Foraging for Inspiration: Understanding and Supporting the Online Information Seeking Practices of Biologically Inspired Designers

Finding suitable biological systems to emulate is one of the key initial steps in biologically inspired design. Designers often turn to online information environments such as the World Wide Web to seek biological sources of inspiration, which poses its own set of challenges. The focus of our research is to understand and address those challenges. In this paper, we first present an information-processing model of the task of seeking bio-inspiration in online information environments based on our observations of designers engaged in biologically inspired design. Then, we analyze the information foraging behavior of designers that is encapsulated in this model to understand the costs associated with this task. Next, we propose an approach for enhancing information environments to better support the task of seeking bio-inspiration. Our approach augments individual information resources within an information environment with conceptual models to make the task of finding relevant information resources more efficient. Finally, we describe an interactive online information environment called Biologue that realizes this approach.