Bioinspiration in design: What is biomimicry and why should I use it in design education?
This summer, we’ve been working with students across Key Stages 3-5 (UK year groups 7-13) innovating design solutions to the world’s most complex challenges. This is a collective task for every corner of society to get behind, no matter our professional level of skill. Thanks to the buzz around the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ and Sir David Attenborough’s advocacy campaigns, most of us are now alert to our planet friendly (or not so planet friendly) behaviour. We’ve put this blog post together to introduce how Bright Green tackles sustainable design and innovation education.
Biomimicry is a term that learns from and mimics the strategies of design found in nature. Unfortunately however, it’s often far more anecdotally recognised (i.e. the Fibonacci sequence) than it is academically studied in design education. For example, overlooking how nature tackles form and function, misses out on over 3.8 billion years of intensive, highly intelligent and available research and development! We’re surrounded by natural case studies of the most sustainably resilient answers to the design process, yet we continually overlook these hidden non-verbal clues in favour of our own, incredibly limited, human intelligence.
In our Green Dragons programme, we ask students to ideate concepts that are inspired by nature and can be brought into life through a business-like opportunity. We introduce the principles of ‘bioinspiration’, covering methods such as biomimicry and bionics (the study of mechanical systems that function like living organisms, or parts of living organisms – think functioning prosthetic limbs). Some of our favourite case studies include George de Mestral’s invention of Velcro, inspired by the fascinating but infuriating humble Burr plant. Then there’s everything from the design and engineering behind the hull of boats, to trains, planes and automobiles.
Biomimicry is a great way to get design enthusiasts working on sustainable design solutions. It can also help navigate the highly time consuming and resource-heavy process of research and development. By utilising nature’s own R&D process, students can start to visualise and then comprehend how and why something inspired from our natural world might be a feasible solution to a human problem. This is especially useful during our school-based years when we’re simultaneously learning about scientific subjects like biology, physics and chemistry. Once we’re out of school, we’re funnelled off into our respective siloed career paths and our learning opportunities narrow dramatically.
If you’re interested in learning more about biomimicry for your own interest or for teaching in schools, get in touch with us (all our school programmes can be fitted within careers education). We can also sign-post you to resources for professional level development and Executive education.