Science & Storytelling: How Microalgae-Died Textiles take a “Narrative Approach” to Materials Design
November 18, 2015
Essi Johanna Glomb and Rasa Weber of the Berlin-based Blond & Bieber studio are storytellers. At first glance, this might not be as apparent as other titles they embody--designers, scientists, futurists. They latched onto the aesthetic and functional potential of microalgae to create Algaemy, an analogue textile printer which produces its own pigment. Their Algaemy printer grows various species of microalgae, each a different shade of blue, green, brown, and red, forming a broad color palette. They then use the algal pigment to print brightly colored textiles.
“It reveals the aesthetic potential of a resource which is mostly regarded as weeds within Europe,” says Glomb. “The artistic and creative value of this resource is mostly undiscovered land.” This was the starting point for the team’s design process, which involved research and experiments with growing the algae, using it as a pigment for textile printing, and assessing the quality of the color.
Both girls come from a design background, and reached out to the Fraunhofer Institut - a scientific research institute in Germany - to learn more about the biology of the algae’s pigment range. Together, they researched the algae’s color palette, which “usually is not a subject of the scientific investigations in that institute,” says Glomb. “As designers we just had a different view onto the same subject. Designers don’t need to become scientific researchers themselves but the questions they propose are different and therefore open up new and often unexpected research areas.”
The Blond & Bieber team highlights this blend of perspectives through an emphasis on storytelling and communication. Storytelling allows them to “connect the familiar of crafts with the unknown of futuristic research.” They call it “Future Crafts”. The Algaemy machine’s design was inspired by old alchemy laboratories, while its wooden construction aims to communicate the warmth and familiarity of traditional crafts. They feel that this is the best way to make science more accessible to everyone. “Design and technology should not be seen as two absolutely separate fields but rather two fields that with each ones qualities can complete the other.”
“The design world is searching for [its] own expression [of] how to communicate futuristic research in an aesthetic yet meaningful way.” says Glomb. “The science world [is] often missing a translation of their innovations into something people can understand and relate to. We think that this is a major aspect [of] how storytelling and design thinking can support scientific and materials research - as these processes and outcomes are often of an abstract kind, design and storytelling can help bringing it into a form that is easier to connect to.”
Visit http://blondandbieber.com/algaemy for more information about the Algaemy project.
All photos and video sourced from http://blondandbieber.com