Designology author Dr. Sally Augustin has been featured in an article written by Eric Pearlman for the Neo.Life website, take a look.
By Alex Pearlman
When scientist and inventor Andy Bass and his wife, Maryanne, first started farming bioluminescent dinoflagellates in 2011, they were attempting to make a living light: A simple home appliance powered entirely by plankton.
After many years and various prototypes, the Mushlume UFO, the Bass family’s latest version of dinoflagellate homewares, will soon be available for purchase. The shroom-shaped aquarium houses tens of thousands of tiny, single-celled organisms, which when gently swirled inside their sealed container glow in the dark, mimicking the stunning effect of a natural phenomenon in your home.
“I think getting to the idea about how we can live in a biological world is the essence of what I’m getting at,” says Bass, who lives north of San Diego, an area where dangerous dinoflagellate blooms have caused toxic red tides in the past. “I want the way that I’m designing to bring people into the biological world in a fun way.”
The birth of biodesign
As biotechnology advances past the lab to the sketchbooks of designers and into our living rooms, it may have seemed inevitable that the field of biodesign emerged, an interdisciplinary and somewhat nebulous specialty that beacons to artists, scientists, technologists, and those like Bass who wear multiple hats.
A growing number of contemporary artists and biodesigners experiment at this nexus of the living world and art, and the clothing, lighting, and furniture of Neri Oxman, Studio Drift, Eric Klarenbeek, and others have become part of the fabric of the design world and the inspiration for organically inspired interiors.
But as life follows art, biophilic architecture and interior design are emerging from the quiet confines of galleries and into the mainstream chaos of our everyday work and living spaces. The trend toward biophilia, or the concept of incorporating nature and natural elements into our lives, couldn’t come at a better time. As we’re all stuck in our homes because of the pandemic, taking shelter in spaces that we didn’t design for full-time occupancy, it may be that our lack of interaction with the natural world is taking its toll on our physical and psychological health.
It may be that our lack of interaction with the natural world is taking its toll on our health.
Luckily, a slew of new products use innovative technologies to augment or substitute for the big wide open, so we can feel the calming influence of nature even when we are trapped at home. When biology, technology, and nature intersect in design, the outcome is a trend in novel, nature-inspired homewares that can elevate a space to rival the best galleries, even on a modest budget. Nature can also serve as a distraction from our screens, an excuse to take a beat, relax, and breathe, away from the constant chatter of social media or the crushing anxiety of the 24-hour news cycle.
A recent study showed that interacting with an aquarium, even for a short time, can provide numerous physiological, emotional, and cognitive benefits. Similarly, numerous other studies have shown that clean air, indoor plants or greenery, and particular kinds of light can have an enormous impact on our moods and bodies.
Sally Augustin, an applied environmental psychologist who specializes in the benefits of biophilic design, says that the best approach for implementing nature into design is a multisensory one.
“Most of us are having a range of sensory experiences at any one time,” she says. Design shouldn’t overwhelm any of the senses and should take into consideration the way a person might respond to a space and all the various inputs it offers, like the many ingredients in a bouillabaisse.
Simplify the space, ease the mind
Biophilic design at home, according to Augustin, includes thinking about the design principles that nature applied in the places where we felt really comfortable in our early days as a species, and then applying those principles in our modern living spaces.
One example of this, says Augustin, is incorporating views of natural spaces, similar to what early humans would see when they looked out from caves and trees. Our minds are designed to scan the views to look for things we find safe and comforting—and which have low visual complexity. So, a room with an open window, a couple of plants, and some subtle wood grain is better than a chaotic, cluttered space without natural light. Simply put, our brains are at their best when they can quietly observe aspects of the natural world.
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How to Find Your PlaceType and Align Your Life With Design
DESIGNOLOGY gives readers the tools they need to instantly understand themselves and how to work with the world around them. DESIGNOLOGY cuts through the fads of clutter and cleaning books and delivers the clear, uncomplicated truth about why we respond to certain spaces in certain ways, and how we can use colors, scents, and other sensory experiences to create spaces that serve our real needs. Sally Augustin delivers straightforward action plans we need to develop places where we can live our best lives.