# When Re-Design (unintentionally) meets Bioinspiration

I’m an Interactive Media major and visiting student from New York, so that means my major’s credits are much different than an Interactive Media major in Abu Dhabi, and that also means I have a lot of freedom choosing classes that are **not** my major to count as my major credits. Hence, aside from Re-design I’m taking another core class called Bioinspiration, taught by Professor Rafael Song, to catch up with my major requirements. In the beginning of Rafael’s class, I recently learned about the terms *biomimicry* and *biomimetics*, which both mean the emulation of models and systems of nature to solve complex human problems or to create new innovations. Meanwhile in Re-design, I’m looking into *Universal Principles of Design* and the descriptions of some principles ring a bell from the other class: Fibonacci sequence, golden ratio, mimicry, and Ockham’s Razor.

Invented by the Italian mathematician Filius Bonacci, the Fibonacci sequence is a sequence of numbers in which each number is the sum of the proceeding two (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13). In Bioinspiration, we looked at how the Fibonacci sequence is present in natural forms such as floret patterns, the petals of flowers, and the number of leaves on a plant’s stem. In terms of design, designers, engineers, and architects consider this sequence when developing interesting compositions, geometric patterns, and organic contexts, especially when designs involve a rhythm or harmony among other elements.

The Golden Ratio is slightly similar to the Fibonacci sequence because they are used together in mathematics. Discovered by the ancient Greeks, the Golden Ratio, also known as the Golden Section, is the ratio between two segments, AB and BC, such that the smaller segment (BC) is to the larger segment (AB) as AB is to the sum of the two segments (AC), making AB/BC or (AB+BC)/AB equal 1.618.

We can use the Fibonacci sequence to find the Golden Ratio if we take the ratio of successive terms in the sequence, and we see a constant value the further one progresses along the series: 13/8 = 1.625, 21/13 = 1.615, 34/21 = 1.619. The Golden Ratio can be illustrated by dividing a rectangle like the graph above, and then by drawing quadrants within successive squares following a logarithmic spiral, hence making the iconic conch-like shape.

Using this ratio, we can also find find the Golden Angle if we divide a full circle into two arcs that are in golden ratio, and the smaller arc is 1/(1+1.618) times a full circle. This smaller angle–the Golden Angle–is close to 137.5º. In Bioinspiration, I have seen examples of the Golden Ratio in various plants, such as the heads of sunflowers, daisies, and some cruciferous vegetables (cauliflowers and broccoli), each part packed in phyllotactic spirals with divergence angles of 137.5º (labeled as Theta in diagram below).

Mimicry is stated in the Universal Principles of Design to be “the oldest and most efficient method for achieving major advances.” In Bioinspiration, it is quite obvious since it is another word for biomimicry. The type of mimicry most relevant in biomimicry would most likely be functional mimicry, since it focuses on why certain functions in nature work the way they do and how we can imply them in our technology, emphasizing on structure. That being said, one of my required readings was *Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature* by Janine M. Benyus, and in the reading she writes

Finally, Ockham’s razor states that “given a choice between functionally equivalent designs, the simplest design should be selected.” In her book, Benyus’ 9 standards of nature followed in Biomimicry: *Nature runs on sunlight*, *Nature uses only the energy it needs*, *Nature fits form to function*, *Nature recycles everything*, *Nature rewards cooperation*, *Nature banks on diversity*, *Nature demands local expertise*, *Nature curbs excesses from within*, and *Nature taps the power of limits*. Reading about Ockham’s razor reminded me the most about the standards *Nature uses only the energy it* needs––like when leaves fall from a tree and are turned into nutrients for the tree––and *Nature curbs excesses from within––*like when forest fires have a purpose of cutting down on excessive growth and allowing for regeneration. Like the ways of nature, Ockham’s razor cuts down on excessive features of the design and sticks to what the object needs for it to function properly. Similarly, Bruno Munari’s tree passes as a plausible tree, because while most tree’s branch do not spread equally like how Munari draws, it gives us the foundation that nature follows its own rules of structure by “tapping into the power of limits” and even “curbing excesses from within,” limiting branches to only split into two.

While taking both of the these core classes, I have reached the two most important takeaways in design: balance and stability. In nature, most of the 9 statements associate with energy efficiency and saving material as well. A possible reason why the innovations that we know of in architecture and design––along with Munari’s tree––have been effective is that designers balance out aesthetics with functionality or balance human individuality with the natural world. Plus, mimicry is the oldest method in design for a reason; we should view Mother Nature as our mentor since she has lived longer way before us humans, and she is giving us a sign that we should stick to the basics.