Bridging the Gap Between Science and Design: Biologically Inspired Design

Being from a very different background than my fellow bloggers, it can be a challenge to find a topic to write about. I mean, I’m an Industrial Design major and that’s pretty far from science and labs and stuff, right? WRONG!

A couple weeks ago, my studio mates and I were assigned a new project: To make a biologically inspired lamp with an alternate power source. Before I tell you more, let me distinguish between biologically inspired design and design based on biomimicry. The latter is a more straightforward approach. For example, I like the shape of a honeycomb and would like to make a light that mimics it. Biologically inspired design, on the other hand, digs deeper and looks to solve a problem. For example, a light that draws biological inspiration from honeycomb might use the honeycomb as a charging station for lights for, say, students studying in the library. They would come get a task light for their desk from the honeycomb and return it to recharge when done.

The research for our project began with help of an expert from the Center for Biologically Inspired Design. He discussed numerous types of inspiration that exist in nature and it wasn’t until then that I realized how much design does and can borrow from science. For example, an Aerospace Engineer would never think to put ridges on a windmill blade, but after assessing the fins of whales, designers, scientists and engineers found that a blade with ridges would produce more lift and work better at steeper angles without stalling.

With biologically inspired design, the use of science is being explored in numerous capacities in the field of Industrial Design. This interdisciplinary study is an especially successful approach because it has an advantage of being based on an existing solution. Furthermore, the fact that it bridges disciplines gives not only a larger database of information to borrow from, but also the flexibility to gain the best of both worlds. Oftentimes, our areas of study can get cornered off, but by bridging two disciplines like science and design, a world of possibilities is open.

As we progress in the areas of engineering, science, and design, we are getting more and more interdisciplinary. For example, engineers, designers, and scientists merged to better understand flight of the herring gull. The result was Smart Bird, which “can start, fly and land autonomously – with no additional drive mechanism.” This technology fuels ideas to enhance hybrid drive technology while optimizing energy consumption. Future generations, especially, will be faced with the challenge of having to borrow heavily from natural resources. It is in our benefit, then, that we explore fields outside our area of expertise and integrate them with ours to solve these complex problems that do and will arise. After all, it is only for so long that we can rely on the techniques of traditional disciplines to solve current issues.


Tanaya Joshi is back for round  2 at Georgia Institute of Technology to pursue a Masters in Industrial Design. Her previous degree was a Bachelors of Science in Aerospace Engineering. She is is looking to bridge the gap between engineering and art through Industrial Design and hopes to focus on using design as a tool to enhance feasibility in products.


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