Why and how do we draw inspiration from nature to design digital products?

In business, our choices depend especially on situations we’ve already been through. We faced challenges, sometimes failed, and sometimes succeeded. These moments help us grow and improve the importance of our future business. We also rely on the experience of our peers, whether they are colleagues, colleagues or competitors. But if past experiences have been so rewarding, why not look around more broadly? Why not care about the organisms that surround us that evolve, survive and adapt to situations they encountered nearly 4 billion years ago?

During the 2022 edition of Web2day, of which BDM is a partner, we had the opportunity to attend the conference of Marion Simon, coach and consultant in Environmental Reorientation, and Thomas Doberat, co-designer at Jujotte. They shed some interesting light on what nature can give to digital product design.

Get inspired by the principles of life to innovate sustainably

Living organisms operate on several main principles: improve rather than maximize them, obtain local supplies, feed on information, use resources in moderation, lose a little to better protect themselves, adapt their needs to available resources, rely on cooperation rather than competition, and maintain balance with their system. Ecological, be open to creating favorable conditions for life …

The digital world rarely applies this type of foundation, however, drawing inspiration from nature has interesting advantages. Especially when crises, whether health, environmental or economic, question our production and consumption patterns. Then the speakers propose a definition of mimicry of nature.

It is the art of drawing inspiration from and collaborating with nature to innovate in a sustainable and sustainable way in an effort to address the environmental and human challenges of our time.

Then they highlight 3 ways to take inspiration from nature to design products, whether digital or not.

  • Learn from the results of evolution: It is nature’s mimicry of form and structure. For example, whale watching has improved wind turbine power efficiency and reduced noise pollution.
  • Learning from evolutionary processes: It is the biomimetic of function and process. For example, by monitoring ants, we’ve built apps like Waze to optimize tracks based on user data.
  • Learn the recipes for success: It is the biomimetic of an organization or ecosystem. For example, mycelium networks transmit information and nutrients to other plants, then we talk about the Wood Wide Web, which is a clear analogy with the World Wide Web.

Creating responsible and ‘bio-inspired’ digital products

According to Marion and Thomas, five keywords can represent responsible and nature-inspired product design: local, sustainable, discreet, resilient, and systemic.

Sweetened

This can lead to data stored and exchanged in short circuits, with energy being produced locally, ideally in a closed loop. Are beavers searching for their wood on the other side of the planet? We often exchange with people who are close to us physically, the circuits taken unfortunately are not always the shortest and often pass through servers that are very far away.

sustainable

This consists in creating products that are solid, scalable, closed-loop, self-renewing – or at least, easy to repair, with no idea of ​​planned obsolescence. The human body naturally repairs itself, and it develops according to us: we develop more muscles if we play sports. This can lead to modular and customizable products, and upgrades rather than hardware replacement.

balanced

Do you use normally cooled servers? Termite mounds benefit from natural ventilation that ensures cool temperatures even in the middle of the desert. Drawn power conditioning is also mentioned, and this calls for example the dual CPU interest in a future Pixel Watch, to maximize performance or economy depending on the context of use. In general, the idea is to show sobriety in data flows, requests, and uses. Twitch doesn’t leave 4K in the background to show up, similar to our parents who sometimes left the TV in the living room.

flexible

In nature, everything is made to adapt and make room for life, no matter what. We focus on diversity and decentralization. If we all grow the same tomato plants and the disease specifically attacks that variety, we will all be affected. By diversifying, we reduce risk. The principle is similar in the digital system: if everything relied on AWS servers and Amazon fell, would we all be together?

systemic

Everything operates in a neighborhood ecosystem and the digital figure is very interested in drawing inspiration from it. Instead of thinking of the isolated individual user, we win by thinking of groups, by identifying the stakeholders and influences of our designs. The solutions that are found to the user can transfer the problem to someone else, and they need to be taken into account.

If these concepts interest you, the conference authors designed this collaborative document to point out examples of adaptation to life and their numerical correspondence. You can also consult asknature.org, which is a complete database on living strategies: an interesting site to expand your vision of product design.

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