While learning by doing is often the most efficient way to learn about a topic, some theoretical foundation does not hurt.
At the same time, reading helps you understand a topic to the fullest and get inspiration from what others have done.
Especially if you are a researcher, reliable sources and biomimicry literature are necessary to back up your own work and most of our suggestions below will serve that purpose.
While the industry changes at all times, we will try to keep this list of the best biomimicry books updated as best as possible.
If you are in a hurry, here is a list of the best books about biomimicry and bio-inspired design. You can use the table of contents below to jump to a section and read more about it! Alternatively, buy them online directly on the right.
This section covers the best biomimicry books in the “general” section. They don’t fall under a specific category but cover anything biomimcry, biomimetics and bio-inspired design in general.
These books are the best starting point when you are a beginner and don't yet know much about biomimicry and bio-inspired design.
If you already have a deeper understanding, you can check out the more specific sections for designers, engineers or educators.
This all-time classic is probably the most well-known entry point for designers, engineers and anyone interested in exploring biomimicry.
Janine Benyus has been working in the field of biomimicry for decades and countless people started their own journey through her book.
A core focus of Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature lies in sustainable development and manufacturing that utilizes the already efficient processes in nature and biology.
Although her work is not without subjective and personal opinion, Benyus gives the reader plenty of food for thought that is still relevant today.
However, if you are an engineer or researcher looking for in-depth practical guidance, you might want to check some of the other recommendations on this list.
You can get this biomimicry book at Amazon here: Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature
This biomimicry book is truly one of the best general introductions to the topic out there.
The "biomimicry primer" section is a comprehensive rundown of important concepts and does not miss out on putting bio-inspired methodology in the broader context of design paradigms.
Easy to read, clear language, and enough in-depth instruction to make this a great purchase for anyone interested in biomimicry.
Another aspect of Biomimicry Resource Handbook: A Seed Bank of Best Practices that intrigued me were the straightforward illustrations which communicate the points made in the text without distraction.
Not too flashy, but visually appealing, it is actually fun reading this book by Dayna Baumeister.
Throughout the text, the author also references other sources online and offline which are very useful. (Although we are not yet one of them. 😉 ).
This is definitely one of the best introductory biomimicry books and suitable for students and practitioners alike.
You can get this biomimicry book at Amazon here: Biomimicry Resource Handbook: A Seed Bank of Best Practices
Designers have taken ideas from nature for thousands of years.
The biomimicry books in this section show concepts for bio-inspiration and how to look at the right places for the next big ideas.
While there is not always a strict difference between designers and engineers, this section puts its focus on generally applicable concepts, rather than detailed technical implimentation.
If you want that, skip to the next section.
This short read (350 pages) is a nice book about biomimicry concepts and ideas.
It goes into detail into the thought process involved when designing futuristic bio-inspired systems.
Across 8 chapters, the author Amina Khan explores different fields of biomimicry and biomimetics.
Instead of simply explaining the application, she also features stories about the research and the people involved in it.
What I like about this one is the incorporation of biological explanations and the reasoning for applying them in the technical domain.
Adapt: How Humans Are Tapping into Nature's Secrets to Design and Build a Better Future is also different than other books on this list, as it features first-person descriptions, as well as interviews and light-hearted sections that are not too technical.
All in all, a good read and worthwhile for anyone wanting to get started with bio-inspired design.
You can get this biomimicry book at Amazon here: Adapt: How Humans Are Tapping into Nature's Secrets to Design and Build a Better Future
If you are an architect or structural designer looking for biomimicry input, this one is a no-brainer.
Look no further, as Biomimicry in Architecture ticks all the important points for a good design book.
It features illustrations, explanations, technical drawings, and loads of inspiration that will have you thinking about your own solution approaches immediately.
Michael Pawlyn is no stranger in the biomimicry community and gives an insightful introduction to bio-inspired design in architecture.
With only 176 pages, this book will most likely not answer all your questions, however, is a perfect starting point.
You can get this biomimicry book at Amazon here: Biomimicry in Architecture
This is such a good read! Granted, I might also be biased because I love everything about sharks and the ocean.
