Natural Model: Elephants

(Photo credit) Thousands of years ago, elephants had smooth skin. Then, through a genetic mutation, the skin evolved into a wrinkled version. The elephant was able to dissipate more heat due to the increased surface area which allowed it to increase in size without running risk of overheating. Hence, the elephant is now the largest land mammal on earth [1].

Graphic Design

Be open to surprising effects when it comes to “mistakes”. Sometimes during the design process we are so focused on what we preconceived in our minds that we dismiss variations that we come across during the design process.

Two different languages on a piece can spark interest. What if a provocative piece was mixed with a conservative message. How would the audience react? During a brainstorm session of a new design, a team could try to make as many mistakes as possible which might spark completely new directions and ideas. Or start the brainstorming with an object or idea that has nothing to do with the subject, perhaps a new relationship can be found that way.






One example is the Design process at IDEO. From their website:

IDEO is an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow


One project in specific was to help USGBC (US Green Building Council) to increase member and local chapter involvement and motivation across the country.  In essence, this was a communication design problem. The brainstorm session included the IDEO design team as well as a BaDT – Biologist at the Design Table from the Biomimicry group. By mixing both approaches, the human-centered design process with the biological process of biomimicry, the result was unexpected, effective, and exciting.

One factor that was discovered was that some species, called “r” species, reproduce in large numbers of offspring, and then hope that enough will survive to ensure the propagation of its kind. The “k” species only produces little amounts of babies, tends to them diligently and spends a lot of energy to ensure they all grow strong. In the case of  USGBC, many projects pop up all over the place, yet, energy is limited in helping all those projects thrive. This survival of the fittest route was the preferred one in this case. Members could submit project ideas to be voted on. Then, the local chapters could chose their projects to tend to. The projects that are strong enough to make it through the growing pains, therefore receive the needed energy to survive.

The team defined 4 different strategies that are borrowed from nature into its new structure. Read about the details of the project at Fast Company’s site


1. Biomimicry Resource Handbook