TED TEN- Models from History and Nature

This Ted Strategy is one that I find most relatable to my own work because Nature has always been a massive influence for me.

It suggests that Nature is full of brilliant design, not only beautiful but perfectly functional- the models we can source from nature have been refined over centuries through evolution.


I did not realise until today’s lecture, that Velcro is an example of Biomimicry. In 1941 George De Mestral noticed how the seeds of the burdock plant had stuck to his clothes, and his dogs coat. Examining them under the microscope, he noticed the hundreds of tiny hooks that caught on anything with a loop- this idea was adopted in designing velcro.

Reference: 12/12/2013, http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa091297.htm, website


Elaine Ng Yan Lings project “Naturology: The Secret Life Of Textiles” creates surfaces that can respond external stimuli, such as movement and heat. The surfaces are made up of different forms, and move gently like leaves on a tree, capturing natures sensory quality and  elegant patterns. Yan Lings aim is to create a subtle harmony in interiors, architecture and broader urban environments.

Reference: 11/12/2013, http://blog.ted.com/2012/08/17/the-secret-life-of-textiles-fellows-friday-with-elaine-ng-yan-ling/, website


Design duo Ecovative harnessed mycelium (mushroom fungi) and grow rather than manufacture their products, in particular, an alternative packaging to polystyrene. The material is 100 percent natural, renewable and biodegradable. They have given a couple of great talks on TED explaining their processes and ideas:

Video link: http://www.ted.com/talks/eben_bayer_are_mushrooms_the_new_plastic.html

Reference: 11/12/2013, http://www.ecovativedesign.com, website

Ask Nature is an excellent source of information about biomimicry, and how natures properties could be used to our advantage. There are hundreds of detailed articles with clear and concise information- so much learning potential. I will definitely be using the website for research and inspiration when creating designs. Here is the link:-


It is amazing that despite how “technologically advanced” we have become, there are some systems in Nature that we are still unable to replicate or fully understand. I think it is exciting that there are still so many new resources for us to unlock and utilise in making more sustainable life cycles for products.

There can be many sustainable solutions to be found if we look back in time  and take inspiration from the methods of production used before industrialisation and mass production.


“Bilik and Bubu” by Lanzavecchia + Wai used an indonesian waeving craft, Rattan, in their design of a room divider, and a bench. The designs utilise the crafts strength and durability, as well as celebrating this crafts quality and beauty.

Reference: 11/12/2013, http://thisispaper.com/Lanzavecchia-Wai-Bilik-Bubu, website


“Turkish Red” was a project by Formafantasma. THe designers created a product range that was inspired entirely by the archives at the textile museum in Tilburg. Their work explores the continuation of traditional craft, skill, and technique, also looking at how these can be developed to create new pieces. The Red pigment that was used is made from the root of the Rubias plant, and has been used as a pigment since the 18th century.

Reference: 11/12/2013, http://www.yatzer.com/turkish-red-studio-formafantasma, website


Matilda Aspinall looks at historical attitudes towards materials and production, with regards to textiles in particular. She recognises that in the past we were far more resourceful with our clothing, choosing to alter and repair one garment several times because cloth was a luxury and a commodity. Aspinall takes this approach with her work, designing clothes with adaption in mind so that our products have more uses to us and last a lot longer.

Reference: 10/12/2013, http://www.tedresearch.net/people/research-students/matilda-aspinall/, website

Looking at historical methods of construction could be a way for me to develop more sustainable designs. I really appreciate quality and craftsmanship, which I just do not think can be delivered in the same careful way by many modern technologies and building methods. My nanny always quoted “If you buy cheap, you buy twice”- as a child I had no idea what she was talking about of course, but now I find myself thinking in the same way. If you spend a little more money on a quality product, the chances are you will get longer and better use from it, as opposed to buying something cheaper, only for it to break and end up having to buy again.