Harvard is doing the same as BiDL:


As the ‘GSD Alumni News | November 2013’ shows, the Harvard GSD and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering are researching Biomimicry as well. Since two years already! Just as BiDL did this semester, Prof. Martin Bechthold has taken their research into the classroom:

“The GSD is moving design forward into the world of science through a joint research effort with the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Professor Martin Bechthold talks about the different ways they’ve collaborated so far. Read more about their work.”

BiDL hopes to learn from our famous example in the USA!


A designer’s tool for nature-compatible outcomes


I just read a very inspiring article in the newly published Zygote Quarterly. On page 102, Tom McKeag introduces his BioDesign Cube, which he has been developing since 2009. The cube offers 3 complementary axes of corresponding subjects, which opens a meaningful, 3-D universe for design thinking. It helps designers to frame their problem and prioritize issues in their approach. I liked the simplicity of the tool quite a lot and believe it should be rather applicable in academia and practice.

But the real eye-opener for me was somewhere else: McKeag also mentions findings from research that was looking at the fundamental differences between biological designs (by nature) and technological designs (by humans). It appears that

“…biological solutions tended to emphasize information and structure, were more hierarchical and systems-based and therefore more applicable to a wide range of sizes. Technological solutions, by contrast, tended to be more narrowly focused and less scalable and sometimes problematic at a different scale.” McKeag is quoting Julian Vincent who says that “…in technology the manipulation of energy can account for up to 70% of the solution to technical problems, whereas in biology, energy never figures more than 5% of the time.”

This means that we designers always allow energy to play a way too significant role in our designs! No wonder we are unsustainable…

This, of course, is because we designers usually only care about the appearance of our artifacts. But here again, Tom McKeags BioDesign Cube will be able to show us which other aspects need to be considered to create more healthy and sustainable outcomes.

Julian Vincent, Biomimetics: its practice and theory, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 2006

Tom McKeag, Framing your Problem with the BioDesign Cube, Zygote Quarterly: zq06, summer 2013, ISSN 1927-8314, p. 102-109

This author is Pius Leuba (雷朴实):


Biomimicry is coming to China!


Not sure if you have heard of ‘Biomimicry’ already…

Biomimicry is a fast-emerging cross-disciplinary science and engineering practice that studies and emulates design lessons from the natural world to create more sustainable technologies, methods, products and designs. Researching the micro-structure of gecko feet for innovative ways to create non-toxic adhesives, shark skin for structure-based antibiotics that do not breed resistance in bacteria, the kingfisher’s beak to design high-speed trains, butterfly wings to create structural colors without color, lotus leaves for creating self-cleaning surfaces and better solar panels, and termite mounds for energy-free building ventilation systems, are just a few of a multitude of examples of how biomimicry is now dramatically changing technological possibilities.

Biomimicry caught public attention with the groundbreaking book by Ms. Janine Benyus in 1997, ‘Biomimicry – Innovation inspired by Nature’. Biomimicry has been developing and gaining recognition around the world ever since. It seems to be a promising approach to solve many of the underlying causes of our sustainability problems and is therefore rather inspiring.Biomimicry 3.8 Institute (USA) is currently the leading body and primary organizer of the biomimicry effort in the world. It enjoys increasing influence in government, industries, business, education, science, engineering media and design.

Whereas Biomimicry has been able to take roots firmly in the USA and enjoys ‘islands of presence’ in Latin America, Africa, Australia and Europe, it seems not so strong yet in Asia. In China it is currently introduced through a few pioneering firms, individuals and institutions. One of them is IDEA Design Lab, which is actively spreading Biomimicry through networking, workshops and events (e.g. the B>Hive Nights). The College of Design and Innovation (D&I) of Tongji University is currently establishing BiDL (=Beetle = Biomimetic Design Lab). Its goal is to initiate cross-disciplinary collaboration on biomimetic projects and to introduce biomimetics to academia, businesses and governments. IDEA Design Lab and BiDL are also setting up a regional Biomimicry network, the BCN (Biomimicry China Network). Its goal is to connect all firms, institutions and individuals currently heading towards or tackling Biomimicry and to offer them a platform for exchange, mutual support, joint projects, collaboration, learning, innovation, etc.

To initiate the spreading of Biomimicry in China, the Biomimicry 3.8 Institute, IDEA Design Lab, BiDL of TongJi University and GIGA are holding the first ever official Biomimicry and Design Innovation Training in Asia: The 6-day workshop, held amidst a subtropical forest in the TianMu Mountain UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, will introduce a whole new way of viewing and valuing the natural genius that surrounds us. This workshop will improve one’s ability to innovate sustainably in one’s field, using the biomimicry philosophy and methodology. It will illustrate how to translate the world of biology to design, engineering, business, education, and more. This includes hands-on experience with the deep patterns of the way life works, a biomimicry design challenge, the essential elements of biomimicry, and the biomimicry thinking design approach. No matter one’s background or sphere of work, this workshop will unveil the world of life-inspired innovation and its application to everybody’s work. It promises to leave us with a sense of potential and empowerment — because a wealth of sustainable models already exists right outside our doors!
If you are interested in Biomimicry or in participating in the training workshop, please get in contact with one of the points below.

Training Workshop:
IDEA Design Lab: /
B>Hive Nights:
Biomimicry 3.8:

This author is Pius Leuba (雷朴实):