The natural world contains infinite examples of how to achieve complex behaviors and applications by using simple materials in a clever way. As we begin to exhaust the natural resources we rely on to create our products and environments, designers are increasingly turning to nature—where organisms make use of limited raw materials to survive—for inspiration about how to invent fascinating solutions to everyday design problems.
The importance of biomimicry—manufacturing materials that imitate life’s natural processes—has been known for years, and designers have often looked to nature for formal solutions. In the popular imagination, the best-known example is the microscopic “hook” on burrs that inspired the development of Velcro, but there are many more applications, from kingfisher beaks inspiring the shape of bullet trains to shark skin being used as a model for advanced swimsuits.
Author Veronika Kapsali, trained biologist and designer, presents insightful examples, showing each natural phenomenon alongside its man-made application, with an accessible explanation of the biology and the story of the design. While most are concrete examples that have already been developed, others point the way to what might be possible for an enterprising designer.
Veronika Kapsali is a reader in biomimetic (biomimicry) systems and leader of the BioExplore theme at Northumbria University. She is also the codirector of MMT Textiles Limited, a company that specializes in biomimetic fiber-based textile technology.