Godspeed Syd Mead / Generative design / Marlin Dirt Bike

Rest in peace oh you creator of so many futuristic visions. Syd Mead visited our design school while I was studying for my bachelors degree and we had a short talk about William Gibson. I mourn his passing by writing this post to reminisce in how his work inspired me.

I originally attempted to adopt his style in a competition that had exactly those parameters: Create a vision with clear Syd Mead associations. He himself was a judge, along with Adam Savage. The Syd Meadian design I wanted to create an homage for was his original Lightcycle as seen below:

LightCycle I am however not an accomplished painter like he was, but I enjoyed the exercise and I wasn’t completely unhappy with my design seen here:

SydMead Bike
An autonomous taxi illustrated in the style of Syd Mead and with a reference to his original Lightcycle design.

Sadly the jury was not in my favor and I shelved the design for later use, which was fortunate since I needed a futuristic looking electric dirt bike for an image I was creating several years later:

Sketch for an early stage of the design that would eventually become the Marlin SM

In that particular poster the bike design was really secondary, but since we all know that cool industrial design can really underline a science fiction world I spent some extra time thinking it through, the final image can be seen below here and is printed in 2 by 5 meters at our local incubator.

GameCollege image with Marlin SM bike
Guest appearance of the Marlin SM bike on the left

I fell in love with generative design some 10 years later and it felt natural to attempt to push the Marlin SM design even further into reality by actually having Fusion 360 run through the chassis parameters. Generative design procedurally generates a series of design solutions based on a preset definition arranged by the user. Example: 4 bolt fixings have to connect to a bumper plate that needs to absorb a force that in this instance was 30.000 Newtons in 3 directions. The program generates 5 outcomes and the user selects one or two to be implemented in the final design as seen here ( material chose was titanium ):

The generative setup really is fairly simple: The red geometry is an obstacles that the computer isn’t allowed to interfere with, the yellow is a starting point for the design solution and the greens ( very faint ) are areas that the program have to maintain ( like bolt fixings ).

Marlin SM Generative Bumper 01

One of the 2 solutions that were chosen from the generative bumper design outcome

The designs are then implemented in the chassis that on the Marlin SM eventually looked like the image below here ( elements like suspension are of course added later ):

Generative design chassis, Marlin SM
The resulting bumper implemented in the Marlin SM chassis along with the other barebone elements, there’s a strange aesthetic quality to how the program adopts an organic metallic shape to overcome the defined forces.

So there it is, thank you Syd Mead for pushing me in this direction, I am unsure where it will lead me, but I am happy with the strange and wonderful things it is teaching me. I hope you’re somewhere up there still enjoying the legacy of your work. Happy New Year and Godspeed.

Link to interactive 3D model

Click the link above for interactive 3D view ( works on mobile as well )
Marlin SM
A render with the main bodywork removed
Marlin SM
Final design, all it needs now is an astronaut riding it across the dunes of Mars!
Red gold Marlin
As with high end SUVs, perhaps the Marlin has a place in premium transportation

Curious how inspiration and design sometimes synergises

In 2008 I was so lucky to be voted one of the finalists in the annual Peugeot design competition. The nomination was a game changer for me, it somehow legitimized my thoughts on automotive design and gave me the confidence I needed to pursue one of the most complex disciplines of design: Car design.

Over the years leading up to 2008 I had already created a myriad of car designs, but most of them were on the silly side and more akin to science fiction than reality.

The Peugeot design competition changed things for me and I became quite pregnant with the idea of creating an electrical car with as little drag as possible. The point was to develop a concept that could be sold as a luxury roadster and also be used in racing championships the world over. The purpose was to sway the demographic towards environment friendly automobiles, not by their climate sparing ability, but simply by proving how electric vehicles were superior, even in a territory that was dominated by fossil fuel race cars.

I didn’t want to create my own car brand, so I chose one of the most renowned car marquees on the planet to underline the electrical racing statements: Alfa Romeo, I also chose a name that was saturated with winning through intelligence, daring and endurance: “Fangio” from Juan Manuel Fangio “el maestro”, the Argentinian race car driver fit perfectly into the concept, some people even spotted fangs in the aggressive face of the concept car.

Alfa Romeo Fangio, Le Mans GT1 concept

Innovation wise I had to think long and hard on how to let the car move as easily through the air as possible and still stay on the road when it turned at high speed. Naturally the classical aerodynamic solution is a series of intelligent spoilers that create down force when needed and are mechanically hidden when the car travels straight ahead. At the time Citroën had created their Gran Turismo concept that introduced an interesting way of leading air through the vehicle to eliminate part of the drag behind the car. The idea also appeared in some DTM cars and would later be clearly present in the 2017 Ford GT 40 and Aston Martin Valkyrie. Peugeot had however earlier experimented with a “tadpole” design, that instead narrowed the rear of the car, to achieve less drag, they did this by replacing the rear wheels with a wide singular wheel.

