Using natural science research to inform design

Through 3.8 billion years of research and development, nature is able to produce remarkable designs. Each species on earth is born with the ability to make physical and behavioral adaptations aimed at survival and propagation. Close observation and study of these evolutionary strategies – from simple structures to complex communities – offer insights of value to artists and designers and help suggest sustainable solutions for the built environment.

Biomimicry Roundtable

In the spring of 2014 the Nature Lab hosted a meeting with representatives from the packaging industry and Biomimicry Institute, an organization devoted to helping people support sustainability by emulating design in nature, to brainstorm innovative ways to use biomimetic design to reduce waste.

Germ Studio

Jennifer Bissonnette, biological programs designer at the Nature Lab, facilitated a microbiology lab for Professor Peter Yeadon’s Germ Studio, a class aimed at designing hospital spaces to minimize hospital-acquired illnesses. Students learned basic gram staining techniques, observed both common and pathogenic bacteria and fungi under light microscopes, cultured bacteria from local sources and used the scanning electron microscope to explore the micro-topography of common hospital materials.

Hyundai + RISD: Adaptive Ecologies

In spring of 2021, students and faculty partnered with Hyundai Motor Group for a research collaboration titled “Adaptive Ecologies.” Through four specialized courses, new relationships between advanced technologies, public environments, and personal experiences were explored. Classes examined topics ranging from community design and biomimicry, cellular life and biosensing, to natural resource systems and infrastructures. Within each of these topics, nature was conceived of as a complex and technologically mediated point of departure for new ways of viewing and making the world. Students aimed to answer the question: How can artists and designers use technology to build connections and shared experiences?

More Initiatives
Nature Lab Logo
Support us Subscribe to our Newsletter

The RISD Nature Lab is an EPSCoR|C-AIM Core Research Facility supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement #OIA-1655221 and EAGER Grant Award #1723559. ​​​Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed on this site are those of the Nature Lab and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.​

© 2024 Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab at Rhode Island School of Design