Hear me out, though. The Shark's Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature is Inspiring Innovation is not only a design book.
Instead, it dives into the author's own experiences creating a biomimetic product, as well as his learnings and own approach.
Jay Harman understands that every good biomimetic product begins with observation and gives valuable insights into the process involved in researching and selecting fitting biological sources.
The book does evolve quite about the author himself, and his own ventures, which you should know before buying it.
However, if you are an aspiring entrepreneur, as well as biomimicry enthusiast, this book is just a lot of fun to read.
You can get this biomimicry book at Amazon here: The Shark's Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature is Inspiring Innovation
This is the second book on this list by Dayna Baumeister.
Her first one Biomimicry Resource Handbook: A Seed Bank of Best Practices is an absolutely gorgeous introduction to the general topic of biomimicry.
As such, this one does not disappoint either, albeit concentrating on a different topic.
iSites: Nature Journaling for Biomimicry gives valuable design lessons for aspiring biomimicry beginners and invites the reader to some actual critical thinking.
It is aimed at anyone familiar with bio-inspired design in general but missing the answer to "so, how do I start now with what I know?".
What I like about this book are the additional sources of information that are given at different points throughout the text.
It features great illustrations and looks beautiful.
Of course, never judge a book by its cover, but we all know it is more fun to work with something that actually looks nice.
On the inside, the author applies what she calls the "six lenses of biomimicry" which each apply a different point of view to the process of turning an idea from nature into something else.
You can get this biomimicry book at Amazon here: iSites: Nature Journaling for Biomimicry
While it probably won't be enough to cover all your needs in terms of methodology, it works very well in combination with one of the following which I recommend for in-depth application.
As a mechanical engineer myself, this is the section I wish existed when I was looking for biomimicry literature during my degree studies.
While the previous section for designers features concept-heavy literature, the books here offer feature in-depth sources of bio-inspired designs, biomimetic methodology, and biomimicry theory.
A certain level of experience and knowledge in engineering topics like math, physics, structures and such are definitely recommended when reading these.
This is one of my all-time favorites and is basically THE handbook for serious practitioners looking for actual methodology.
On 1000+ pages, the authors go through all the steps used in bio-inspired design from searching the solution space to the implementation of biomimicry ideas.
I might be biased on this one, though, as one of the authors was my thesis supervisor at university. 😉
Nevertheless, I don't think there is another book which covers bio-inspired methodology in this degree of detail.
Please note, this is not a "fun" read for someone wanting to get a first look into the field or skim through pages. Instead, this is a highly in-depth guide for engineers looking for specific solutions to a problem.
I see A Practical Guide to Bio-inspired Design as a handbook of biomimicry rather than a "read from start to back", which the authors acknowledge, as well.
If you are ready to take the next step in your project and apply biomimicry directly, there is no better alternative out there.
Don't be fooled by the low amount of online reviews for this one, either. As a practitioner, you are not looking for colorful illustrations but hands-on application.
You can get this biomimicry book at Amazon here: A Practical Guide to Bio-inspired Design
This is another book aimed at engineers, grad-students and practitioners looking for bio-inspiration.
While not as comprehensive as A Practical Guide to Bio-inspired Design, it gives a large number of examples and practical applications in all fields.
For anyone developing new products, it is interesting to see what others have done and how an approach has been applied in technology before.
Be aware that this one is not for beginners, either and rather serves as a source of inspiration than a general theoretical foundation for biomimicry.
Engineered Biomimicry gives a great overview of the state of the art that's still relevant, despite being published in 2015.
You can get this biomimicry book at Amazon here: Engineered Biomimicry
If you are a teacher or educator looking for books to use in the classroom, this is your section.
Whether you want your students to read these on their own or are looking for learning and teaching materials for biomimicry, we got you covered.
If you are teaching a younger audience, you can also check out the next section on the best biomimicry books for children.
This book gives STEM teachers and educators hands-on exercises and a K-12 learning approach.
Good teaching materials are hard to come by, however, this one might just be the book about biomimetics and bio-inspired design you have been looking for.
