Culturing Biodesigners: Pedagogical Approaches to Biodesign


The current state of the world demands that design education must evolve and transform in order to cultivate the next generation of designers, most of whom will be expected to work across multiple disciplines to solve complex problems. Biodesign is an innovative, transdisciplinary pedagogy that provides an educational site for tackling real world problems with concrete or speculative solutions, where students work with living materials in a highly supportive classroom setting to create a responsible future. We are six professors who teach biodesign courses culminating with participation in the international Biodesign Challenge. Our study begins with the challenges and benefits of creating interdisciplinary classrooms in which students collaborate across disciplinary boundaries and challenge their perceived limitations to contribute to collaborative team designs. Next, we present case studies from our respective classrooms, revealing how a successful team conceives of, tests, and implements solutions to complex real world problems. Finally, we discuss how these efforts in the classroom are summarized and disseminated through a regional network we created, the Midwest Biodesign Hub. The hub shares resources, develops public discourses, and creates a regional community of designers who cultivate design practices that foster human flourishing by understanding that human survival and prosperity is interconnected with biology itself. We offer practical and curricular insights into teaching collaborations between art, design, science, and engineering. The future of design is through interdisciplinary collaborations using advanced technologies allied to understandings of histories, including the diversity and complexity of biological processes, to ensure the future of our species.


Eric Zeigler
Assistant Professor of Art, University of Toledo, Ohio, United States

Whitney Gaskins
Assistant Dean, College of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Andrew Scarpelli
Adjunct Professor, Associate, Art and Technology Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, United States

Devon Ward
Assistant Professor, School of Industrial and Graphic Design, Auburn University, Alabama, United States

Nandita Sheth
Adjunct Instructor, Honors Program, College of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning, University of Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Brian Carpenter
Assistant Professor, Art, University of Toledo


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Design Education


Biodesign, Education, Interdisciplinary, Transdisciplinary, Futures, Biological Scale