It is easy to overlook the natural world when considering great design, largely because it is often considered to have no actual design, or at least no intentional design…
However if we look at the world around us as something that has been designed, then I believe we are able to gain a much greater appreciation of just how complex and beautiful it is and ultimately how astounding it is that it works and even exists at all!
When I look outside and see the trees growing towards the things they need, light and water,seemingly without anyone programming them to do so, and see birds, able to glide, hover and fly in a way we are yet to replicate; when I think of the human body, full of pumps and valves, chemical reactions and mechanical movements, full of complex joints and interactions it astounds me. What also astounds me is the common belief that all of these things, things that we are only ever able to copy small parts off, are believed to be the product of coincidence, chance and time- that they simply happened into existence.
Nature is full of great design. The fact that plants are able to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, and gain energy from sunlight with such efficiency, that a chameleon can change colour, that our brains are able to process 400 billion bits of information a second, that hummingbirds can fly backwards. There are so many elements of the natural world that we have been studying for years with the hope of somehow discovering exactly how it works so that we can copy it.
The designs found in nature have been honed over thousands of years and, like many of the things which we design and make, have been through countless iterations- each one a little different and better suited to it’s environment. It’s no wonder then, that we look to nature so much as a source of inspiration and guidance, an endless resource of what really works.
It is no wonder that then that so much of our modern innovation in technology is inspired by nature.
Nature, by the standards I’ve already set out in previous blogs is surely the peak of truly Great Design. Nature betters lives, nature is ethical, it’s exciting, it inspires and it is functional in every way. To top it all of nature is consistently the perfect combination of beautiful aesthetic and brilliant function.
(I say consistently but there are some exceptions, for example the Blob Fish and the Deep Sea Angler, which I think we can agree are not particularly ‘beautiful aesthetic’…)