The best biomimicry books

Posted by Julius Launhardt on October 26, 2020
Last updated on November, 3 2020

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.

General Biomimicry Books

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.

Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature

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.

Green butterbur leaf
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature is one of the most famous biomimicry books out there.

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

Biomimicry Resource Handbook: A Seed Bank of Best Practices

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.

Biomimicry Resource Handbook: A Seed Bank of Best Practices truly gives some great bio-inspiration.

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

Biomimicry books for designers

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.

Adapt: How Humans Are Tapping into Nature's Secrets to Design and Build a Better Future

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.

If you are looking for a behind-the-scenes look at biomimicry, check out Adapt: How Humans Are Tapping into Nature's Secrets to Design and Build a Better Future

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

Biomimicry in Architecture

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

The Shark's Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature is Inspiring Innovation

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.

Shark swimming in aquarium.
I love sharks. And The Shark's Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature is Inspiring Innovation

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

iSites: Nature Journaling for Biomimicry

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?".

Hiker on mountain top looking at sunset on the horizon.
Get out and explore! That's the message of iSites: Nature Journaling for Biomimicry

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.

Biomimicry books for engineers

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.

A Practical Guide to Bio-inspired Design

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.

Blue gears working together.
A Practical Guide to Bio-inspired Design is THE handbook for biomimicry engineers

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

Engineered Biomimicry

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.

Engineers and scientists talking over bionic prosthetics.
Engineered Biomimicry gives its readers a plethora of inspiration from projects and research attempts.

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

Biomimicry books for teachers and educators

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.

Engineering Education for the Next Generation: A Nature-Inspired Approach

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.

Lecture in university classroom with math formulas on the board.
If you are a teacher or professor, Engineering Education for the Next Generation: A Nature-Inspired Approach gives you valuable teaching materials.

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

Biomimicry books for children

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.

Beastly Bionics: Rad Robots, Brilliant Biomimicry, and Incredible Inventions Inspired by Nature

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.

National Geographic sign at Montefrio national park
Beastly Bionics: Rad Robots, Brilliant Biomimicry, and Incredible Inventions Inspired by Nature is another superb National Geographic Kids book.

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

Nature Did It First: Engineering Through Biomimicry

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

Conclusion

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.

Cheers

Julius

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