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How Technology Drives Design: Interview with Designer Danielle Trofe

Danielle Trofe has made a career of designing sustainable furniture from novel biological materials. The Brooklyn-based designer is well known for her boundary-pushing projects such as the Mush-lume lamp collection, where she constructs lampshades from biodegradable mushroom material, and a hydroponic vertical garden, a pop-art style planter system that self-waters. Descience got in touch with Danielle to understand how she blends the worlds of science and design.

What roles do science and technology play in your work?

The ethos of Danielle Trofe Design is to incorporate innovative technologies and material sciences into smart, accessible design. Past and ongoing works include the use of vertical hydroponics, energy harvesting techniques like piezoelectricity and solar power, as well as tapping into rapidly renewable and sustainable materials such as mushroom mycelium. Science and technology are cornerstones of the design process and drive the quest to redefine what our interior objects are made from and encourages a departure from conventional materials and processes.

Why did you choose to focus on lighting and furniture, vs. other visual mediums?

My education background includes a Master's of Interior Design, so lighting and furniture are what speak to me currently. My design process is not driven from the object, rather the object is driven from the technology, science or function. Interior objects and lighting may be the common thread but the work is more about how to make innovation accessible and user-friendly.

What is the primary message behind your work? What was your inspiration?

The "message" I strive to communicate is one of sustainability and function. Do we need this object? This question isn't asked enough in our post-industrialized society. With limited natural resources and growing waste problems, we need to begin to ween ourselves off of a consumer-driven lifestyle. So asking first, is their a need? Not a want, a need in society, then you can move to the next step of tackling a life-cycle approach to creating an object with sustainability at the forefront. My inspiration comes from nature, not surprisingly. Nature has a few years on us in terms of engineering and design, to not take lessons and inspiration from this deep well of knowledge is foolish.

How do you imagine the future merging of biotechnology + art/design?

I can only speak from my short tenure and experience, but I foresee a rapidly growing DIY sector that may actually lead to much of the growth and development of these merging fields. Ecovative Design now offers a Grow-It-Yourself product that enables you to grow your own objects using their patented mycelium material. Fab Labs and open-source platforms are also a huge resource for empowering individuals and propelling the movement forward. Also, a general growing consciousness of our current global state is driving industries to seek alternatives to a "business as usual" approach. You're going to start seeing many more "biotech and art/design" solutions popping up within unexpected industries, i.e. agriculture production, transportation and fashion.

View more of Danielle's work at

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