Nature has a lot to teach us about well-adapted and responsive designs. With millennia of evolutionary trial and error, the solutions produced by the natural world have been tested by the most powerful of forces, nature itself. We can be inspired by and learn from the designs nature has developed and apply them to our own digital work through a process called biomimicry. Biomimicry can make digital design more effective and beautiful, and provides services that users intuitively connect to.
Bio-What? Definitions and Origins of Biomimicry
Biomimicry is a big word for a basic concept. Simply put, biomimicry is learning from and emulating nature’s forms, processes, and ecosystems to design elegant solutions to problems we face every day.
The idea of using nature as inspiration for design is not new. Leonardo da Vinci’s Fibonacci Series and Golden Ratio, revolutionized how innovators create aesthetically appealing designs through the mathematics of nature. The spiraling shapes of nautilus shells, budding flowers, and beyond have been mimicked for centuries in art as well as design.
In recent years, biomimicry has become more and more crucial to developing the next wave of sustainable solutions in nearly every field of design. In Japan, the Shinkansen Bullet Train took inspiration from the narrow profile of a kingfisher’s beak, resulting in a quieter and more energy efficient train.
The engineering firm Arup built an entire shopping center in Zimbabwe based on the natural convection ventilation system of termite mounds. The building has no conventional air-conditioning or heating, yet stays regulated year-round with 90% less energy consumption than a conventional building its size.
Speedo famously incorporated biomimetic sharkskin into a line of swimsuits for the 2008 Olympics. The technology was so effective – with 98% of medals that year won by swimmers wearing the sharkskin – that the tech has since been banned in Olympic competition.
So, what can we web designers draw from nature as inspiration for digital design? Here are my observations and ideas: