The first cohort of fellows has been given the great opportunity to do an internship at a design firm, Balance, Inc.., located in Cleveland. Design is an important aspect of biomimicry because it is about finding connections between scientific knowledge and human applications. Looking through a designer’s lens, biomimicry is a great tool for innovation. So this collaboration was put forward with the goals that we (Biomimicry PhD students) would learn how designers work in a setting with real-life challenges, and in return we would bring the designers a different perspective.
I was the first to kick off the series of internships. Time has passed by too quickly; it’s already my last day. I enjoyed spending time surrounded by creative people that all seem to really like their job. A month wasn’t long, but I was able to get a sense of how designers work and how a biomimetic approach differs from a more ‘traditional’ design approach.
Obviously, the biggest difference between a biomimetic approach and a ‘traditional’ design approach is that the biomimic seeks inspiration from nature. After having defined the problem to be solved (i.e. function to be fulfilled) the biomimic starts digging in his or her brain for biological realities he or she has been exposed to that will inspire solutions to the challenge at hand. The ‘traditional’ designer is also digging into his or her memory for design inspiration, but in this initial brainstorming phase I saw a big difference between what a ‘traditional’ designers vs. a biomimic finds inspiring. Ideas the designers at Balance were shouting out were all related to existing products, designs and services that they have encountered in their lives, from impressive working engineering solutions, greatly designed products, to small tools they sell at the local store. I was honestly impressed by products and services they knew about that I couldn’t even imagine existing. On the other hand, very few were thinking about how spider webs or even our own human body could help solve the challenge.
I realized that in both cases, creativity is based on what you already know and highly limited to how you could connect those things together. Limitations of your own imagination can be widely extended by exposing yourself to more fascinating things. The designers at Balance shared many great websites I can use to get inspiration; they told me to go “shopping” to see what crazy things are out there. Well, this is essentially the same manner in which a biomimic could get more exposure to natural inventions. If you don’t have time to go “shopping” in your backyard or on that local trail, the internet is a great source too. I’m not saying you should always use the internet as an alternative to venturing outside, as your brain activity is drastically better after walking outside versus sitting quietly, staring at your computer screen (but we do appreciate you staring at your computer screen to read this).
But the internet is a good source of inspiration when getting outside is not an option. To make your lives easier, and honestly mine too because writing this post has forced me to compile links gathered through the past years, I made this list of interesting links for reading about biomimicry. I encourage you to visit these links when you want to get inspiration from nature (indirectly!).
Hope this helps to inspire you and motivates you to use nature for solving that challenge on which you are working!
And of course, please feel welcome to share links I haven’t included. The biomimetic community should work together to build upon this list.
– How does nature…. http://www.asknature.org
– Biomimicry 3.8 – Case Studies: http://biomimicry.net/about/biomimicry/case-examples/
– Global access to knowledge about life on Earth: http://eol.org
– The nexus of science and design in the field of biologically inspired design, using case studies, news and articles: http://zqjournal.org
– BCI is offering a radical new way of doing business; a way that is both inspired by and in harmony with Nature: http://businessinspiredbynature.com
– Curated by Janine Benyus: http://www.scoop.it/t/biomimicry-3-8
– This book takes us into the interesting world of biomimetics and describes various arenas where the technology is applied. The 25 chapters covered in this book disclose recent advances and new ideas in promoting the mechanism and applications of biomimetics: http://www.intechopen.com/books/biomimetics-learning-from-nature
– The Next Nature Network explores how our technological environment becomes so omnipresent, complex, intimate and autonomous that it becomes a nature of its own: http://www.nextnature.net [their theme tap has some good ones]
– Integrating Ecological design. Their practitioner guide is truly helpful and all-inclusive: http://www.okala.net
– Is there a biologist on your team? http://www.driversofchange.com/convergence/biomimicry/
– Best of Biomimicry (2013) http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/best-biomimicry.html
– Nature knows best: A biologist and a designer take creative direction from the Earth’s operating system http://blog.ted.com/2014/02/07/nature-knows-best-a-biologist-and-a-designer-take-creative-direction-from-the-earths-operating-system/
– Biomimicry – finding design inspiration in nature http://www.designboom.com/contemporary/biomimicry.html
– How Biomimicry Can Help Designers and Architects Find Inspiration To Solve Problems (2012) http://inhabitat.com/how-biomimicry-can-help-designers-and-architects-find-inspiration-to-solve-problems/?goback=%2Egde_1485297_member_195634792
– University of Akron’s research into geckos’ natural stickiness may pay off in companies and products: http://www.cleveland.com/science/index.ssf/2012/09/university_of_akrons_research.html
– Aspiring to improve the world by crafting a career in sustainable design: http://www.core77.com/blog/sustainable_design/aspiring_to_improve_the_world_by_crafting_a_career_in_sustainable_design_part_1_a_new_way_of_thinking_26536.asp
– Bringing Biomimicry to market: Impact investing inspired by nature (has great links for books, genius of biome report!): http://www.maximpact.com/Newss/Blog/TabId/125/PostId/78/bringing-biomimicry-to-market-impact-investing-inspired-by-nature.aspx
– Richard Hammond’s Miracles of Nature (3 episodes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pv1iOD7yui4&list=PLV8mEllZd4vtTervARexSiL-i1DTGw24C
– David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things, episode on Biomimicry: http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/the_nature_of_things_biomimicry_part_1
– PBS NOVA – Making Stuff Wilder (S41E04, Oct. 23 2013): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mi4ygJO_hYs&feature=youtu.be
– Videos on Animal and plant adaptations and behaviors: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/adaptations
– Planet Earth: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/collections/p00fxg1n
– The story of solutions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpkRvc-sOKk
– The Biomimicry column blog: http://www.greenbiz.com/engage/featured-blogs/the-biomimicry-column
– Digging deeper to understand and apply biomimicry as innovation methodology: http://www.biomimicrist.com
– Emerging design ideas of biomimicry, critical creativity, sustainability and strategic thinking: http://bouncingideas.wordpress.com
– A key to good design is a sense of responsibility: http://biologytodesign.wordpress.com
– The book of the mimicry of the living: http://biomimicron.wordpress.com
– Nature + Design for a Sustainable Future: http://biomimeticdesign.wordpress.com
– Sprouting sustainable, nature-inspired ideas in Northeast Ohio: http://germinature.com
– Biomimicry Education Network: http://ben.biomimicry.net
– The Bio-Inspired Design (BID) Community promotes the practical application of bio-inspired design, emphasizing the ‘challenge to biology’ approach: http://bioinspired.sinet.ca
– Centre for bioinspiration: http://bioinspiration.sandiegozoo.org
– The Biomimetics for Innovation and Design Laboratory (affiliated with the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto): http://www.mie.utoronto.ca/labs/bidlab/
– BiomimicryNYC is a consortium of individuals from all industries, sectors and backgrounds dedicated to fostering a community of nature-inspired practice in the New York City metro region: http://biomimicrynyc.com/category/resources/
– The University of Akron Biomimicry Research and Innovation Center: http://uabiomimicry.org