Who is Hiring Biomimicry Designers?

Look for my self help book coming to stores soon...

I had a great question from an enthusiastic industrial designer from Carlton University in Ottawa (thanks Corey) about whether there were any design firms out there looking for “biomimicry designers”. Here is my Dr. Design response…

It’s a great question, particularly from students coming out of university worried about having the “right” skills to find the “right” jobs. I’ve had a few debates recently with graduates who have moaned about their inability to apply for jobs because of a lack of particular computer skills or the perfect hand rendering skills.

While this is a reality of the scenario, and I admit I speak from a very fortunate position of having been successfully employed as a designer, I think it misses the point. Checking the boxes with the appropriate skills opens the door to a possible job, but it doesn’t start a career. At OCAD University there is a lot of discussion around career rather than job. This puts an emphasis on the broader set of skills and a wider vision around where opportunity may exist.

The reality is there are not as many “industrial design” jobs as there are students who graduate each year, and as a consequence those incredible young designers are forging their own positions in companies and situations that would not have traditionally been home to a designer.

So… if there are almost zero job positions asking for “biomimicry” what is a poor student to do?

Well, I think it returns to my discussion a while ago. Stop obsessing over the tool, and start presenting the strategic value. What do you, as a designer, now offer since going through some biomimicry courses and learning this new tool? Don’t look for checkboxes to tick, look for opportunities where you can bring value because of your unique skill set.

Personally, I am tired of telling the biomimicry story a million times, so when chatting with potential clients or intrigued audiences, I’ve been trying to focus on the outcomes rather than the process. But, the warning here, is that these outcomes are up for debate. Very healthy debate.

If you are capable of making connections between a design challenge, research from the natural world, and return from that research with insights that can translate into actionable ideas, what is the value, and to who?

Anyone part of an emerging discipline of design, creative thinking or whatever “brand” you are connected with; from strategic foresight to craft based collaboration, faces the challenge of framing the value of what you offer to people who don’t understand the tool. And if you’re a fanatic it’s even harder, because the answer is just so damn obvious, why doesn’t everyone else already understand.

So, Corey… Dr. Design thinks the short answer is not to look for job offers that ask for biomimicry, but to look for job opportunities where biomimicry has something of value to add, and go pitch it to them. It is probably a much harder process than checking the boxes and competing for existing jobs (although I’m not entirely sure I agree with that), but is likely to lead to some pretty different circumstances.

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One Comment on “Who is Hiring Biomimicry Designers?”

  1. Alëna Konyk says:

    “Stop obsessing over the tool, and start presenting the strategic value.” This is definitely the key phrase in this post, I find. It is very hard to try to change the company from the very moment you join its team. However, it is easy to get the team excited about new ways of brainstorming, researching, mindmapping. I’ve always found this stage of product development to be an appropriate time of introducing biomimicry. Not to CEO, but to the team of designers and engineers I work with. The CEO, on the other hand, is interested in “stategic value”, as you, Carl, pointed out, not the process of how you get that strategic value.


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