What types of impact will be sustained?
  • What technologies are available to address your needs?  What could be developed?
  • Etc

There are a number of questions that should be reviewed to better understand your target customers, their needs and technologies to help you achieve your goal.


Flex Testing for New XRD Impact Protection Pads



2) Keep your design’s end story in mind.

By story, we mean the marketing piece, from the product’s use through naming to retail.  Nature is a great resource for tessellation pattern ideas, but you must keep your end market in mind.

For an example: An ice hockey helmet using a tessellated pattern taken from the scales of a sailfish (the fastest fish in the world) might not do much for the ice hockey market, but if the sailfish scale design was appropriate for a swim suit, the story might be attractive to the swim market.


3) Don’t settle for the “obvious” answer.

I’ll reference back to the honeycomb example in our previous post. The bees could have chosen circles, squares or triangles as their pattern to build their honeycomb.  If they looked around, these are commonly used in other natural structures such as flowers, turtle shells and many fruits.  But only the hexagonal shape gave them exactly what they needed for form, function AND use of their building technology (wax).

Hexagonal Tessellations of a Honeycomb

Hexagonal tessellations of a honeycomb achieve three key aspects of a successful product design: aesthetics, function and use of technology.


So how can you put this information to use?

Here’s one example to reference:

A customer who manufactures lacrosse gear was interested in designing an impact protection guard for the back of the hand.  Upon initial research, our team found the following information:

  • The majority of impacts to the player’s back of the hand was by an opponent’s lacrosse stick, where the impacts were being spread across a large area and not concentrated in one smaller zone.
  • Additionally, athletes complained that the current designs and protection offerings were heavy, bulky and in general uncomfortable.  This information was furthered backed by studies showing that the hand and wrist region were more sensitive to increases in weight and bulk, so the design needed to be light weight and low profile.
  • Lastly, when reviewing player movements, flexing occurred at the wrist region and to the most extent in a forward and backwards motion.  There was not a significant amount of twisting or side to side flexing.

XRD 810 Delta

Using the above information, one suggestion for a tessellation design could be triangles.  The pattern on the photo is from the XRD® 810 Series: Delta design.

By concentrating the XRD® Impact Protection material around the outside of the triangles, we are reducing weight and bulk, while also helping to spread the load from blunt impacts.  Additionally the triangle pattern allows for ample flex in the wrist region.

And what about your marketing story?  The triangle or delta offers much inspiration.  Not only are triangles one of the few geometric shapes that has a distinct upright or upsidedown position but its also tied to numerious cultures from the Ancient Egyptions to Greek mythology to witchcraft to Celtic traditions to Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella nation (aka the “Roc”) … so have fun with it!

XRD Impact InstituteWe hope the above tips are helpful for you to begin thinking about new designs incorporating tessellation patterns.  If you have any questions on where you should begin or have a new project you want to discuss with the XRD® Impact Institute team – please contact us!


Dave Sherman

Dave Sherman

Technical Design Solutions Manager at XRD® Impact Institute
Dave Sherman is the Innovation Leader at the XRD® Impact Institute - the research, design and testing facility of XRD® Impact Protection Technology. His experience involves a wide variety of foams including polyethlyene, polypropylene, EVA, rubber, polyurethane, silicone, and melamine. He has a Chemical Engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from RPI, as well as over 30 years of experience in the business of developing material solutions to meet demanding customer needs.

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