DS 95: Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2019), University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. 12th -13th September 2019

Year: 2019
Editor: Bohemia, Erik; Kovacevic, Ahmed; Buck, Lyndon; Brisco, Ross; Evans, Dorothy; Grierson, Hilary; Ion, William; Whitfield, Robert Ian
Author: McCardle, John; Angus, Ross; Trott, James
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Loughborough University, United Kingdom
Section: Changing Innovation Landscapes 1
DOI number:
ISBN: 978-1-912254-05-7


In 2008 the Design Research Society held its biennial conference at Sheffield University, UK, under the banner, “Undisciplined!”. In recognition of the changing landscape of design practice, the theme focussed on the inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary nature of future models of design. The last ten years since have witnessed the emergence of Design Thinking, a systems approach that has pervaded numerous and diverse sectors, crossing many disciplines and giving rise to innovations in Experience Design and Service Design. The emergence of Speculative Design as a contemporaneous method to provoke societal issues has pushed design beyond that of the tangible, and opened new avenues in political and ethical practices, embracing ecological and sustainability values bringing together designers and publics.

Working across, between or even beyond established disciplines necessitates effective collaboration, and there are well-acknowledged models in associating business and science. Indeed, evidence suggests a worldwide increase in co-authorship of scientific papers across disciplines as working partnerships develop out of the confines of predefined and historical silos. However, the same cannot be said for Design and many branches of life science.

Recent interest in Biomimicry has been expedited by the enormity of existing knowledge in the sciences and the apparent possibilities to be creatively inspired by nature. Biomimetics necessitates collaboration between the diverse sub-disciplines of Life Sciences and Design in order to seek bio-inspired solutions, and epitomises the interdisciplinary challenges that face the modern design practitioner. In order for Designers to engage with Biomimetics, collaboration with biologists and scientist across multiple disciplines will be crucial.

While there is an increasing number of biomimicry special interest groups, specialist institutions, and supporting websites publicising example solutions to design problems, studies of biomimicry methodologies within design practice are scarce. There is, “little scholarly research into collaboration between designers and scientists in the context of scientific research” [1].

This study aimed to explore some of the challenges to the collaboration between designers and specialist natural scientists, and in delivering a mutually beneficial modum for innovating. By utilising the Delphi Method to gain insights from an assembled panel of experts, the outcomes demonstrated that Biomimicry is a complex process and that its efficacy varies case by case. Collaboration is currently evident within some projects and enterprises, however, there is limited consideration of the perceived benefits for individuals in their professional fields. The work highlights the need to support a process that promotes and encourages collaboration. By considering the current tools available and the opinions of professionals, we look for opportunities within design education to prepare students and professionals to seek inspiration in more diverse scientific fields.

[1] Peralta, C. & Moultrie, J., 2010. Collaboration between designers and scientists in the context of scientific research, INTERNATIONAL DESIGN CONFERENCE - DESIGN 2010, Dubrovnik - Croatia, May 17 - 20, 2010 pp.1643–1652.

Keywords: Disciplinary research, Design Education, Collaboration, Life Sciences, Biomimetics


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