Did you know Otto H. Schmitt and Jack Steele both lived to be 84 years old?
They were very close to celebrating their 85th birthdays, but never got a chance to. They did, however, get a chance to become fathers of biologically inspired design movements and bring such terms as ‘bionics’ and ‘biomimetics’ into existence.
In fact, the term ‘bionics’ (biology + technics) describing the process of “copying, imitating, and learning from biology” was conceived by Jack Steele in as early as 1960 prior to the infamous Bionics Symposium.
Steven Vogel in his book “Cats’ Paws and Catapults” defined bionics as being mostly concerned with systems design:
… [bionics] is based on living systems. The word ‘systems’ came naturally to those, mostly engineers, initially involved; neural systems and physiological controls formed biological parallels to human technology’s cybernetics and systems theory
Daniel Wahl took a radically different approach to the evaluation of the term, describing it from the perspective of ‘nature-culture relationships’ and indicating the deficiency of “salutogenic design approach that increases human, societal, and ecological health synergistically”. One of the most interesting quotes by Wahl examines the place of ‘bionics’ within the biologically inspired design:
Unfortunately the focus [of bionic-centred conferences] was so exclusively on technological innovation that it almost actively tried to discourage ecological concerns and the issue of sustainability.