Multifunctional and domain independent? A meta-analysis of case studies of biologically inspired design

Much of the literature on biologically inspired design makes two, often unstated and largely unexamined, assumptions: (i) The process of biologically inspired design is independent of the biological domain, and (ii) the design process leads to multifunctional designs. In this paper, we perform a meta-analysis of 74 case studies of biologically inspired design in the Design Study Library. We begin by noting that biologically inspired design has two core processes: problem-driven design and solution-based design. We find that the first assumption about the domain independence of these design processes is questionable. Our analysis indicates that the problem-driven process of biologically inspired design is more prevalent in some domains, whereas the solution-based design process is more common in other domains. Our analysis also indicates that the solution-based process leads to multifunctional designs more often than the problem-driven process. These findings may have useful implications not only for building information-processing theories of biologically inspired design, but also for developing pedagogical techniques for teaching about the paradigm and computational tools for supporting its practice.