Fall 2014, Fall 2015
Instructor: Michael Bogan
Stanford Collaborators: Tobi Schmidt, Jolyn Gisselberg, Michelle Davison, Adam Idoine.
Upper Division Interdisciplinary Studio (UDIST)

This Upper Division Interdisciplinary Studio (UDIST) teamed CCA students with bioscience postdocs at Stanford to form collaborative teams that explored the synergies between biology, design, and art.  There were two primary goals:

1a. Create hybrid designs that were part human invention and part systemic living entities.

1b. Or use a living system to participate in the design of something

2. And in all cases, use hypothesis testing as a design method.  

The best way to explain this is with examples. 

William, an Industrial Design student, had read about “fish depression” and wanted to design a toy that his betta splendens could enjoy.  Because bettas display when they see conspecifics he hypothesized that his fish might respond to his own reflection.  He tested using mirrors and was successful. 

He then created a mirror ball, hypothesizing that something that was reflective and moved in the water, and moved when touched, would stimulate his fish.  He tested this, tweaked the ball, and it failed repeatedly.  He tired a faceted, floating, mirror tetrahedron, hypothesizing that a planar reflective surface would offer a better reflection than a curved surface.  This also failed.  He tested a rainbow ball, with different iterations including a spinning movement, and this too failed to interest the fish.  He created an underwater hologram of a swimming jellyfish using a submerged iPhone and an acrylic reflecting structure: again failure.  And he tried several other approaches.  Along the way, he noticed that what his fish liked to do was lean against the artificial grass in the tank and nap.  So eventually he designed a betta bed, and this at last was a great success.  The project was a betta-human design collaboration.

Ben, a Graphic Design student decided to create living fonts using bacteria colonies.  He swabbed bacteria letters onto agar plates, using different species of bacteria, and different nutrient levels in his agar.  He then let the bacterial growth and competition determine the shapes and fine details (serifs) of his fonts.  He developed this technique further by adding methods for stressing the bacteria, and by using kill solutions that created deletions.  The result was graphic design that was part human ingenuity and part bacteria.  These techniques were built on by other students who used fungi, and slime mold.

With Mary Cavanagh, and Lendert Gelens, Laura Kelsey-Meredith, Huanhuan He, Whitney Heavner, Dietsje Jolles, HoJoon Lee, Patricia Nano, Huy Tuan Nguyen, Leanna Owen, Angelica Parente, Karen Sachs, Jin Shen, Brady Weissbound