How to Design with Biology


Enter into any design studio in the world and you will find a wood shop, 3D printers, laser cutters, printers, maybe a metal shop or printmaking facility, but you will find no biology.  The careful craft of a wood carver, the skill of working metal allows feedback and hands on experience critical to the creative process in design. Most people if they think of biology & design at all think of synthetic biology. Yet this is cold comfort for design, there is little feedback beyond experimental results. Moving genes around (usually by moving small volumes of water from one tube to another) doesn't engage our senses, it doesn't light up our emotions or our craft.

When I worked at a design studio I tried for a few years to consider all the possible ways we could bring in biology as a craft, and that is when I started the idea: Silk-Smithing. Silk Smithing is the art of working with protein, and specifically working with silk. It turns out that silk can be broken down easily into its molecular components, and these can then be re-spun, re-formed, and tinkered with on a scale similar to other crafts. The video below begins to highlight the depths of my obsession with silk.

All of life is built on protein, it is literally the building block that life uses to make high performance, lower energy, sustainable materials - we should do the same.  At LikoLab we have been focusing on streamlining the process, and engaging with designers and makers to help us bring our vision of Silk Smithing to life. We are currently looking for partners, investors, and players to engage with us and enable biology to join the table as a craft of design.