Introducing nature analogies at the framing stage of design projects

Year: 2013
Editor: John Lawlor, Ger Reilly, Robert Simpson, Michael Ring, Ahmed Kovacevic, Mark McGrath, William Ion, David Tormey, Erik Bohemia, Chris McMahon, Brian Parkinson
Author: Zahedi, Mithra; Guité, Manon
Series: E&PDE
Institution: University of Montreal, Canada
Section: Reflection
Page(s): 772-777
ISBN: 978-1-904670-42-1


This paper reports on the effects of introducing biologically-inspired approaches at the framing stage of design projects. Biologically-inspired approaches involve application of analogies with biological systems to develop design solutions. In design education, this offers particular added benefits in terms of potential to encourage collaboration among teams of students, exposing them to interdisciplinary approaches, bringing their attention to functionality, sustainability, and user experience, and fostering development of holistic views of projects. Literature on biologically-inspired design, collaboration, and reflective practice were used to prepare students for a project-based design activity: Sixteen teams of four students were each asked to work on possible services to offer at Montreal’s next cultural Nuit blanche (Sleepless night). The teams were asked to start framing by reflecting collaboratively on the context and criteria of the project. Each team created a mind map to tackle a design problem and define elements for further development. Biologically-inspired approaches were then introduced, and the teams were asked to re-examine and reframe their design problems. Each team created a new mind map and developed new design solutions based on biologically-inspired approaches. Findings of the workshop support both the application of biologically-inspired approaches at the framing stage of design projects and the use of mind maps as creative collaborative design tools.

Keywords: Design education, biologically-inspired design, interdisciplinary, framing, collaboration, reflective practice, mind map


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