"I used to think
that being a designer was about color and pattern," says David
Oakey, 49, a leading textile-design consultant who has been in the
business for nearly three decades. But it wasn't until a few years
ago, when he happened upon a book by Janine M. Benyus called
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature ( William Morrow
& Co., 1997 ), that he changed his ideas about design wholesale.
"Biomimicry is about how we can learn from nature to solve the
problems of the future," explains Oakey, who is also the primary
design consultant for Interface Inc., an ecologically conscious
carpet manufacturer. "After all, nobody ever visits the forest and
thinks that the colors and patterns clash."
Oakey and his LaGrange, Georgia-based team have created a carpet
tile for Interface called Entropy, using nature as their design
guide. Like stones or leaves, each tile is slightly different, yet
when laid side by side, the pieces blend together perfectly. The
result: In addition to creating a natural-looking interior
landscape, the tiles can be installed faster, since they don't have
to be oriented in a specific way. And there's less of a need to buy
run-over stock to ensure a seamless dye lot, since single tiles can
easily be pulled up and replaced if they become soiled or torn.
Interface is not the first textile company to develop products
using the principles of biomimicry, Oakey says. The designers of the
Speedo suits worn by swimmers during last summer's Olympic Games
used the cellular patterning of a shark's skin as a model to create
virtually drag-free swimwear.
The Entropy line has been a high-performance hit for Interface as
well. Introduced in eight earth tones last June, Entropy is now
being offered in shades like blues and burgundies, colors typically
associated with corporate environments. Says Oakey: "From designers
to facility managers to end users, everybody just shakes their head
and says, 'Why didn't you think of this before?' "
Bonnie Schwartz ( Bonnie9878@aol.com ) is a
freelance writer based in Brooklyn, New York. Contact David Oakey by
email ( email@example.com