Besides the extensive material covered in the book, there is an online learning website connected to it.
Under each section, the author includes step-by-step instructions for in-class exercises, worksheet templates and learning objectives.
Be aware, if you are not a teacher or educator, I suggest looking for a different book. While it does give you valuable insights, practitioners will find more in-depth information in some of the other ones on this list.
You can get this biomimicry book at Amazon here: Engineering Education for the Next Generation: A Nature-Inspired Approach
Nature is a fascinating place and offers so much to learn for children of all ages.
If you are interested in exploring the world of bio-inspiration and biomimicry with your kids, these books will serve as a good starting point.
They feature nice illustrations and interesting, kid-friendly examples.
This book was released in 2020 and is part of the National Geographics Kids line.
I remember reading these myself when I was young and I have held them in high regard ever since.
This biomimicry book is aimed at young readers probably starting at middle school somewhere along grades 4-7 and up.
Author Jennifer Swanson uses the "problem - solution" approach for each topic she covers.
This makes Beastly Bionics: Rad Robots, Brilliant Biomimicry, and Incredible Inventions Inspired by Nature a great read that introduces kids to the concept of critical thinking and the scientific approach.
The graphics and illustrations are modern and high-quality, setting this book apart from others out there and will be relevant for years to come.
Another part I really like is the kid-friendly way of explaining sometimes difficult concepts.
Without "dumbing down" anything, Swanson actually gives suitable explanations that even adults will find satisfying and comprehensive enough.
All in all, a great book about bio-inspired design and engineering.
You can get this biomimicry book at Amazon here: Beastly Bionics: Rad Robots, Brilliant Biomimicry, and Incredible Inventions Inspired by Nature
This colorful book is suitable for children and adults alike and introduces some of the best known examples and concepts from biomimcry to a younger audience.
Apart from the many beautiful illustrations, the authors make sure to include plenty of real-world examples in their work that children can relate to.
As kids like to know how things work, Nature Did It First: Engineering Through Biomimicry covers the natural processes involved first before showing the technical application.
Velcro, gecko-inspired adhesives and even surfboards made it into the selection of examples which are also featured on this page.
Another part I like was the fact the authors include a STEM challenge activity that teachers (or parents) can use to better teach biomimicry.
You can get this biomimicry book at Amazon here: Nature Did It First: Engineering Through Biomimicry
I hope you found something that you liked in this list of the best biomimicry books. If you did get one of these, let me know what you thought! Also thank you again if you clicked on a link before purchasing as this helps to keep this site up and running!
If you think I missed a must-read or are completely disappointed in one of my suggestions, leave a comment here and discuss.
When talking to people about what we do, it is often difficult to use the right words and definitions. In this post, I will discuss the difference between biomimicry vs biomimetics, bioinspiration, bionics, bio-inspired design, and all the other bio-inspired terminology you might have heard before.
If you are short on time, you can find a summary at the end of the article.
Taking inspiration from nature is a concept as old as humanity itself. From Daedalus building wings of wax in Greek mythology to Da Vinci’s early drawings of helicopters and Otto Lilienthal studying the flight of birds, countless inventors have used their observations from nature to create incredible things.
Many advancements in science and technology would not have been made, if animals or plants had not provided a blueprint or model in the first place.
Throughout history, this approach has had different names. Bioinspiration, biomimicry, biomimetics, and bio-inspired design are some of the most common ones.
The term bionics is also frequently used, however, often leads people to first think of artificial limbs and cyborgs from your favorite comic books.
In order to communicate the goals of a project between designers, engineers and scientists, it is important to agree on the bio-inspired terminology first. Otherwise, you run the risk of unsatisfactory project results and lost revenue.
There seems to be confusion about the difference between biomimicry vs biomimetics and other common terms more. In part, this is due to the lack of standardization and how terminology is taught around the world.
On the other hand, each word describes (slightly) different approaches and core principles. At the same time, many researchers and companies create their own names for the same thing for branding purposes.
The definitions presented here are taken from research papers and literature and combined with my experience applying bio-inspired design in practice. Based on the example of a gecko, I will show you how they differ.
