It’s no secret that learning does not begin and end in school; in fact, it is happening with every new experience you have, from navigating a new city to watching House re-runs and diagnosing patients with Hugh Laurie. Schools are formal learning environments, whereas informal learning can take place virtually anywhere. It can be unintentional, unstructured, and often lead to unprecedented discoveries.
As design thinking gains traction in education reform, there is a clear push towards informal learning, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. Evidence of this can be seen in a booming Maker movement as technologies including 3-D printers and Arduino microcontrollers become more widely available to the public. Children’s apps, video games, and toys expose young people to basic science concepts early on. Informal STEM learning has punctured virtually every large industry except for one: fashion.
In 2011, the global apparel retail industry was valued at $1.175 trillion. It is expected to reach $1.348 trillion in 2016. In the US, the neckwear market alone is worth over $850 million, with bow ties accounting for 7%. Imagine what could happen in the global conversation on STEM education if a fraction of these textiles started telling a story of science; if kids and adults learned about the natural world through bow ties and other wearable accessories that had patterns inspired by images from the microscopic world?
Against this backdrop, the opportunity to share science in style through Cerebella was born.
In college, I studied Architecture and Neuroscience with a focus in healthcare to delve more deeply into how environments impact human development and the neural underpinnings of learning. As I took art and science classes side by side, however, my interests took a detour in a surprising way. My sophomore year, I took a cell biology and genetics course and learned about photomicroscopy, or photography through a microscope. Form follows function whether you’re talking about modern architecture or biology, and with this perspective I began to photograph structures of specimens in the lab to understand how they worked and what was responsible for their beautiful patterns, textures, and colors.
Upon graduating, I founded Cerebella Design, a textile company at the intersection of art and science that finds inspiration under the microscope. My team and I create surface designs from microscopic images and apply them to apparel, starting with neckwear for men and women. All of our products are made of sustainable materials and are individually crafted in Vermont, USA.
The mission of Cerebella is to make science more accessible through art. Cerebella creates an educational experience with every high quality wearable product; these are complements to your wardrobe staples as well as conversation pieces. By designing patterns from microscopic images, the science lab quickly turns into an art studio, and the aesthetic experience that comes with specimen observation becomes accessible to scientists and non-scientists alike. This is a similar approach to Descience, where research is brought to the runway and shared outside of a typical lab setting.
On September 30th, we are celebrating the one year anniversary of Cerebella Design’s e-commerce launch, which has led to product line expansions, local science + art education outreach programming in Vermont, and a growing team of talented young men and women. This year we were also very lucky to cross paths with Descience and talk about what is on the horizon for education at the intersection of art and science. Descience brings designers and scientists together in a setting where they can learn from one another and, in turn, share their designs with the world. Cerebella takes the consumer goods approach on sharing science in style, with the goal of expanding product design and development to include scientists who are interested in having their images inspire the next surface designs. Whether science is on the runway or in the hands of everyday people, the opportunity to expose STEM through style is taking off, and this is only the beginning.