Good Design + Compliant Mechanisms

Written: Dec. 8th, 2020 Approx Reading Time: 2 mins

Started day one of nocturnal life yesterday. It went well!

Got what I planned done during the night work session. Then slept really well after at 6am.

Woke up at 1pm and spent my afternoon + early evening:

📞Having calls. Shoutout to Gina 💜 — really appreciated the call today. Thanks for reaching out and for the great convos around sustainability + design.

🥳Spending time with family.

🧠Learning about good design + compliant mechanisms!

I've been interested in biomimicry for awhile now. To me it makes a lot of sense to pull inspiration from nature when designing as nature has been iterating it's technologies for billions of years!

It's our oldest R & D lab. Looking at the present and future biomimicry will play a huge role in design as we have resource constraints and need to move towards sustainable systems.

The mother of biomimicry Janine Benyus once said that it's not green design it's good design.

To become better designers we need to work with, inspired by, and for nature. 🌿

If you're interested in learning more about biomimicry and how to get started, check out this page of my favourite resources.

One of my favourite designers who does a lot of work in this area is Neri Oxman!

Neri is one of my biggest role models!

My passion lies in closed-loop systems for earth + space applications. I love design and problem-solving with an emphasis on using nature for inspiration or as a part of solutions.

My friend Guido recommended Neri's Ted Talk to me a few months ago and I was blown away.

She's working on the intersection of those areas and more.

Neri is a designer and professor at MIT's Media Lab. She leads the Mediated Matter research group. Her work intersects art, engineering, science, and design.


Some of Neri's work includes structures made with Silk worms, a glass printer, fashion garments...

She calls the research field Material Ecology.

I think the work I hope to do fits well in this area. I'm excited to continue learning more about this and building projects in the space.

Today during our call Gina told me that there's a film on Neri as part of a documentary series on Netflix called Abstract. I immediately watched it after our call and left inspired.

My top three takeaways from the film:

  • Use your imagination + think outside of the box. Have a no idea is a bad idea or impossible to execute on mentality when brainstorming. Challenge the status quo.
  • Be detail-oriented—from your work to the little things (e.g. the culture you foster at work).
  • Authenticity is key.

In the same realm of nature-inspired design, I started looking into compliant mechanisms today.

Would like to kick-start the 3D printers in my basement and experiment with compliant mechanisms.

In a nutshell, compliant mechanisms are one-part mechanical devices. Their goal is to transform or transfer motion, energy, and/or force.

Typically a lot of devices are composed of many rigid parts —> a couple of gears here, some screws here, a metal structure here...

Our man-made world is full of rigid structures. In the machines we use to the cities we design.

In nature, there's a lot of connected design, flowing shapes, and overall less ridged parts + parts in general. 🌊

One example is the human heart —> it has many different valves and chambers but they're all effortlessly designed in one piece.

Looking at good design one specific area of nature-inspired design we should incorporate is compliant mechanisms.

I've just started to look into this but here are three resources I've found interesting + valuable:

Gratitude + good list

  • My puppy
  • Calls: Nyla, Gina, Kevin <3
  • Music (loving 1975, Billie Eilish, + Tate Mcrae)

Your friendly neighborhood: designer

- Astro Girl 💜

Written by @astro_adara in December 2020.