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Biomimicry in Design

01.14.10   |   Posted in: Art & Design   |   By: Katie Weiss
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biomimicry

In this age of technology most people know by now that we get a lot of our medicines and fabrics from things we find in nature but did you know that a lot, if not all the items in your home were also inspired by something in nature?  This is called biomimicry.

box-fish

Biomimicry is when a man made object imitates or is inspired by nature.  You may be unfamiliar with the term but this is not a new concept, and it is growing in popularity. For instance have you ever been drawn to an item in a store but you have no idea why you like it so much?  Do you find yourself always looking at a particular building as you drive by on your way to work?  Chances are these things catch your attention because of some biomimicry in the design.

mercedes-bionic-concept

We are attracted to designs that imitate nature because they are subconsciously familiar.  Familiarity breeds friendly, happy, or content feelings.  Designs that utilize this subconscious response in consumers tend to do very well in sales.  It’s also why we tend to see a face in most designs.  For instance a light socket does seem to look like two eyes and a mouth.

Annette-Ferdinandsen-feather-ear-rings

Jewelry designers apply biomimicry more than any other industry.  The next time you’re in a jewelry store or at a jewelry website you’ll probably find something that looks like an insect, an animal, or a plant.  Even the clasp most jewelry uses to fasten was inspired by the lobster claw.

japanese-bullet-train

Designs that apply inspiration from nature tend to be more functional too.  For example the bullet train in Japan was inspired by the beak of the kingfisher.  This shape allows the train to move much faster with less air resistance.  This design also eliminated the loud boom the old trains would create each time they emerged from the tunnels.  Cars of all shapes, sizes, and functions have been using nature as a guide for years. Recently, Mercedes-Benz, applied the aerodynamic shape of the boxfish to their bionic car and as a result this vehicle has a 65% lower drag coefficient than other vehicles in its class.

king-fisher

According to Bob Little, the president of solidThinking-

“Designers are constantly looking to nature because they can find ideas that have some fundamental level of efficiency and robustness, and there seems to be a general hunger for biomimicry as inspiration.”
“Biomimicry allows innovators and problem solvers of all kinds to create more intelligent and sustainable design through the emulation of nature.”
-Designboom.com

The basic fundamental point is that nature has 3.8 billion years of evolution for us to pull inspiration from. Survival of the fittest is still alive today so we can see which concepts in nature flourished and which died out.  Nature has done most of the work for us already we just have to be smart and clever enough to make it work for us.  So the next time you find your eye drawn to something, take a second to think about why and maybe you’ll find that society isn’t as separate from nature as you once thought.

10 Responses to “Biomimicry in Design”

  1. Alex Jones Says:

    Nike has also referenced a lot of nature in their designs. There’s also an example I’ve heard of where the hull of a yacht was given a bumpy or rough textured surface similar to what’s found on a shark. The result was that it increased the speed of the boat (I think by creating a layer of turbulance around the surface). Fascinating topic.

  2. Bill McKay Says:

    Neublack has provided me endless pleasure since I found it last year, but among all the eye candy and inspiration, this post is by far the most thoughtful and stimulating for the artist and the designer. Thank you.

  3. Scarlett Says:

    This article is wonderful. I’ve followed Neublack for a year and a half now, I keep coming back because not only is the content wonderful, the writing is intelligent and timely! Thanks!

  4. Heidrun Mumper-Drumm Says:

    Enjoyed reading your post. Nature is a potentially rich source of inspiration for designers, though we have tended to limit our ‘how would nature do it’ research to surface/mechanical features.

    I’m looking for the day when design gets around to mimicking how nature operates, not just how it looks or performs. When Nike creates a shoe that grows materials, fixes itself and can biodegrade…..that’s biomimicry I’d like to see.

  5. Ramey Says:

    Hi there! Enjoyed reading this. Love the idea of biomimicry in both graphic design and product design. I think we can take it even further than mimicking the appearance of natural elements, and encourage the very structure of graphic design to follow the rules of nature. Like creating inks that employ colors like the feathers of a peacock do – by refracting light in structural ways. Anyway, something to think about. Thanks for the eye candy. ;)

    PS – I wrote an article on biomimicry here: http://keengraphics.net/keenblog/2009/05/05/biomimicry-the-next-level-of-green/

  6. lois Says:

    I would like to see more biomimetic designs, particularly textiles products, as this is my current field. I will be using dendrimal forms in crochet to produce 3-D items using biopolymers, soya bean and milk fibres. Early prototypes are available now, if interested.

  7. Ruben Bernardino Says:

    Dear/Sir,

    Is it possible to obtain authorization to use the yellow box fish picture on this webpage? If so pleae provide all terms and conditions. I just started a group to study biomimicry and being able to use that fish photo on our website would be great. The link to our site is http://www.meetup.com/Biomimicri-Michigan/

    I look forward to your reply.

    Thanks,

    Biomimicry Michigan Organizer

  8. Dimple Gilhooly Says:

    People look for many kinds of antique objects. Some from the more popular items to collect are pottery and china and taiwan, furniture, and glassware. But anything that is definitely over one-hundred years old is considered an antique meaning that most jobs can be collected. While anything may be collected as an very old, it does not always mean that the good news is market in which to resell that for profit. If there isn’t a demand for the thing, the chances that you will note a profit from the idea are slim. However when you are less interested in creating a profit and more interested in your enjoyment, then anything claims to be an antique. People collect things such as books, keys, coin, cars and toys among all kinds of other things. The key should be to know your market. If you are interested in collecting toys you should certainly know what kinds with toys are worth buying and which ones are rare. You also should find out how to tell this difference between imitation toys and the genuine article. An imitation Barbie doll is definately able to generate the maximum amount of a profit for a genuine doll would.

  9. Envirozine: New approaches to design challenges « designospire Says:

    [...] You can check more information on Biomimicry here and for information related with interior design and Biomimicry visit what other blogs  say- Biomimicry + Interior design, Nue Black [...]

  10. Dan Says:

    Thanks, really helped me with my school work

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