Nature-inspired innovations: Applying design thinking to biomimicry | by Sampada Bhatnagar | Dec, 2021


How can metaphors from nature solve our problems?

Similar to the 3 system of spaces defined in Design Thinking, to solve any problem in nature, 3 essential elements of Biomimicry exist in the form of (Biomimicry 3.8, 2015):

The Design Thinking Process

While Design Thinking emphasizes starting the design process with focus on empathy for human users, and biomimicry extends that concept to include all life forms. The “ideate” step depicted in the following figure searches nature for inspiration i.e translating strategies by considering nature’s unifying patterns, before implementing it in solutions and inventions.

(Biomimicry toolbox, Home Page) Retrieved from, Image by the Hasso Plattner Institute for Design

Creating the Design Lens

(Design Lens, 2013) Retrieved from, Image by Biomimicry 3.8
(Bridges, 2019) Retrieved from, Image by Now Go Create.

Biological ecosystems on earth have been in constant evolution, doing ‘R&D’ for over 4 billion years, going through phases like climate change, tectonic disasters and even cosmic rage. But nature still found its way and designed numerous life and non-life forms to resist, adapt and eventually thrive. The following are some of the most intriguing innovations obtained by mimicking nature’s different forms, processes, systems and degree of precision:

Imitating Nature’s forms

1.Wind turbines inspired by Whales: Whales are aerodynamic, and one of nature’s best swimmers. The swimming efficiency of humpback whales has inspired serrated-edge wind turbines, which are much quieter than the regular blades. (Summachar, 2021)

(Paul, 2018) Retrieved from
(Penn, n.d.) Retrieved from

Imitating Nature’s processes

1.Robotics inspired by Swarm Intelligence — It is the collective behaviour displayed by living organisms, to effectively coordinate their activities via decentralized control. This includes ant and bee colonies, hawks hunting, bird flocking, animal herding and fish schooling. This concept is being used by NASA in deploying swarms of tiny spacecrafts for space exploration, and by the medical community in deploying swarms of nanobots for precision delivery of drugs. (Simonsen, 2018)

(CSAIL, 2007) Retrieved from
(CSAIL, 2007) Retrieved from
Original illustration by author, Drawn in OneNote, Concept taken from (McLeod, 2008)
Original illustration by author, Drawn in OneNote, Concept taken from (McLeod, 2008)

Imitating Nature’s Ecosystem

Factory as a forest: “If nature designed a company, how would it function?” This is what Carpet manufacturer Interface questioned and decided to make its factories more regenerative, like a forest’s ecosystem.

(Mathew, 2018) Retrieved from

Imitating Nature’s Precision

The Golden Ratio: Equating to 1.618, the ratio was calculated by the famous fibonacci numbers — a continuous sequence of numbers starting with 0 and 1, and continuing by adding the previous two numbers. It is also called the divine proportion (Φ), because of its frequency in the natural world, starting from a spiral galaxy in space to the sunflower seeds back on earth. (Abigail, 2020) Architects worldwide use it to bring proportion and balance to their structures.

(Hilder, 2021) Retrieved from
(Roche, 2016) Retrieved from

We aren’t the only species capable of innovation. Designers aren’t the only ones capable of design thinking. We just need to open our minds to the possibility of an untapped potential both in nature’s resources and in the problem solving ability of human beings who have an expertise in different fields of study. Also, simply getting motivated by nature is not enough. Translating biological inspiration into a practical solution is the most integral part of biomimicry thinking.

Future scope: Role of Biomimicry Thinking in Sustainability

Bringing nature onboard to help solve world problems sustainably has been recognized as a viable approach. Take for example, termites build earthen mounds which are well-ventilated with holes. An energy efficient building in Eastgate Centre, Zimbabwe is based on this phenomenon as it internally regulates temperature with only 10% AC system requirement. (Grist, 2019)

(Roche, 2016) Retrieved from

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