First off, let’s look at the question of why the prefix “bio” is used so frequently instead of “nature“. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, biology is defined as
a branch of knowledge that deals with living organisms and vital processes
It derives from the Greek word βίος (bios) meaning “life“.
Nature, on the other hand, is described as
All the animals, plants, rocks, etc. in the world and all the feature, forces, and processes that happen or exist independently of people, such as the weather, the sea, mountains, the production of young animals or plants, and growth.
Although many words like bioinspiration or biomimicry seem to suggest that our inspiration purely stems from biology, this is not necessarily the case. Whenever we look to find answers to problems in design, research, and development, anything can be a source for potential solutions. This could lead to the conclusion that nature would be the more fitting prefix.
On the other hand, our first approach is usually to look at living things like animals or plants first, as they are more closely connected to processes humans perform and are exposed to.
Similarly, it can be argued that biology is indeed what we are most interested in and other fields like chemistry or physics fall under different categories.
However, if a researcher started observing animals and subsequently found a chemical process that turned into a successful product, would this disqualify him or her from being considered a true bio-inspired practitioner?
In the end, it can be concluded that both terms are fitting and “bio” has established itself as the prefix of choice primarily out of habit and potentially convenience. As such, this blog uses bio-inspired and nature-inspired interchangeably, for example.
Example: Observing geckos and finding ideas based on their physiology, anatomy and behavior falls under both nature or biology inspiration.
Bioinspiration (sometimes spelled bio-inspiration) is the overall term used when designers, inventors and developers turn to biology and nature in the hopes of observing patterns, forms, features and mechanisms that help in solving problems.
The manner and extent to which such principles from nature are used in the technical domain is not specified. It can refer to looking at geometries in nature, conducting detailed research on a certain species or designing shapes in a more natural way.
It is important to note that bioinspiration does not imply that any specific methodology has been used which is the biggest difference to other terms on this list.
Taking a walk through a park which leads you to think that more natural and organic shapes would be great for designing the interior of your office building. You notice the gecko and it adds to the overall impression.
Potential Outcome: Your company’s new building resembles more organic structures, similar to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
The term biomimetics was first introduced by Otto Schmitt in the 1950s. Mimetics is derived from the Greek word μίμησις (mīmēsis) for imitation. As such, biomimetics is the imitation of principles in nature for use in technical applications.
Since the 1970s, the Webster dictionary defines biomimetics as follows:
The study of the formation, structure, or function of biologically produced substances and materials (such as enzymes or silk) and biological mechanisms and processes (such as protein synthesis or photosynthesis) especially for the purpose of synthesizing similar products by artificial mechanisms which mimic natural ones
Although a little lengthy, this definition works out very clearly the goal to copy biological mechanisms as closely as possible. During his doctoral research, Schmitt studied the nerves in squid to imitate nerve propagation in a technical device.
His attempts resulted in the Schmitt trigger, a basic comparator circuit that still holds relevance today.
One aspect often connected to biomimetics is optimization. Translating biological systems and mechanisms should lead to improvements or potentially replacement of existing technical solutions.
While this can be a potential outcome, this definition applies more to bio-inspired design which will be explained below.
Example: Observing geckos walk up walls you decide that this would make for a great product on its own. In order to mimic the same behavior, your team first researches the gecko’s skin and finds that it is made up of small hairs on top of scales, as shown in the image below.
So-called Van der Waals forces between molecules lead to the “stickiness” of the skin to any surface. In the second step, you copy the same structure and create a technical version of it. This video shows how NASA did that in the case of gecko skin.
Biomimicry is the arguably most common term used for describing the process of copying directly from nature. The term has been around since the 1980s and was made popular by Janine Benyus in her book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature in 1997.
The author herself describes biomimicry as a
new science that studies nature’s models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems
In contrast to biomimetics, Benyus explicitly emphasizes sustainability as one of the main objectives in the design process. Biomimicry is therefore not only a description of the process but a goal and value proposition in itself.
