Biomimicry: Ask Nature First


“Humans are not the first ones to build. We’re not the first ones to process cellulose, make paper, optimize packing space, waterproof, or heat and cool structures. And we’re certainly not the first ones to build houses for our young.”

That’s the message that Janine Benyus, author of several books on biomimicry, has been spreading to scientists, designers, architects, and engineers since the late 1990s.

“Other organisms are doing what we need to do,” she says in her 2009 Ted Talk. So when confronted with any design challenge, she urges us to consult nature first. “Ask, how does nature solve this?”

It’s not a new idea. DaVinci and the Wright brothers studied birds to perfect their ideas about human flight. But it has been gaining more traction in recent years—due in large part to Benyus’ advocacy.  For example, scientists now imitate shark skin denticles to create faster bathing suits for racers and bacteria-proof surfaces for hospitals.

We’ve seen a couple good examples in this blog too. Remember Festo’s biomechatronic handling system inspired by an elephant’s trunk? How about the jaw-dropping SmartBird?

In this episode of the Product Design Show, Allison and Vince explore biomimicry and the intersection of nature, design, and science. It’s mind-blowing. What will all this mean to the future of product development? That’s entirely up to you, design and engineering friends.

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