The Nature of Biodesigned Systems

Directions for HCI


There is potential for a shift in design thinking that arises from the new nature of biotechnology.

Biodesign will centred around the needs of the user and also the needs of organisms that take part in these systems. This shift in thinking will influence the way in which designers view the designed system, the way in which users will need to act towards interactive devices, and the way that technology is conceptualised. This requires a new approach to thinking about how technology is designed for users and the organisms that take part in our interactive systems.

Biodesign is heading towards a new model: away from the paradigm of human-centered design and technology based on physics, towards designing for symbiosis and technology that is co-created with living organisms.

Update: we have updated the EOI form to resolve the issue of users being locked out.

While the workshop is held as part of the DIS conference, we invite people from design, arts and industry will participate.

Workshop Time






17th July 2020

4pm Sydney time / 8am Amsterdam time

3 Hours

Please complete this EOI form to participate (due 30th June)
See the Participating section below for instructions.

This collaborative workshop will be conducted online, facilitated using Zoom and Miro.

About the Workshop

In this workshop, we will explore three themes in biodesign:

Design for Participating Organisms

Biodesign is a field that will extend beyond human-centred design, to a form of human-organism symbiotic design. When components of an interactive system are living the designer will be required to co-create a product that allows the participating organism to thrive.

Challenging User Behaviour

Sustainability is a key issue driving biodesign. We will question whether a biological material can be more sustainable than a synthetic material when user behaviour is not challenged by the design.

Steering Technology

The applications of novel composite materials developed by designers from natural sources are currently limited, and often speculative.
The expectations designers and consumers have towards new technologies are biased towards a basis in physics, rather than biology.
Rather than a risk to the future of biodesign, these may be an opportunity for biodesign to steer technology towards different kinds of technologies, which we have not yet imagined.


We invite the members of the DIS community to engage with the challenge of designing with living organisms as partners. You are invited to submit an illustrated statement or case study of your own biodesign practice, up to two pages, as part of the EOI (e.g. in the form of a pictorial).

In your positional statement you may also wish to consider:

  • Your own definition of biodesign,
  • Your practice, methods, and how others could follow similar approaches,
  • Ways to evaluate biodesigned technology, and how it relates to the evaluation of other technologies,
  • Underlying ethical considerations,
  • Responsibilities: of the designer, of different disciplines,
  • Values that may ground biodesign.

We also invite participants to include a short video (< 2 minutes) that describes or documents their work in the field of biodesign.

To participate, please complete the EOI form (including the positional paper) by 30th June 2020.


We plan to strengthen the biodesign community within HCI. We hope that the discussions will help build a research agenda for biodesign and bring together experts in design, HCI and biodesign to critically reflect on potential of technologies based in biological sciences.


Dr Phil Gough is a Lecturer in biological design at the University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning. His teaching and research focus on interdisciplinary collaboration between design and science, including biodesign, non-expert user data visualisation, and design for health and wellbeing. Phil is the Program Director for the Major in Biological Design, a unique, insterdisciplinary undergraduate program combining life sciences and design.
Dr Leigh-Anne Hepburn is a Senior Lecturer in design innovation at the University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning. Her research focuses on design-enabled collaboration to inform and influence meaningful change. In her work, she explores participatory and socially-driven innovation at the intersections of industry, academia and community, co-designing new models of resilience and enabling transdisciplinary practices.
Dr Larissa Pschetz is a lecturer in Design Informatics and Programme Director of Product Design at the University of Edinburgh. With a background in interaction design, she has collaborated with biologists, social scientists, and several institutions in biodesign-related projects, running an interdisciplinary course on Biodesign with Naomi Nakayama (2017–18). She is currently editing a book on “Tales of Urban Biology” with Elise Cachat and Jane McKie.
Dr Carolina Ramirez-Figueroa is a Research Tutor in the Design Products programme at the Royal College of Art, and visiting Lecturer at the Bartlett School of Architecture UCL. Her work combines critical theory, feminist studies and creative practice to look at the intersection of architecture, design and living systems.
Dr Naseem Ahmadpour is a Senior Lecturer in Interaction Design at the University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning. Her research focuses on design for wellbeing, and specifically investigates new design possibilities to fulfil basic human needs and values through novel interactive narratives. She has published extensively on these topics in conferences and journals such as CoDesign and International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction.
Clare Cooper is a Lecturer at the University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning. Her research and practice span design futuring, workshop facilitation, performance and design activism. She has recently completed her Ph.D. at Macquarie University. Over the last two decades, Cooper has brought together thousands of people to work collectively on community initiatives, creative approaches to governance, collaborative composition, speculative design and critical listening through co-founding the NOW now festival (2001), The Splinter Orchestra (2001), Berlin Splitter Orchester (2009) and Frontyard Projects (2016).
Oron Catts is the Director of SymbioticA, The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts, School of Human Sciences, The University of Western Australia.
Oron Catts is an artist, researcher, designer and curator whose pioneering work with the Tissue Culture and Art Project which he established in 1996 is considered a leading biological art project. In 2000 he co-founded SymbioticA, a biological art research centre at The University of Western Australia. Under Catts’ leadership SymbioticA has gone on to win the inaugural Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica in Hybrid Art (2007) the WA Premier Science Award (2008) and became a Centre for Excellence in 2008.