Fabricating materials from living organisms: An emerging design practice

Serena Camere*, Elvin Karana

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Biotechnology offers exciting opportunities for novel and more sustainable alternatives for the design and manufacturing of products. One of the most promising approaches is the fabrication of materials from living organisms, such as fungi and bacteria. An increasing number of designers are engaging in this Growing Design practice, exploring the unique potentials of the grown materials for product design. In Growing Design, designers operate in interdisciplinary contexts, engaging in early stage material developments. Despite the widespread interest towards Growing Design, no systematic study has been conducted so far to understand how this practice unfolds and its contribution to the progression towards cleaner production. To this end, eight recognized professionals in the field were interviewed. The results illustrate how the conception of materials in design evolves when designers co-perform with biological organisms. This alters how the design process unfolds and the mindset adopted in design practice, shaping a novel, systemic vision on production and consumption practices. The paper further discusses the need for developing new sensibilities to face complex interdisciplinary problems in Growing Design and highlights the role designers can take in developing new materials for sustainable production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-584
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Algae
  • Bacteria
  • Biotechnology
  • Design for sustainability
  • Materials experience
  • Mycelium


Dive into the research topics of 'Fabricating materials from living organisms: An emerging design practice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this