The Need for a Visual Language of Biomimicry

Alëna Konyk’s image above is an example of a biomimicry language. To be good at the practice of making meaningful functional connections for innovation, a biomimic needs to acquire a large set of ‘labels’ that capture a complex set of biological conceptual elements and how they relate. Learning Biomimicry consists in part in learning (and often creating) a language of biomimicry. Many languages have sprung up, from TRIZ, to the emerging SBF model, to the AskNature functional taxonomy. A deeper understanding of how to engage in biomimicry innovation requires a richer (and more precise) vocabulary that is currently absent from everyday language. Yet, these languages mentioned above are ways to structure the information for thinking, not necessarily apt communication strategies. A complete language then must also addresses communication, and as Alëna shows in her work, facility in a visual language seems to be a strong part in thinking and communicating in Biomimicry.

Alëna's image of Silkworm and Spider silk

The good thing is most people don’t know any Biomimicry language at all, so you get to start from scratch. But it is important in any communication setting to see how much biomimicry someone speaks, what dialect, and set the stage for the conversation you want to have. This is where it helps to have a team that is good at communicating visually, or be one of those individuals, like Alëna that can craft a compelling image from thoughts swirling in her head.

If the language is lost or not common, every word becomes a paragraph, but with an image, diagram, or video you are able to convey complex information as a set clearly and quickly to a broad audience. Because biomimicry inherently depends on just these types of interdisciplinary interactions, we can not expect that everyone will always speak the same language, so must be able to carry with us (mentally or physically) images (diagrams, pictures, movies)  that tell the complex biomimicry sets quickly.

Clearly there are times when you want to hunker down around a table with everyone who is speaking the same language. But much of biomimicry is about finding common ground with others who think differently than you so- and to this extent a visual language becomes the most trusted tool in engaging others.


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  1. Pingback: The Biomimicry Priming Effect: Impacting Inspired Outcomes | Eco | Interface

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