By copying and translating processes from biology into technical applications, humans can become more connected to their environment. Valuing nature as a “model, measure, and mentor” is therefore the underlying theme. If you are interested in reading the book for yourself, you can get it on amazon here:
You see geckos walk up walls and see how this is a great mechanism nature has created. You would then spend more time in nature to see how geckos blend into their natural environment and how their sticky feet connects to it.
Your team then mimics the behavior similarly to the example shown for biomimetics. Since your goal is to create sustainable innovation, you could look for improvements in the materials, for example by reducing plastic waste.
If you search online you will often come across direct comparisons of biomimicry vs biomimetics. Both terms have been used almost synonymously in recent years in order to describe the process of finding inspiration in nature and copying it in technical devices.
While this is not false per se, it does neglect the desire for sustainability that biomimicry promotes. I therefore encourage you to use the terms that fit the goal and scope of the application as they were intended.
Many people also neglect that there is yet a fundamental difference between the above mentioned terms and bio-inspired design, which I will explain in the following.
Bio-inspired design uses a variety of different techniques and methods to develop products that were inspired by but not copied from nature. In contrast to biomimicry and biomimetics, bio-inspired design does not attempt to build artificial versions of natural features.
Instead, they serve as ideas that can be combined with others to come up with new and unique designs.
As mentioned above, biomimetics is often credited with being optimization focused, however, this applies more to bio-inspired design. While biomimetics is concerned with mimicking principles, bio-inspired design tries to combine nature and technical domain when it is useful.
Natural mechanisms often lead to improvements in regard to efficiency or wear and tear. Animals and plants are usually very efficient, as energy in form of food, sunlight exposure or rest is rare. Technology, on the other hand, provides the means for top performances that surpass nature.
Bio-inspired designer, therefore, do not see much value in merely copying processes as it can potentially limit the solutions they can come up with.
Our courses in bio-inspired design show you how you can create incredible products by taking the best of both nature and technology and combining it.
Example: You are looking for a way to develop new, innovative climbing gear for your next trip to the mountains. As climbing is an act often observed in nature, you look for animals and plants that do so.
Among climbing plants, monkeys and mountain lions, you come across geckos. You analyze their behavior and how they are able to climb almost any surface at any angle or degree as described above.
You think the van der Waals forces that “pull” them towards the surface are a great mechanism. However, you believe it could be improved by using powerful “vacuum”-like sucking knobs to the crampons during your climb. In the end, your final product uses a surface modeled after gecko skin, however, the “knobs” use an electric sucking mechanism to improve the stickiness.
You can find more examples for bio-inspired design on this page.
Last but not least, the term bionics was introduced by Jack E. Steele in 1958 as a combination of the words biology and electronics. According to Webster’s dictionary, it is
a science concerned with the application of data about the functioning of biological systems to the solution of engineering problems
Similar to the comparison of biomimicry vs biomimetics, bionics vs bio-inspired design is another question that is raised frequently.
In essence, their common goal is to get inspired by biological systems and apply those principles to the technical problems without mimicking them directly.
While bionics was originally a term for the technical domain, engineers and designers prefer bio-inspired design in order to distinguish themselves from the medical field. Here, bionics often refers to advanced prosthetics.
In popular culture, bionics is often used in connection with cyborgs like the Terminator in comic books. In today’s research and literature, it has almost completely been replaced by bio-inspired design in any publications.
However, it is not wrong to use it if you prefer it over the alternatives.
For the purpose of using the more common understanding of term, we will connect bionics to the field of advanced prosthetics. The approach is similar to the bio-inspired design example given above.
However, instead of new climbing gear, the sticky gecko approach is applied to prosthetic legs to give them better grip on slippery surfaces. This way, they can be used to walk on ice, for example.
The following table summarizes the terms explained above:
|Bionspiration||Getting inspired by nature, implementation varies|
|Biomimetics||Mimic biological mechanisms directly in technical devices|
|Biomimicry||Mimicking nature’s principles with an emphasis on sustainability.|
|Bio-Inspired Design||Use nature as inspiration for technical products without copying its mechanisms|
|Bionics||Same concept as bio-inspired design but usually refers to prosthetics|
Biomimicry vs biomimetics, bionics, or bio-inspired design, there are many ways nature can enhance technology. I hope you now have a better understanding of the bio-inspired terminology used in literature, research, and design and know what they stand for.
