Biomimicry and Package Design

As package designers have become more attuned to sustainable design as part of our creative process, many have begun to look at the lessons of the natural world, or biomimicry.

There has been a significant amount of research by a number of teams on the applicability of natural models to package design. And here are a few resources and links to people that are doing some interesting work.

A good place to start is with one of the most prominent experts in the field today, Janine Benyus, one of the founders of the Biomimicry Guild. Here is a link to a wonderful TED presentation called 12 Sustainable Design Ideas From Nature.

Package Design Magazine posted a good starter piece on biomimicry and package design, called “Sustainable Packaging, Nature as Model Measure, and Mentor” at their site In it Tim McGee, a biologist with the Biomimicry Guild , has written extensively about how package design could benefit from the specific design lessons of nature. He talks about what designers can learn from lettuce, ticks, peacocks and even the sandfish lizard.

The Biomimicry Guild even has a service they call “Biologist at The Design Table” where they offer the consultation of “biologists who are trained in the biomimicry design methodology and excel at helping develop products and processes which are sustainable, innovative, effective, cost-saving, and life-friendly.” Fascinating!

The Biomimicry Institute has a site that asks questions like how would nature create, self-cleaning surfaces, or color without chemicals or dyes, or a non-toxic waterproof adhesive. And at their site you can search a rich database of case histories. For package designers there are strategies like,

– The puss moth cocoon provides hard, protective casing

The yellow bush lupine has a valve that regulates water permeability

Georgia Tech’s Center for Biologically Inspired Design, has some interesting case histories on naturally inspired design thinking.

And even American Express, at their, talks briefly about the increased influence of biomimicry at consumer product companies like Nike, Seventh Heaven and Patagonia.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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