The Design Spiral

In the words of the Biomimicry Guild, nature can be “model, measure, and mentor.”[14] This means that nature can be used as a guide to translate functions into biological terms. We can strive to discover and emulate nature’s pro­cesses and materials, evaluate solutions against nature’s own principles, and learn from nature as a source of information and strategies, not merely materials.

Because Biomimicry doesn’t suggest a tool set as much as it represents a way to think about and judge new solutions, developers might find it difficult to use Biomimicry as anything other than a source of inspiration for new solutions or new materials. Often, the framework is more helpful in formulating the processes of research

Подпись: Evaluate your design against life’s principles • Can your design adapt and evolve? • Does your design create conditions conducive to life? • How can you improve your design? Подпись: Distill the design function • Don’t ask “What do you want to design?” • Instead, ask “What do you want your design to do?” • Keep asking “Why do you want your design to do that?”


Подпись: Translate to biology • Identify the functions • Ask “How does nature do that function?” • Reframe the questions • Define habitat conditions that reflect design parameters • Translate life’s principles into design parameters
Подпись: Emulate nature’s strategies • Brainstorm multiple solutions • Refer back to the discover phase and consider chimera designs • Consult with biological experts • Go back to your model and explore more strategies

and development of new materials and manu­facturing processes rather than finding solu­tions to human needs. However, Biomimicry’s framework for the development process, the Design Spiral (see Figure 3.5), developed by Carl Hastrich in cooperation with the Biomim­icry Guild, is a development process that maps roughly to contemporary design processes but from a biomimetic perspective.

Discover natural models

• Go outside

• Consider both literal and metaphorical models

• Comb the literature

• Brainstorm with biologists

• Create a taxonomy of life’s strategies

FIGURE 3.5. fWl http://www. flickr. com/photos/rosenfeldmedia/3258161413 The Design Spiral.

The Design Spiral from the Biomimicry Guild isn’t terribly different than the process many designers already enage in when designing new solutions. However, the order is somewhat dif­ferent. Where contemporary design approaches suggest research, then prototyping, then evalu­ation, the Design Spiral expands the question of design brief through translation into similar biological processes (see Figure 3.6).


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Biomimicry teaches us to evaluate design solu­tions by comparing them with nature’s princi­ples and processes. In this way, it’s an addition to the design process but not a replacement for it, since nature’s principles don’t reflect hu­man requirements (either on an individual or societal level). So Biomimicry is a framework that should be used in combination with de­sign processes, not instead of them. In fact, Biomimicry fits best into part of the design and
prototype phase since the objectives of design research and testing are focused more appro­priately on evaluating human values and not natural values.

A more appropriate process that combines the two might be seen in Figure 3.7.

Biomimicry teaches us to evaluate design solutions by comparing them with nature’s principles and processes.

Design Process:


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FIGURE 3.7. http://www. flickr. com/photos/rosenfeldmedia/3258185739 Combining the two processes into one.

Developers using any contemporary develop­ment process should find it comforting to know that their current processes—especially other spiral-based processes such as Extreme Pro­gramming—can work within the Biomimicry framework with little modification. Instead, a shift in perspective and priorities is most im­portant. Throughout any process, questions of the environment and nature’s solutions can help focus developers on critical issues, inspi­rations, and possible solutions already existing in nature. For example, it’s already common that designers carefully cast new product speci­fications in terms of human needs and out­comes. However, the Design Spiral also asks us to question the brief from nature’s perspec­tive: “How does nature accomplish this?” and “What are nature’s needs?” The Design Spiral asks us to recast the location of solutions in nature’s terms as well—habitat, climate, nutri­ents, and so on.

Biomimicry doesn’t offer much guidance in terms of social or financial sustainability. It is primarily focused on environmental impacts. Indeed, nature isn’t a system that reflects hu­man values so it can’t be used to guide deci­sions made about them. However, even in nature, there may be answers to social and financial models of sustainability. In fact, throughout the entire development process, biomimicry reminds us to “look for answers already resolved in nature.”

…throughout the entire development process, biomimicry reminds us to “look for answers already resolved in nature.”

PAX Scientific

An impressive example of Biomimicry resulting in superior solutions involves the products from PAX Scientific and its subsidiaries. These seemingly simple impellers take their form from carefully observing vortexes in nature (see Figure 3.8). PAX’s founder, Jay Harmon, and his scientists designed the complex, multiple-axis


FIGURE 3.8. http://www. flickr. com/photos/rosenfeldmedia/3258976826

The hyper-efficient design of this impeller was inspired by nature.

PAX Scientific

shape of their impellers around the most efficient geometries they found in biological systems (including plants and animals). As a result, their pumps dramatically increase the amount of water or air they move or mix (depending on the application), increasing efficiency and reducing power consumption, noise, drag, and costs. In addition, the designs are carefully optimized for manufacturing to reduce material use and waste. Their products have been so efficient and successful, that PAX is applying these designs to every imaginable use of moving fluids, from automobiles to laptop computers to wastewater management. www. paxscientific. com

Updated: September 28, 2015 — 4:46 am