In the future, I will expand this post by other terms. If you have any questions or comments, post them in the comments below!
The Corona virus has impacted everyone’s life in some way or another. Video conferences and home office have become the way to work for many.
However, staying at home means you have time to pick up new skills or improve on existing ones. If you are an experienced bio-inspired designer, here are some ways for finding biomimicry inspiration during the coronavirus.
If you are new to bionics, you will find suggestions on how to get started right now!
Watching documentaries is a great way to see nature in action and find bio-inspiration. After all, what’s not to like about sitting on your couch and getting biomimicry ideas from nature at any time?
Most importantly, there is no need to leave your house in doing so which means you are helping to flatten the curve. As a side bonus for parents, watching a documentary with your kids is a great way to spend time together and learn something at the same time.
There are countless great films about nature out there and of course you are free to select topics that interest you most. However, if you want to get the most out of your screen time, make sure to pick with care.
If you are currently working on a project, look for topics that could be related to the problem you are solving.
If your goal is to improve the loading capacity of a semi-truck, a good starting point would probably be principles in nature that are related to transportation or structures.
On the other hand, if your project is connected to water, a documentary about the mating rituals of gorillas in captivity would not be the first choice.
Moving from obvious to less obvious connections helps you find solutions more effectively.
It is natural to look for biomimicry inspiration principles that are related to the problem you like to solve. However, thinking outside of the box is extremely useful and important.
Don’t limit yourself to what appears to be “obvious” only and look for answers where you don’t expect them at first. Bio-inspired design methodology can help you with that.
Use techniques such as BIOScrabble to come up with useful keywords for biological principles and then look for documentaries that cover these.
For example, if you are looking for a connection between “cutting” and “walls“, you could have a look at ants cutting leaves to find food with their teeth which would be a sensible choice.
However, you could also go further and check out a movie about underwater cave channels that were carved out by water over millennia.
This one might not be possible for everyone as some areas impose strict restrictions on going outside. However, if you are able to leave the house on your own, going for a walk is healthy, releases stress and gives you time to think.
Leave your phone at home or at least in your pocket and turn off notifications for social media to not get distracted. Look around, observe nature and think about how things work. Stay far away from other people and observe your local regulations on social distancing.
Make sure to make the most of your time outside and take notes of what you observe. When you are back at home, writing a bioCard is a great way to research the working mechanism further and evaluate whether it could aid in solving the problem you are working on.
If you can’t go outside, work from home. There are many great resources for finding biomimicry examples, inspiration from nature and biological principles online.
My favorite platform to use is asknature for general biological phenomena and current research. Simply type in a keyword of your choice and check out their articles. pubMed also offers a large source of medical and biomedical papers and publications that are great for keyword search.
Of course, you can also check our list of biomimicry examples and projects and get some inspiration on what others have done.
Check out our guide to the best online sources for bio-inspired design and finding biomimicry inspiration and examples.
If you haven’t done so, read one of the great biomimicry books out there. They will help you dive into the history of biomimicry, teach methods and tools used during bio-inspired design and definitely give you inspiration for your own projects.
The most well-known one is “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature” by Janine Benyus. Published in 1997, this is still the number one title recommended to everyone just starting out with bioinspiration.
In 8 chapters, Benyus introduces a number of real biomimicry examples that solve different problems. You do not need a science or engineering background to follow along, however, some biological and research knowledge will definitely come in handy.
The book also outlines the path from initial idea to finished invention which is useful in understanding how to approach problem solving in bio-inspired design.
The book is more than 20 years old, however, and since then many innovations and changes have been introduced in the field. That aside it is a great read when staying at home during the corona pandemic and will give you plenty of interesting insights.
The second book I recommend is “A Practical Guide to Bio-inspired Design” by Helena Hashemi Farzaneh and Udo Lindemann.
The book is new from 2019 and aimed at engineers, scientists and managers incorporating bio-inspired design in their projects. It features the six steps of bio-inspired design:
For each steps, the authors introduce a number of methods and example projects that will give project managers templates to follow. Coming from an academic background, the book also includes a number of approaches that have been developed in research and are mostly unknown outside of it.
