professional identity & vision
I envision a future where biomaterials help us transition to a circular economy . The circular economy is a system where materials are not wasted, and nature is regenerated. This is often shown in two loops: the bio-cycle and tech-cycle. However, the view on biology in the circular economy is too much focused on providing replacements for quick consumer products such as packaging materials. I believe that biomaterials are just as valuable as traditional materials and can be kept in the circular loop using the same strategies we use for finite materials. I believe in a bio-inclusive circular economy; a model were bio and tech are viewed equally valuable.
Biology can provide designers plenty of inspiration sources for creating circular products. In design this principle of mimicking biology is called biomimicry . Nature has been evolving for as long as the earth exists and during these millions of years it has optimized itself to be recourse efficient and regenerative. In essence, nature behaves in a truly circular way. Take for example mycelium, a material that is 100% natural and grows under most conditions. Combining it with waste streams helps us capture CO2 while creating a versatile composite material. After it has provided us with a service in the form of a product, it will become a new source of nutrition for nature. The biological process that is found in mycelium can be either taken advantage of in a product, using it as a biomaterial, or it can be taken as inspiration for other materials or design approaches. This example applies to many biological materials and processes we find in nature.
In a bio-inclusive circular economy, designers create bio-tech products; Products that combine biomaterials and traditional design materials. The potential of biomaterials is best communicated through exemplary design examples that aid discussions in the design community. By creating functional, aesthetic yet sustainable design we can show consumers and others in the industry that bio-tech products can compete with current, non-circular, products. In my work I enable this through a Material Driven Design Approach , where new materials are explored for their potential in design. Through these experiences I hope to provide other designers with sufficient information to choose a biomaterial in their design work.
As a designer I explore circular design from a Material-Driven and Bio-Inspired perspective. As indicated in my vision, I believe that biomaterials can help us transition to a circular economy. When designing I take a biologist’s perspective in different phases of the design process to look at nature and see what we can learn from it. In my work I enable this through a Material Driven Design Approach . Using this approach, I explore biomaterials for their design potential and aesthetics. In the products that I design with this approach, biology and technology come together; biomaterials and non-organic materials start to exist in one design. I have shown this into practice with MySpeaker and MycoMonitor.
A Material Driven Design Approach  requires a curious personality. I think of the realization of my designs as a puzzle. For this, I go through an iterative process where I explore these puzzles through tinkering with materials and prototyping. Creating explorative samples, I try to figure out how a biomaterial behaves and what I can do with it. After familiarizing myself with a material I employ sketching and 3D modelling to explore its use in a conceptual product. These converging detailing phases is where I work the best. It is puzzling together all parts collected in the earlier phases. Through iterative prototyping, I turn concepts into products. In these iterations I figure out the best modular, aesthetic and functional design by looking at what the material wants. I start designing moulds, make different samples, 3D print or lasercut prototypes for the non-organic parts and look at production opportunities. I also look at ways of manipulating the visual and tactile aesthetic of the biomaterials to make an appealing product. For this I brainstorm with other designers and create open discussions to help me find solutions for issues and conformations for my decisions.
When converging towards a design I also start to look at how the finite materials and biomaterials can be combined in a modular way. Here the limitations and opportunities of a biomaterial are turned into concrete design decisions working from the concept to a functional, aesthetic, and sustainable prototype. Where information is missing, I call on biologists and other experts for their expertise and advice.
My past experiences as TU/e student recruiter have taught me how to make difficult and new information accessible. As something I enjoy doing, this has driven me to start doing this for other designers. With my spontaneous personality, I try to draw them in and share my knowledge while learning from theirs. My prototypes and designs function as a form of speculative conversation starters. I enjoy making others excited for a more circular future where we look towards nature and biology.
Biomimicry Institute. n.d. What is biomimicry. Retrieved February 13, 2024 from https://biomimicry.org/what-is-biomimicry/
Ellen MacArthur Foundation. n.d. What is a circular economy?. Retrieved February 3, 2024 from https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/circular-economy-introduction/overview
Elvin Karana, Bahareh Barati, Valentina Rognoli and Anouk Zeeuw van de Laan. 2015. Material Driven Design (MDD): A method to design for material experiences. International Journal of Design, 9(2), 35-54. http://resolver.tudelft.nl/uuid:7359026d-57f5-4f63-9835-126c5d23baed