Bio-inspired Design and Information Visualization

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Bio-inspired design in recent years has been used successfully as a methodology in disciplines such as engineering, architecture, product design, and business. While still in an infant stage in terms of adoption in universities, those who have embraced the methodology have experienced promising design outcomes, enthusiasm from students, and an enrichment in research and teaching. One of the issues is that while bio-inspired design has been around for a very long time semantic disconnect between disciplines keeps the methodology undefined and at times, unrecognized. In this dissertation, I explore the potential of bio-inspired design for information visualization and seek to help fulfill information visualization’s goal of ‘amplifying cognition’ using design inspired by nature. I will directly investigate the different kinds of ways bio-inspired design might be useful. Of interest is where along the information visualization pipeline bio-inspiration is considered and in what capacity: is it used as metaphor, analogy, concept, form, function, process, system, or other? There are examples of bio-inspired algorithms in information visualization but are there direct inspirations from nature that could also be useful? How does the bio-inspired design community think about its field? How do they define it? Where do they think biomimics should focus their efforts? How do students work with this methodology? How do instructors best introduce the material in the context of information visualization? What was my own experience trying to implement this approach to my own data set? I present three approaches to explore this potential. I investigate the state of the art in both computational media design and bio-inspired design through a journalistic and design-oriented approach to create an active survey of these fields. I summerize ideas and opinions from a large set of interviews and design tools providing insights into the world of bio-inspiration. Experiential teaching is my second approach to investigate how students processed and worked with the idea of bio-inspiration for design and information visualization. This provided useful concepts for developing teaching and design approaches. Third was a research creation approach where I take a bio-inspired design lens to an online dataset in the hopes of creating a useful tool for the community. Challenges and observations gave new insights into bio-inspiration for information visualization. The dissertation ends with a reflection about the role of bio-inspired design for information visualization. The insights gained from the three approaches suggest further challenges for research and design.
Bio-inspired design, Information Visualization, Data Physicalization
Eggermont, M. J. (2018). Bio-inspired Design and Information Visualization (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/31829