Design Evolution: Microbes and the Everyday


Royal College of Art, MA Dissertation.


Biotechnology intersecting life at many scales.

The Biotechnology Revolution could be the biggest force for change in the twenty-first century. But what does design, integral to the developments of the Industrial and Information Revolutions, have to ‘offer’ to the manipulation of living organisms for technological purpose? Could there be a role for designers—untrained in the sex-lives of microbes or the intricacies of RNA transcription—beyond designing the industry’s ephemera?

This was a starting point for my Royal College of Art dissertation, which used the microbe as a guide through the different scales of biotech, from microscopic molecular interactions to the vastness of outer space. I explored how design might evolve in the future: while designers may indeed forecast and design new biotech applications, we need a discipline to work between ethics and science, engaging with both the expected and unexpected consequences of technology. Who does this big picture view belong to? An increasingly complex scientific world obscures the macroscopic. Can design claim it, bringing the skills of synthesis, collaboration and tangibility to allow us to address the future?



Biotechnology intersecting life at many scales.