Finding design inspiration in nature Matt 07 Oct 2005

20 comments Latest by Parsa Ghofrani

Nature’s Design Workshop discusses biomimicry, a “new” science that studies nature’s models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs to solve human problems (not really sure how this can be called new since design has been inspired by nature for eons, but whatever).

According to the Wikipedia page on the topic, Velcro is the most famous example of biomimetics. In 1948, the Swiss engineer George de Mestral was cleaning his dog of burrs picked up on a walk when he realized how the hooks of the burrs clung to the fur. Other examples include a solar cell inspired by leaves, an anti-collision device inspired by locusts, and a wall-climbing robot inspired by geckos.

In the article, Janine Benyus, cofounder of the Biomimicry Guild, says:

If you have a design problem, nature’s probably solved it already. After all, it’s had 3.8 billion years to come up with solutions…The truth is, natural organisms have managed to do everything we want to do without guzzling fossil fuels, polluting the planet or mortgaging the future.

20 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Timothy Johnson 07 Oct 05

Still saying that it took 3.8 billion years to achieve great design, and not a Creator? Not trying to start a religious debate though.

Jamie 07 Oct 05

Who is this Intelligent Designer you speak of?

Lar 07 Oct 05

I think his name is Allah. Oh no, am I now on a U.S. no-fly list?

sb 07 Oct 05

I implemented a nature walk/design session for this very purpose for a company I consult for. “Organic design” has been around for a very long time, and IMO, is very useful when thinking about system design and OO programming. I’d pull this session out before the initial prototyping stage of a new or redesigned product. It’s been very helpful for me to approach a product or a business as an ecosystem, rather than as a set of disconnected or semi-connected processes. This may ring a little high on other folks’ “granola-meter” - but try it some time before dismissing the usefulness. If nothing else you’ll get a bit of fresh air and “clean slate-ness.” I preach it and preach it, but I believe fervently that the most useful time spent improving or creating software is not spent in front of a computer. That’s not to be said that anything is designed in a formal manner during these sessions, but the freedom of being out of a work environment allows for greater imagination and invention.

Jemaleddin 07 Oct 05

Well, first of all, the great designer is the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Anyone who says otherwise needs the touch of his noodly appendage hard across the face.

Secondly, “natural organisms have managed to do everything we want to do without guzzling fossil fuels, polluting the planet or mortgaging the future” is just an incredibly stupid statement. I don’t know about you, but my dreams go farther than eat leaves, crap and die. I think Evil Knievel would agree. Which animals did you guys cop RoR from?

Tim Uruski 07 Oct 05

Regardless of whether the things found in nature evolved or were designed, they are still highly optimized and worth exploring.

sb 07 Oct 05

precisely, tim. and taking a step back to look at food chains is an excellent way to understand how systems are exploited as well.

brad 07 Oct 05

Actually I wonder if the optimization process itself could somehow be better exploited in design.

Just as natural selection can both promote the retention of optimal designs (e.g., cockroaches have looked the same way for millions of years because they’re optimally designed, there’s no reason for their design to change) and promote changes in design that are not yet optimal (e.g., evolution and the emergence of new species), the marketplace exerts “selection pressures” on design. Maybe there’s more we can learn from designs that are already optimized (e.g., the mousetrap, the pencil) and not waste time trying to improve them, while closely monitoring market selection as a way to fine-tune and optimize designs that don’t quite work yet.

ceejayoz 07 Oct 05


Still saying that it took 3.8 billion years to achieve great design, and not a Creator?

Who Designed and Created the Creator?

Chris S 07 Oct 05

Who Designed and Created the Creator?

He simply is.

Chris S 07 Oct 05

Course, I s’pose if you’re Bill Clinton, it all depends on what the definition of “is”, is.

Don Wilson 07 Oct 05

The reasoning behind “his” creation, the creation of “him” and the reasoning behind why he has the power?

Chris Blood 07 Oct 05

Basically, nature’s just a wiki.

sb 07 Oct 05

exactly, chris. specifically, a single-page wiki.

Michael Ducker 07 Oct 05

At the school I go to (Olin College of Engineering, in Boston MA, a bio-inspired design course is required of all freshman. It’s a great course that studies the mechanisms of movement of different insects/small animals, and turns such study into inspiration for working physical models (hoppers/climbers and such) (with a full design-cad-prototype process). It’s a great field of research, and really interesting for a freshman design course to cover.

Which Creator 07 Oct 05

“Still saying that it took 3.8 billion years to achieve great design, and not a Creator?”

If He is the greatest and the mightiest, why couldn’t he get it right the first time, instead of waiting for 3.8 billion years?

Ringo Starr 07 Oct 05

It’s well known that the Creator was John. geez.

Parsa Ghofrani 18 Dec 05

God is up there,and observe every thing down here.God is the main creator so we can resort to it in every thing even in design