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Biomimicry

April 1, 2010

I recently started reading the book Biomimicry by Janine Benyus.

Really eye-opening stuff!

For those who are not familiar with “biomimicry” here is a wiki definition: the examination of nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems.

A little mind exploding. I pulled out two quotes from Chapter 1 >>

In a biomimetic world, we would manufacture the way animals and plants do, using sun and simple compounds to produce totally biodegradable fibers, ceramics, plastics, and chemicals.” (page 2)

I see the signs of nature-based innovation everywhere I go now, from Velcro (based on the grappling hooks of seeds) to holistic medicine, people are trusting the inscrutable wisdom of natural solutions. And yet I wonder, why now? Why hasn’t our culture always rushed to emulate what obviously works? Why are we becoming nature’s protégés at this late date?” (page 4)

It just makes you think. There are so many products with natural comparisons, some very obvious, some down right silly… all equally intriguing. Yet, there are others that are so far from natural inspirations! What causes this divergence? I feel like every design school should start mandating biomimicry classes! Students can learn about the most international, recognizable, efficient designer of all time; Mother Nature.

Some examples >> Airplanes to birds. Showers to rainfalls. Duh. What about jackets to banana peels? Both a method of protection that is removable (most commonly in a vertical fashion).

Consider new technologies >> A company called Whalepower has designed more effective wind turbines inspired by whale fins. What about popular consumer products? Does the iPod have a natural comparison? Is it solving any problems that occur in nature? Or are products like MP3 players, Blackberries (which ironically has an organic name), and Twitter purely “man-made”?

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