Biomimicry: Design inspired by nature

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Nature is inspiring both design and business

From something old comes something new. We’ve often referred to biomimicry in our blog posts because it is one of Interface’s key design philosophies. Along with biophilia, the innate human love of nature and how it makes us feel, biomimicry goes hand in hand: it’s obvious that design using nature as inspiration is going to result in something good.

But it’s not so simple as an image of a rock or tree. What today’s designers are doing is incorporating principles of nature into design. Take our carpet tiles as an example. Some of our designs and colours may be used in ways utterly modern and urban, but underlying it is an idea from nature. The ordered chaos of a forest floor displays both pattern and variation.

The tiles can be laid in different directions. They can also be replaced at any time, meaning less waste than if an entire carpet had to be put in place. So, the design principles of nature are used here to promote a philosophy of sustainability, one that we back up with our focus on zero waste and zero emissions.

biomimicry  carpet

Further examples of biomimicry show that you don’t need to look like nature, but you may act like it. An often-cited example is a paint range inspired by the lotus flower. Their petals repel dirt and water in a way so that drops of water roll off the surface and bring with it dirt and particles. Through a microscope you’d see this is because the surface is actually rough, not smooth; in the same way, the paints by the company Ipso mimic this effect by drying ‘micro-rough’ so that it’s said to be self-cleaning!

Biomimicry is all around us in today’s inventions, contributing not only to our daily lives but creating a whole new class of entrepreneurship. Innovations include swimsuits emulating the skin of sharks, Velcro inspired by the way burrs stuck to the fur of animals, and the countless number of buildings and home that are inspired by nature for cooling and heating such as one African shopping centre modeled after a self-cooling termite mound.

Biomimicry: The basics

Ideas of biomimicry have been floating around for a while, but it wasn’t until Janine Benyus put it down in her seminal 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature that the concept has become more widely known and talked about. She’s now started her own institute for biomimicry, has received many awards and has given TED Talks on the subject.

Biomimicry: The basics


For further information and inspiration, you can explore dozens of sources of information on the Internet, along with a variety of stunning and engaging images. But it’s all boils down to a simple set of concepts that we find compelling. We live in nature so we should act like we’re a part of it. The ideas and principles of nature – sustainability, regrowth and regeneration – are yet to be fully explored in the world of design. Nature is a genius. We can be inspired by it in all aspects of the design process, from conception to manufacturing to implementation, and all of us, designers, architects and consumers alike can benefit.



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