What designers can learn from different animals

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December 07, 2011
What designers can learn from different animalsDesigners of all types can gain inspiration from animals found in the wild. Many great designers exhibit behaviors similar to the movement, characteristics and instincts of nature’s creatures. Accomplished designers understand that there is no greater and more perfect creation than what can be found in nature. Designers that adapt the behaviors, instincts or habits of animals into their approach will find that they will develop designs that are innovative and efficient. This article will examine how animals can inspire designers of all types to greatness.
Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius. - Edward O. Wilson

1. Lion

Lions are considered the King of the Jungle because they prey on nearly every animal from leopards to cheetahs. They are brave animals that will challenge nearly every animal in the wild. Every day, they spend two to three hours walking and 50 minutes eating. The remaining 20 hours they are resting, socializing, or grooming. Most of a lion’s hunting is completed during the night hours until dawn. Designers in the same way must be fearless. They must be brave enough to be innovative in their designs and land major contracts with companies. Designers must be highly adaptable to any environment, while maximizing their full potential. Great designs often come when we are alert and well rested. But often, designers must burn the midnight oil to present clients with their best options. As lions and lionesses, designers must remain competitive and remain ahead of the competition to maintain their position as lead designers in their region or in the world. Lionesses are often more agile and do most of the hunting for their pride. Keep in mind that lioness designers may also dominate in some areas of design because of their natural instinct. Use this knowledge to your company’s advantage.

2. Tiger

Tigers have recently beaten out the dog for the world’s favorite animal. This animal is territorial and maintains a solitary lifestyle. They are camouflaged by their stripes and are simply unafraid to challenge any animal in the wild. Though the elephant is too large for the tiger to kill, the tiger will still try to intimidate the elephant nonetheless. Tigers have been known to successfully kill a rhinoceros, crocodile, moose, leopard, and numerous other large animals of the wild. They are faster than lions and can leap 10 meters or more, but they have very little stamina. Tiger designers must not be afraid of the large projects that seem out of their scope. Just as the tiger challenges the elephant, designers must also meet challenges without fear. Designers must take their numerous solitary moments to create and develop a solid design. Though there are some moments of collaboration with the team and the client, designers must retreat to create their designs as quickly as possible to meet the client’s deadline. Like a tiger’s hunting style, designers must be strategic in accepting and planning projects to continually generate fresh new designs.
Shall we, because we walk on our hind feet, assume to ourselves only the privilege of imperishability? - George Eliot

3. Giraffe

Giraffes have several advantages over other animals in the wild kingdom. The most obvious is the giraffe’s height. They can reach and consume more nutrients than their competitors in the wild, such as the impala or kudu. The giraffe also has the shortest sleep requirements of any mammal in the wild. The average is approximately 4.5 to 4.6 hours per 24 hours. Like giraffes, designers must be able to land more projects and reach higher peaks than our competitors. Designers must strive to view challenges from a different perspective and tackle the projects in a new light. Designers often have to adopt the behavior of giraffes and survive on 4.5 hours of sleep per night for short periods of time to complete major projects.

4. Camel

Camels are resilient creatures that can withstand incredible temperatures and water consumption levels that would kill other animals. They can retain a significant amount of water in their cells, kidneys, and intestines. They then can go long periods without water, because the fat tissue in the humps of the camel metabolizes and produces energy for the animal. Designers need to be resilient and adapt to changes in the work environment that may seem unreasonable in other environments. The work hours are often long, but the end product of the designs are rewarding. Designers must be energetic and constantly evolving to provide a design that is better than the competition in the least amount of time possible.
Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way. — John Muir

5. Cheetah

The cheetah, by far, has the fastest speed of any animal on land. The cheetah reaches speeds between 70 and 75 miles per hour. The cheetah can reach 62 mph in three seconds or less. After long sprints, they must rest for at least 30 minutes before achieving those speeds again. They may be the fastest in the wild kingdom, but their prey often escapes them because they will let them go, rather than risk an injury. Consequently, the cheetah’s success rate of landing their kill is only about 50%. Designers must acquire some the cheetah’s instinct to survive. They must be agile and fast to land the project and complete it according to the deadline. Designers must not overwork themselves or they will "burn out" and produce lower quality work. Additionally, designers may run the risk of losing half of their clients. Speed, however, will delineate a designer from their competition.

6. Dolphin

Dolphins are highly intelligent animals. Their brains are highly complex, and they can hear frequencies ten times higher than the normal human being. Dolphins are social creatures and form strong bonds with people. They have been known to rescue injured humans or aid in human therapy. They also enjoy communication through a variety of clicks, whistles, and other sounds. Play time is an important part of their lifestyle and culture. Design relies upon listening to the client and determining exactly what they need and desire. As designers, they must learn to listen better than their competitors. Designers must pick up on the nuances that their competitors will miss during the consultation. This will help your firm deliver a solution that meets the needs of the client. Loyalty is a large part of building brand image. Designers must form relationships with customers and also fellow designers to build business. If a client is the victim of a bad design, designers must rescue them and offer a better solution. Designers, like dolphins, must engage their customers and peers in play to discover innovative ideas and solutions to problems.

7. Whale

Whales are one of the largest animals to have ever existed. They spend 90% of their lives under water and only surface to breathe through their blow holes. Whales cannot afford to consciously sleep or they will drown. Therefore, a portion of their brain is always functioning to keep them afloat. Like whales, our creative juices are always flowing. At night, when we sleep, our subconscious may be thinking about the latest design. In the middle of the night, designers may wake up and sketch out an idea to avoid forgetting. Some designers never achieve a deep sleep, because their most innovative ideas come when they lay down to rest. A designer’s job is often spent at the computer, drafting board, or with the client. When we come up for air, a designer truly needs to release just as the whale releases accumulated water through its blow hole.
Living with animals can be a wonderful experience, especially if we choose to learn the valuable lessons animals teach through their natural enthusiasm, grace, resourcefulness, affection and forgiveness. — Richard H. Pitcairn

8. Turtle

Turtles are excellent at hiding from their predators. They retreat into their shells and can hide completely submerged in water or on land. Some turtles are more agile than others depending upon their preference to water or land. Though turtles have incredible night vision, they move slowly because of their shells. Often designers must hide or retreat to privacy to focus on a design for a client. Designers must learn to be methodical in their designs to ensure that they meet codes and also the client’s specifications. Being a visionary in design often allows you to see the entire picture when other designers fail to understand the client’s request. Turtles are protective of themselves and highly adaptable to different environments, as designers should be.

9. Owl

An owl’s hunting strategy is highly dependent upon the element of surprise. They blend in with their environment and are virtually invisible at times. Their feathers, also, allow them near silent flight. Their camouflage and silent flight comprise their competitive advantage in the wild. Designers must know their competitive advantage in the world of design. Like the owl, designers must establish an edge that delineates them from the competition. Designers must be like owls and design for any type of environment. If you are an interior designer, you should be able to design modern contemporary, French country, or Renaissance spaces. Versatility and capturing your audience’s attention with the element of surprise is instrumental to success.


Whatever your style that you may have cultivated, you should demonstrate your ability and creativity by showing others your animal instincts through fearless and flawless design work.
Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. - Albert Einstein
What is your competitive advantage? Are you like the owl and can offer a unique design that will “wow” the customer, or are you more like the dolphin, skilled at listening and rescuing the client from impending danger?

Aidan Huang

Aidan Huang is a self-taught developer, designer and blogger. He is also the editor-in-chief at Onextrapixel. Follow him on Twitter @AidanOXP

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