A Year of Biodesign

A Short Guide to Biodesign

Kent State University’s Environmental Science and Design Research Initiative highlights our work in environmental sustainability, including from perspectives of science, art, and design. For the 2019/2020 academic year, we chose Biodesign as the theme of much of our programming because it spans these diverse fields and highlights an innovative approach to solving environmental problems. See below for a definition and links for more information.

Examples of biodesign - textile process, urban wetland, cliff wall template
Images courtesy of BioBlack, Lauren Kinsman-Costello, and Reid Coffman


What is biodesign?

To answer this question, consider the fields that biodesign combines.

Biological science asks: How does life, at scales from cells to the globe, flourish in the face of a destructive environment and scarce resources? How does life change over time and space to deal with these challenges, and how does it adapt to new problems that the world presents? In short, biological science seeks an understanding of how life works.

Design thinking is a way to develop innovative solutions for problems faced by humanity. Creativity is combined with testing, iteration and feedback to create new technologies and ways of approaching the world. In short, design thinking seeks to solve problems to improve human well-being.

Biodesign combines the approach of design thinking with knowledge and tools of biological systems. However, biodesign also goes further than this, advocating for integration of life into the technology that humanity relies on day-to-day. Living organisms are envisioned as incorporated into fabrication processes, products, and built and urban systems.