Merging Art, Design, and Science in Research

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As the last couple of my blog posts have given good examples of research projects and works that fuse art, design, and science, I thought it would be worth dedicating a short post to explain the similarities between the worlds, reveal what research could look like when merging them, and give a bio-inspired example.

Though these fields may seem quite different, art and biology have much in common, as do the people who pursue them. At the heart of both biology and art lies the love of the natural world. One seeks to understand it through data, and the other through form and emotion. Though their methods are different, they each search to discover truth and contribute to society with what they learn. Both driven by inquiry, they can learn a lot from each other, and when joined in a collaborative effort, can achieve more than either could on their own.

An example of this is within the works of someone I recently had the fortune to see give a lecture at Kent State University, Jenny Sabin. Jenny’s work is an example of many within architecture that is at the forefront of merging design and science. Through inspirations within science and design, Sabin and her group have come up with wonderful works that not only provide a pleasing aesthetic, but question what is possible for the future of architecture and manufacturing.

Above is a trans-disciplinary, bio-inspired project called ColorFolds, that merges cell biology, materials science, physics, electrical and systems engineering, and architecture. Concerned with things such as optical color, transparency change, and structural color, it combines mathematical modeling and design computation to create a network of structures inspired by origami principles and environmentally responsive to human presence. When approached, a network of sensors and spring systems actuates a folding of panels covered in dichroic film, giving an interactive element. More details on this project, as well as Jenny’s other works can be found at http://jennysabin.com/

Like ColorFolds, many research projects that merge art, design, and science may represent themselves in the form of an installation, but the concepts behind the projects are concerned with more than just aesthetics. They present new technologies and ways to use them; in many settings, forms, and scales. Biomimetics is a field that naturally lends itself well to many disciplines both within design and science, and because of this, has great potential to be communicated well through this type of research.

If these sorts of investigations are of interest of you, I encourage you to also check out a new completely open and free Design + Science Journal by MIT Media Lab at http://jods.mitpress.mit.edu/. This platform is unique in the fact that it allows readers to engage in discussion. Check it out! Until next time, I’m Derek Miller, signing off!

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