Why and how do you get inspiration from nature to design digital products?

In business, our choices depend in particular on the situations we have already experienced. We faced challenges, sometimes we failed, sometimes we succeeded. These moments help us grow and improve the relevance of our future actions. We also rely on the experience of our peers, whether they are colleagues, colleagues or competitors. But if past experiences are so rewarding, why then do we not look wider around us? Why are we not interested in the living beings that surround us, that evolve, survive, and adapt to the situations they have faced for nearly 4 billion years?

During the 2022 edition of Web2day, where BDM is a partner, we had the opportunity to attend the conference between Marion Simon, trainer and consultant in ecological diversion, and Thomas Dupeyrat, associate designer at Jujotte. They shed interesting light on what nature can bring to the design of digital products.

Get inspiration from life’s principles to innovate sustainably

Living things work according to several key principles: optimize rather than maximize, get local supplies, feed information, use resources sparingly, lose a little to better protect themselves, adapt their needs to the available resources, rely on cooperation rather than competition, maintain a balance with its ecosystem, be open to creating favorable conditions for life …

The digital world only too rarely uses this type of foundation, and yet: drawing inspiration from nature has interesting benefits. Especially when crises, whether they are health, ecological or economic, call into question our forms of production and consumption. The speakers then propose a definition of biomimicry.

It is the art of drawing inspiration from and collaborating with nature to innovate in a sustainable and sustainable way in an attempt to meet the ecological and humanistic challenges of our time.

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

  • Learn from the results of evolution: it is biomimicry of form and structure. For example, whale watching has improved the energy efficiency of wind turbines and reduced noise pollution.
  • Learn from evolutionary processes: it is biomimicry of function and process. For example, by observing ants, we have created applications like Waze to optimize routes based on user data.
  • Learn recipes for success: it is the biomimics of the organization or ecosystem. For example, the mycelium’s network communicates information and nutrients to other plants, we’m talking about the Wood Wide Web, an obvious parallel to the World Wide Web.

Create responsible and “bio-inspired” digital products

According to Marion and Thomas, five keywords can represent the design of responsible and nature-inspired products: local, sustainable, sober, robust and systemic.

Local

This can result in the use of data stored and exchanged in short circuits, with energy produced locally, ideally in a closed circuit. Are beavers searching their forest on the other side of the planet? We often exchange with people close to us physically, the circuits that are taken are unfortunately not always the shortest and often go through servers that are too remote.

Sustainable

This consists of creating solid, scalable, closed, self-regenerating products – or at least easy to repair, far from any notion of planned obsolescence. The human body repairs itself naturally, it also develops according to us: we develop more muscles if we play sports. This can result in modular and customized products, upgrades instead of hardware replacement.

Sober

Do you use naturally cooled servers? Termite mounds benefit from natural ventilation, which ensures cool temperatures even in the middle of the desert. The adaptation of the pulled energy is also mentioned, and this is reminiscent, for example, of the interest in a dual CPU on the future Pixel Watch, to maximize performance or economy depending on the context of use. Overall, the idea is to show sobriety in data streams, in requests and applications. Do not leave Twitch in 4K in the background to make a presence on the model of our parents who sometimes left the TV on in the living room.

Robust

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 a disease specifically attacks the variety, we will all be affected. By diversifying, we limit the risks. The principle is similar to digital: If everything is based on AWS servers and Amazon falls, do we all fall?

Systemic

Everything works in an ecosystem in the living and the digital has a strong interest in drawing inspiration from it. Instead of thinking about individual, isolated users, we win by thinking about groups, by mapping the stakeholders and the effects of our design. The solutions that exist for one user can move a problem to another, it needs to be considered.

If these concepts interest you, the authors of the conference have designed this collaborative document to refer to examples of living adaptation and their numerical similarities. You can also consult asknature.org, a complete database of living strategies: an interesting site to broaden your vision of product design.

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