A word of warning, the book does not fall under the category “quick and easy read” and can be seen as a handbook or encyclopedia for practitioners. In my opinion, this is a great read for anyone serious about using biomimicry and bio-inspired design in projects or managing bionics teams.
This one should come at no surprise at bio-inspired.com. After all, we teach and promote bio-inspired design methods to our students in our courses and blog.
As history shows, you don’t need to follow one specific method or use one particular tool to develop great products. Some of the best biomimicry examples in history, like the Velcro® fasteners, were discovered purely by chance.
Nevertheless, structuring your projects and using tools to aid your ideation process will improve your chances to successfully incorporate biomimicry.
We all know, learning by doing is the best way to acquire new skills and bio-inspired methods work best when applies to real-world examples.
BioCards is one of my favorite techniques in bio-inspired design and easy to pick up during the corona-imposed home office. The goal is to pick a phenomenon in nature and break it down into working mechanism and functional principle.
Start by picking any animal you find interesting. Maybe one you observed during your walk outside by yourself. Along the wheat fields close to my home, for example, you can find large numbers of earthworms in the ground.
The title of the bioCard could therefore be “Earthworms moving in soil“. A quick google search reveals that this particular family of worms is called “Lumbricidae“. Knowing this can help later on when researching the working mechanism for their movement.
In the first step, describe the phenomenon and behavior as best as possible. In the case of earthworms this might look as follows:
“Earthworms are small, tubular shaped worms. Their body consists of a number of soft segments that can vary in number and may regenerate when damaged or lost. They dig through all types of soil.
If it is loose enough, they are able to push forward, however, if it is not, they eat it before releasing it on top.”
In the second step, write down a description of the biological mechanism. Use biological terminology but make sure you understand it.
Don’t be afraid to copy from other sources such as Wikipedia or AskNature, as long as they are reputable and the information presented can be verified. Be careful though not to commit any copyright infringements when publishing these results.
“Earthworms move through the ground by contracting and extending their muscles and pressing against the tunnel they have dug. Once extended, small hairlike structures known as setae extrude from inside their bodies.
They act as anchors in the tunnel walls so that the worms can then pull the rear part of their bodies forward. They alternate between front and rear segments moving forward.”
In the third step, describe the functional principle of the observed process. This is the actual transfer of the biomimicry and is done in technical terms. Only write the essential parts of the mechanism and avoid narrative style that distracts from the function.
“Earthworms move through the ground through muscular contractions. By anchoring small claw-shaped bristles known as “setae” against the tunnel walls they pull themselves forward.
These bristles are located along the entire length of their body. By altering the setae that are extruded at any moment, they are able to move different segments each time. They secrete mucus to help their locomotion.”
In the final step include a drawing or sketch of both the phenomenon, as well as the underlying mechanism.
When your bioCard is finished, you should have a good understanding of the phenomenon you observed and draw conclusions whether it might be applicable to the problem you are trying to solve.
You will also find that cards made by two different people will look and focus on different aspects and complement each other.
Of course, there are dozens of other methods out there to spark your creativity. If you want to learn more about them, check out our courses and become a bio-inspired design expert.
This might raise an eyebrow or two, but these are indeed strange times. Staying at home non-stop with your kids, significant other or other people you live with poses challenges, as we all know. But if you are at home anyway, just make the best of the situation!
Tell them about your project- if you haven’t done so already- and the ideas you have been thinking about. Ask them what they think. You would be surprised about the ideas that kids have (or maybe not, after weeks of staying at home together… ?) when it comes to biomimicry.
Last but not least, if you really want to become a biomimicry expert, check out our courses on bio-inspired design aimed at new and experienced designers alike.
You don’t need any background in biology and we will show you step by step how to plan and carry out bio-inspired design projects.
Furthermore, you will learn to use a lot of great, functional tools to find better ideas and turn them into marketable products in no time.
Courses will open soon so make sure to sign up to our newsletter now and get notified once they are!