Peugeot 20Cup ( Tadpole design )
Peugeot 20Cup ( Tadpole design )

This saved both weight and reduced drag, I’m sure I picked up the concept on my radar, because later when I was working on Fangio, it occurred to me and the friends I discussed my ideas with, that the most effective aerodynamic shape was a teardrop design ( very tadpole-esque ) . This idea has been attempted many times in car designs all the way back to the 20’ies, for instance the German “Tropfenwagen” created in 1921.

Tropfenwagen 1921

So my concept adopted the teardrop shape, both on its top axis and on its side, I didn’t however omit one of the wheels. The problem only having 3 wheels is that it becomes hard to put down enough weight on the rear wheel for the car to be stable. So my concept retained 4 wheels, but I narrowed the rear axle for the wind to be able to slip past the car like in Peugeot’s tadpole design. I also implemented the idea of air passing through the car as can be seen on the concept renders below:

Alfa Romeo Fangio, street version, visible here, the internal teardrop shape
Alfa Romeo Fangio, street version, visible here, the external teardrop shape

The concept incorporated several other innovations that are described in detail in the original design pitch that you can download here: http://www.9000gigawatts.com/alfa-romeo-fangio-electric-concept.pdf

This article hints at the curious way I was inspired by and may have inspired other designers. Sadly Fangio was never picked up by Alfa Romeo, which was of course disheartening at the time, but I did send the design pitch to the people I had been in contact with at Peugeot. I finished the pitch during my summer vacation in 2009 and gave up on getting through to Alfa Romeo early autumn, that’s when I turned to the people I had met at Peugeot, who said they would forward my pitch to their design team. Which is interesting, because on the Paris Motor Show in October 2010 they unveiled an electric race car: Peugeot Ex1. Their design team never wrote back concerning my Alfa Romeo pitch, but the danish Peugeot employee I communicated with did confirm that it was curious how close my 2009 concept was to their 2010 model, copyright wise there is no violation, the design is far enough from the Fangio and I don’t have access to the mails I wrote back in 2009 so I can’t prove that I actually sent the design. But for my detractors that amuse themselves by me never breaking through in the automotive world I can point to the curious shapes shared by my Fangio and the Peugeot Ex1. Perhaps a few of my crazy automotive design ideas aren’t bad, perhaps I already have proved my ability as a car designer in the real world 🙂

Peugeot Ex1 as it appears in the game Drive Club

The Peugeot Ex1 did have a very interesting, albeit short life as a concept car. It beat several dragstrip records for cars weighing less than 1000 kg in China and it also marked the 200th year for the Lion car brand.

Peugeot Ex1

Where is my car design career headed these days? I’m creating virtual experiences and we’re working on a VR pit stop game that will hopefully find its true from over the next couple of years 🙂 And I’ve recently helped my students enter the Michelin car design challenge, drawing on my experiences from competing in the Peugeot contest. Would I enter a 2020 Peugeot car design contest? Probably, it did give me my original confidence boost and there is always more to be learned and experienced :).

By Michael Witus Schierup, concept designer.


Eve Online competition winner

10 years ago CCP, the creators of the science fiction IP: Eve Online created a “Design a starship” competition. Mike entered, but was a little speculative on how the game would implement the winning design, there’s 4 factions in the game you see and if you give 1 faction a new ship, you have to give the remaining 3 some sort of compensation or the most obvious choice: 3 other ships of their own. So the entered design was created to be part of a neutral faction easing the implementation balance-wise. CCP however rewrote the competition rules and chose 4 winners instead of 1. The Seraphim design that Mike created was chosen and implemented as the “Gallente Talos” and instead of a destroyer, it was turned into a battlecruiser, exciting! right? 😀

The ship also appears in the spin off game Valkyrie, you can glimpse it in the background here: Valkyrie

Original contest pitch

Above: The original concept and below the reworked CCP concept.

Redesign of the Seraphim, turning it into the Gallente Talos

below: The final design implemented in the game, a youtuber created a short gameplay video of the design in use here: Gallente Talos, 100 kills

In game shot of the Talos

So what’s been going on lately!?

Dear reader,

We felt it would be prudent to update the site with some of our newer projects and as you might notice below, it’s a fairly broad spectrum of work. In the background we’re still working on a space adventure and poking away at product design and 3D print, but more on this as the projects become more and more presentable :).

Recently we’ve helped a customer in Grenaa/Denmark boost their browser based top down arcade tank game, here’s a link to their promotional video containing some of the work we did: TankWars 2.0 promo

We’ve also worked closely with a local technical college in helping their students enter the 2019 Michelin Design Challenge, there’s a few examples of the work available here: ZBC students in Michelin Challenge

We’re helping create assets for a 2D multiplayer game, an example of which is shown below ( naturally if you ask us to help create games with no limits in the design, they’re gonna be racing games right 😉 )


Finally we’ve helped the Copenhagen based french school create a poster for their celebration of the lunar landing this summer, we were specifically asked to incorporate the well known Japanese manga character style, the final poster is shown below: