Category: Projects

GFW18 – Winner of the Stand Award

Stand design for Graduate Fashion Week 2018 in London.
Freelance for the Fashion department of Edinburgh College of Art
Edinburgh, Scotland 2018

WINNER OF THE STAND AWARD

I designed this stand for Edinburgh College of Art with sustainability and usability as the core concepts.

Recycled & Recyclable Core

The core components (paper tubes and plastic sheets) are already recycled materials, linked together with paper clips and screws, making it easy to assemble, dismantle and reuse in another configuration. This also leaves the materials clean, free from glue or paint that would end their recycling cycle. The coat hangers are also made out of cardboards, except for the metal hooks and clips obviously.

Taking the concept further, additional storage boxes and decoration of the stand have been made from Graduate Fashion Week 2018 waste, collected on site from skips.

Accessible Showcase

The different heights of the tables make the stand accessible, as well as the shaping the space. This is enhanced by the lightning which brings up the portfolios and creates a unique, warm, boutique atmosphere. The petals have different heights to showcase different length of garments, and also giving every students equal opportunity to showcase their work.

Optimum Design

The design was though through to limit the amount of waste & lost raw material to a minimum; every millimetre counts!
The left over of the tubes used to create the hangers have been used to make the ‘heads’ of the mannequins and the lamps are designed using the centre of the petals.

New Beginning

Almost every elements of the stand will be repurposed for next years’ event or donated to local charities at the end of GFW18, and when the time comes, they can be recycled again at a local waste management centre!

 

 

Material

Kalico Plastic sheets
UK based company converting waste plastics into colourful, aesthetic boards
100% recycled , 100% recyclable

Paper tubes
UK based company
100% recyclable

EDIBLE plants
Origin UK
Will be donated to the community garden at the Edinburgh Royal Hospital

SCRAP MDF-BULBS-HOOKS-CLIPS
EU based companies, local shops
To be reused in the build of 2019 stand 

 

 

 

Thank you to

Mark Kobine for your help, advices and sharing pains aux chocolats.
Emily Ford-Halliday & Mal Burkinshaw for the opportunity and trusting me.
Linda Wilson, Juliet Dearden & Claire Ferguson for your support.
Wendy Bruce for your kindness and making everything easy.
Design Informatics for letting me use the studio and workshops.

Publication about Genetic Constructor

While I was working as a research associate in EGF and DI, I have been working with Autodesk Life Sciences on a new software: Genetic Constructor, developed to support synthetic biologists to design DNA, creating a “new visual language that focuses on functional parts abstracted from sequence”. A paper about it was published at the end of last year in ACS synthetic Biology and I am one of the author, making it my second academic publication after Designing with Living Organisms for RTD.

 

Genetic Constructor: An Online DNA Design Platform

Maxwell Bates†, Joe Lachoff†, Duncan Meech†, Valentin Zulkower‡, Anaïs Moisy‡, Yisha Luo‡, Hille Tekotte‡, Cornelia Johanna Franziska Scheitz†, Rupal Khilari†, Florencio Mazzoldi†, Deepak Chandran§, and Eli Groban*†

† Autodesk Life Sciences, San Francisco, California 94111, United States
‡ Edinburgh Genome Foundry, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3BF, U.K.
§ Radiant Genomics, Emeryville, California 94608, United States

ACS Synth. Biol., 2017, 6 (12), pp 2362–2365
DOI: 10.1021/acssynbio.7b00236
Publication Date (Web): October 11, 2017
Copyright © 2017 American Chemical Society

ABSTRACT

Genetic Constructor is a cloud Computer Aided Design (CAD) application developed to support synthetic biologists from design intent through DNA fabrication and experiment iteration. The platform allows users to design, manage, and navigate complex DNA constructs and libraries, using a new visual language that focuses on functional parts abstracted from sequence. Features like combinatorial libraries and automated primer design allow the user to separate design from construction by focusing on functional intent, and design constraints aid iterative refinement of designs. A plugin architecture enables contributions from scientists and coders to leverage existing powerful software and connect to DNA foundries. The software is easily accessible and platform agnostic, free for academics, and available in an open-source community edition. Genetic Constructor seeks to democratize DNA design, manufacture, and access to tools and services from the synthetic biology community.

Design Informatics Pavilion Facelift

Pavilion part of the Edinburgh Art Festival and the Fringe with the Future Play Festival.
Freelance for Design Informatics
Edinburgh, Scotland 2017
 
In 2016, The Design Informatics Pavilion was designed by Biomorphis, an Edinburgh-based architecture practice led by Pierre Forissier. Interested in how digital technology can be efficiently used to design an affordable modular structure, Biomorphis developed an algorithm to test and generate different cellular divisions to form a self supporting lightweight building envelope. For this 2017 edition I have been employed to give it a facelift, inspired by the 70 years anniversary of the Edinburgh Festivals starting from the launch of the first festivals in 1947 to 2017,  by the Design Informatics research topics and data from Edinburgh.
 

Pictures of the Pavilion by YUXI LIU

 
The graphs painted on the pavilion give the local context in which the festivals and Design informatics are taking place: the top line graph represents rainfall in Edinburgh in August in 5 year periods between 1947-2017. The bottom of the pavilion represents the elevations of Edinburgh during a walk through the cities most popular venues so starting on George Street and going to the Castle, the Meadows, The pleasance etc.

Then, the idea was to situate the history of the festivals in an international context, represented by technological breakthrough: each panel of the pavilion represents 5 years, creating a time line where icons (vinyls on acrylic) representing carefully chosen innovations, as well as some of Edinburgh festivals. Moreover, it established a link to Design Informatics, where students are trained and researcher worked on developing tomorrow innovations.

The pavilion become a time travel vessel: the outside is displaying the past of innovations, leading to the inside with the exhibition where you can imagine what the future might look like.

To realise this project, I worked in collaboration with Sigrid Schmeisser, to designed the icons. She realised the exhibition graphics, panels and brochure.
 

Dominoes

More informations in the report produced along the process.

The Dominoes have been designed as a concept of a tangible interface for biologists to sketch DNA constructs. The interface consists of a series of pieces representing different DNA parts, using Synthetic Biology Open Language (SBOL).
By manipulating these pieces and snapping them together biologists can sketch DNA sequences. Then, the aim of this project would be to be able be transferred into Genetic Constructor (Autodesk CAD tool for DNA design) to insert the sequences into the sketch blocks and test the validity of their design.
It could then be send to be assembled by Edinburgh Genome Foundry (EGF), a facility at the University of Edinburgh that offers a unique robotic platform to synthesise DNA.
 


 
I have conducted a series of interview with biologist to determine what are the needs: how do they currently design DNA, how they would use them, where, when, what symbols or shape they are using most, do they need different kit depending the organism they are working with (yeast, mammalian cells, plants…) …
It also allowed me to discuss their projects to determine what could be potential future needs. I am currently in the process of designing the fist set of prototype to be tested in different labs at the University of Edinburgh.
 

 
In addition, during these interviews, we discussed how they would communicate the DNA design process to the general public: how to keep the process simple but accurate and what could be an interesting interaction to understand the principles of synthetic biology. It resulted in another project ‘Tales of Synthetic Biology’ presented Here.

From these interviews I have designed a kit of general blocs and 3 different options for the EMMA kit.

Design – general blocs
  • Use of 5 different colours for the coding sequence (promoter – CDS – terminator) to visualise 1 transcription unit. It will be useful when one transcription unit is will be to be express in the bacteria for the duplication (antibiotic resistance for example) and others will be expressed in the plant/yeast…
  • Blank pieces with directional arrow for projects where the direction is crucial at the early design stage.
  • Larger pieces for Transcription Unit (containing promoter – CDS – terminator) for high level sketch.
  • Small pieces for localisation signal, tag… to annotate some aspect inside a block
  • Two different proposals to visualise the strength of a promoter.
  • Two special set to design sequences for Golden Gate of Gibson assembly, in-order to determine the ending and connecting sequence of the blocks.
  • Each type of block is done with a speci c colour + a symbol to give the maximum visual markers, helping to design a sequence.
Design – EMMA kit

One kit where the colours correspond to type of the blocks, one where they correspond to position of the blocks and finally to the type of the blocks and they are numbered for the position.
 

Tales of Synthetic Biology

More informations in the report produced along the process.

I imagined an activity composed of cards that allows participants to ‘create’ personalised engineered ‘thing’. They first would have to choose an ‘organism’ and then create a sequence in order to modify it; and finally explain the story behind their creation. Encouraged to reflect on the implications and outcomes (positive and negative) of such creation, it would give both insights of what the general public inspirations for synthetic biology are and a vision of the hopes and fears of the society. Moreover, it would introduce the basic grammar of DNA and its visualisation.
The aim of this activity is not only to inform participants about the processes of DNA design but also to invite reflection on what it means to design through living organisms.

 

 

I have conducted a series of interview with biologists to determine what how they would communicate the DNA design process to the general public: how to keep the process simple but accurate and what could be an interesting interaction to understand the principles of synthetic biology (the same interviews helped to develop the ‘Dominoes’ project).

The final design is a set of cards composed of 25 organisms cards (plus 15 blank ones), 8 promoters, 15 coding sequences (CDS) (plus 15 blank ones) & 8 terminator, as well as 53 story cards, allowing the participants to explain the story behind their creation.

I have tested them during 5 sessions (more than 20 people from designers, artists, biologists, engineers, technicians…) and twice during Louise Mackenzie ‘Transformation – Thinking Through Making With Life transgenic bio-art’ workshops at ASCUS lab Summerhall as part of Edinburgh International Science Festival 2017.

 

 

In total I collected: 36 stories, 10 new CDSs and 5 new organisms.

There is no clear tendency in the answers, same range of fantasy story (8%) than proposal for health (7%). Being able to gather more data would help to identify a trend (if there is one). I could imagine developing a webapp, where users could create in the same way (with drag and drop) sequences and write stories link to them. Then, they could share them on social media.
In addition, it would allow to collect thoughts, reactions from the comments and like section. A very small questionnaire after the activity could also help to gather the data from the type of story produced, allowing live data analysis.

Half of the stories are human-centred, while only one quarter would modify human. It suggests that most of the modi cation imagined would be beneficial for humans even if an animal or a plant is the target of the modi cation.

Even though I encouraged to reflect on the consequences (advantages, risks…) on the story card, only 3 stories have a sentence about it. To get more insight on this aspect and encourage broader reflection, designing a longer activity would be necessary.
The sequence and the story would be the first chapter, then the participant of the workshop could have to spot what are the elements part of the ecosystem of this organism and relations with some aspects of human society: cultural effects, group behaviour, social change, social trade-offs, political and economic systems, social conflict, global interdependence… It would be asked to reflect on these connections and establish where could be the potential risks, dangers, uncertainties but also advantages, benefits or values. Each group could analyse the sequence of other groups. From that – chapter 3 – they would come back to their original design and have to change it, taking into consideration the observations from chapter 2. A second iteration of
the second chapter and a third iteration of the sequence could be considered. It would help to illustrate that each choice creates new conditions and entanglements with other factors which result in more constrains in the design.
The aim would be to emphasise the interconnectivity of ecosystems and human society, and how synthetic biology could become an important source of disturbance and that each new design should be carefully considered.

 

 

 

In order to allow to reflect on some of the stories already created, promote the project and share the ideas, I have decided to illustrate some of the cards. We could imagine a series of ‘postcards from the future’ as a series of illustration, promoted on a dedicated website or in an exhibition during a scientific conference, where these stories could be the starting point to discuss public opinion and ideas on synthetic biology as well as the implications of the discipline in human society and on natural ecosystem.

 

 

The next step in the development of this project would be to redesign the cards and create a game. Some aspects have already been explore with the help of Erika Szymanski, Research Fellow, Science, Technology & Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

“Designing with Living Organisms” at Research through Design (RTD) conference 2017

I had the chance to present “Designing with Living Organisms” at Research through Design (RTD) conference  2017

Research through Design (RTD) conference  hosted at the National Museum of Scotland
22nd – 24th March, 2017
Collaboration with Larissa Pschetz
Edinburgh, Scotland 2017

The paper presented the process I went though and the issues I had to face when designing and exhibiting living organisms.

 

ABSTRACT

Recent advances in biology and intersecting areas of research have brought a renewed interest in engaging with living materials. BioDesign is becoming increasingly popular, and has included diverse proposals, ranging from products that incorporate microorganisms as new, often considered more sustainable materials, to speculations on future impact of synthetic biology. In this paper we present three objects that incorporate living organisms as a way to reflect on the design process. We discuss how engaging with living materials could be considered a shift in traditional design practices, and the challenges of integrating design in current biotechnology development.

 

 


 

The knife piece has been chosen as Provocation #1 during the Museum Panel session to discuss how do museums go about selecting which of today’s objects need to be preserved and why? How do they use these to map the lineage of our material culture, and how important are museum collections in giving rise to the new? What are the curatorial processes in place to achieve this? More precisely the role of the museum to ‘kill’ artefacts in order to collect or to keep artefacts alive.

 

 

From Twitter

 

Featured on ECA brochures

I realised that another of my projects was featured on the ECA courses brochures. It is the third time, and every time I have never been noticed, so I am glad I saw it by chance in one of the office 🙂 .

 

 

 

 

Research Through Design 2017 Conference

I will be presenting the project ‘Design with Living Things’ (previously ‘Living with Living Things’) at the Research Through Design 2017 Conference hosted at the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) in Edinburgh between the 22nd and 24th of March 2017.

The paper especially written for the conference with Larissa Pschetz, will be available soon.

Abstract:

Recent advances in biology and intersecting areas of research have brought a renewed interest in engaging with living materials. BioDesign is becoming increasingly popular, and has included diverse proposals, ranging from products that incorporate microorganisms as new, often considered more sustainable materials, to speculations on future impact of synthetic biology. In this paper we present three objects that incorporate living organisms as a way to reflect on the design process. We discuss how engaging with living materials could be considered a shift in traditional design practices, and the challenges of integrating design in current biotechnology development.

Biodesign Talk

Synthetic biology is the science of designing biological systems.
The term “synthetic biology” has been used during the past century to describe a wide range of projects that bring an engineering mindset to biology.

The science of biology and the practice of engineering (knowing and making) are especially connected in parts-based synthetic biology, where many engineers and scientists seek to “build life to understand it” through the assembly of standardized genetic modules. Many synthetic biologists take inspiration from a statement left on Richard Feynman’s last blackboard at Caltech in 1988: “What I cannot create, I do not understand.” This line captures well the exchanges of “reverse transcription” between science and technology that characterizes much of the current research in synthetic biology: synthetic biologists take apart and rebuild biological networks in order to better understand them.

Edinburgh Genome Foundry

I had to learn about Synthetic biology as I have been for the past year a research associate at Design Informatics , as well as working at EGF : The Edinburgh Genome Foundry, a research facility specialised in the assembly of large DNA fragments using a highly automated platform.

In EGF, I mostly do UI and UX design for their different system, web site as well as Graphic Design to determine the identity of the facility. As a start, I researched different design tool for biologists, analyse the interface and understand the different representation they use to work with DNA: the circular view called plasmid view the linear view with the ACTG they use to design primers for example.

Before understanding that I had to come back to the basics of biology, DNA… watching for example Once Upon a Time… Life the series from the 80s, I had long discussions where biologists where explaining / teaching me how DNA works, what are the steps and basic grammar. I made interviews…

   

I had the great opportunity to collaborate with Autodesk Bio/Nano Research Group, to help designing Genetic Constructor : a high level web based design tool for Synthetic Biology. I had the immense privilege to work under Joe Lachoff (Senior Principal User Experience Designer) supervision. Genetic Constructor simplifies sequence design by organising DNA constructs into composable blocks. This keeps the interface clear and friendly even for complex projects, and makes it effortless to re-use parts between projects or to define c.ombinatorial libraries. The aim is to change the way DNA is designed and the methods employed to do it.

  

From that I had the idea to develop Dominoes (you can see on the front page of Genetic Constructor on the picture above) : a prototype of physical interface for biologists to design constructs, trying to encourage scientists to think about the design and less about the sequence. The next stage would to get picture of the design and import it in Genetic constructor, where it would be possible to upload the sequence afterwards. It could also be used as a game to learn the grammar of synthetic biology.

Design Informatics

With Design Informatics the research part of my job started with mapping interests related to biology, the relationship between the different actors, the kind of projects made with synthetic biology : the scientific ones, the one made from iGem (an international competition for undergrad students interested in the field of synthetic biology), critical design, speculative design, product design, art projects… in order to create connection between the disciplines.

 

With Larissa Pschetz we had the idea of what we called Biological clocks. As designers start to consider materials that evolve through time and as part of complex ecosystems. This idea explores ways for design to employ synthetic biology in order to promote less anthropocentric views of time. We are interested to create biosensors and raises questions of how microorganisms can be designed to communicate issues that are important to a particular ecosystem – e.g.: plates of modified bacteria installed in the urban environment who would change colour in relation to the level of the pollution. Most importantly, it puts the ecosystem at the centre of the equation, helping to reflect on issues of time, design, and coordination beyond the social.

We also questioned the connection between Synthetic biology and human body. While scientist already think to create tattoo allowing to monitor your vitals signs, we are trying to imagine how our body could become an interface: what could we display and what are the ethical questions that will have to be raised if such technology was coming on the market.

I spend a lot of time in the lab to experiment and get familiarise with the living materials, bacteria and yeast, filming the growing process, experimenting to grow microorganisms from my hands, near a trash, on a wall… pick some colonies to get specific colours, duplicated them… playing around with living things.

We organised a workshop with scientists/ biologists / design and social scientists to explore how synthetic biology may affect and be influenced by design. How could access to biological materials be facilitated to artists and designers? What changes when we consider living organisms as a material for design? We interviewed some of the participants asking them about their vision of Synthetic biology and Design, their hopes and fears, how they see the future…

From this workshop and some previous ideas we developed an installation living with living things . In this work we explore what it means to live and design for a world where things have a live of their own, and where the lives of things become integrated with human practices constructing new everyday rituals.We present three concepts, of a) a fabric that evolves according to seasons and human care, b) a knife that is augmented with biological material to support consumption of specific foods and c) a sink that, as a clock, signalises when a particular action is needed. The three concepts reflect on the role of living things for our future lives as a) actively integrated in human routines, b) passive producers of contents for consumption and finally as c) commensal co-habitants of the human environment.

Interests

The following section is going to present a condensate of what I find interesting/fascinating in Synthetic biology.

Designing with living organism means two different  things:
– you engineer a living organism to make it produce a substance (e.g.: creating milk by modifying yeast to produce the right protein to get milk)
– you engineer a living organism and use it as a product, this means you need to take into consideration new aspect when you are designing such as  you need to feed whatever you are using with appropriate nutrients otherwise it would died (e.g.: modifying plants by incorporating  fluorescent gene to make them glow).

Keep in mind that most of the work currently made in synthetic biology consist of building the tools of synthetic biology, it is still at an early stage. Most of the crazy idea we can have are still not feasible as working with living organism is very complex. Another thing we have to consider as designer are : how do you design using ‘invisible’ material ? Design with life ? Design against or with evolution ?

More over, there is this different categories of complexity around synthetic biology we should not minimise:

Discipline and data: we can read it, understand some of it, but we still don’t know why some parts of the genomes are important (can be yeast, bacteria… it gets even more complicated with the human genome), or how and why some parts relate to each other…

The heterogeneity and complexity of these relationships means that we may not be able to fully understand, predict, and control the function of synthetic biologies79 in a changing social and natural environment. Instead, we should approach the design of biological systems with more humility and with design principles that are more biological, emphasizing not control but adaptability, not streamlining but robustness, and not abstraction but complexity.
Agapakis, C. M. (2013). Designing synthetic biology. ACS synthetic biology, 3(3), 121-128.

 

Experiments: genetic material is not easy to work with, need special temperature condition at different stages, you do your best to control these conditions but DNA design is about trials, error and assumption.

Until now, virtually every project has been a one-off – we haven’t figured out how to standardize the genetic parts that are the build- ing blocks of this new field. Researchers produce amazing new parts all the time, but much like trying to use someone else’s house key in your own door, it’s been difficult to directly reuse parts across pro- jects. (Biofab, 2013)

 

Complex boundaries between positive outcomes of the research and dangerous usage: Should we slow the research process because of fear of the unknown and miss important opportunities? Should we not take risk to avoid misused ? How to define boundaries ? It is difficult to see the bigger pictures and have predictions on how the research will be grasped by the industry or to assess the long-term effects.

About the ambivalence of Synthetic biology the early bio-artwork by Eduardo Kac, ‘Genesis’ (1998–9). Tac translated a bible passage into Morse code, and translated the Morse code into DNA base pairs and then finally genetic sequences, which he implanted into bacteria. He placed the genetically altered bacteria in a petri dish under ultraviolet light, which in-person and online viewers could activate. If a viewer disagreed with allowing humans to have dominion over nature as the quote from the Bible suggests, then in order to destroy the manifestation of the idea she could turn on the UV light which would cause mutations in the genes, thereby altering the statement; but in doing so, she would also be asserting her own power over nature. In both early and later artworks, human dominion over the natural world is ambiguously convoluted, since the human-made and the natural are increasingly co-existent and mutually constitutive.


Moreover, synthetic biology blur the distinction between species: using one species gene to modify another specie.

Indeed, while synthetic biology’s bioengineered generation and modulation of living matter has complicated how and what we determine as life, as the boundaries between living and nonliving, natural and artificial, organic and inorganic are becoming increasingly convoluted, we still cannot really say how these conflations and manipulations will fare, impact each other, or evolve in variable contexts, through multiple encounters and exchanges on micro to macro scales.
Johung, J. (2016). “Speculative Life: Art, Synthetic Biology and Blueprints for the Unknown.” Theory, Culture & Society 33(3): 175-188.

This is also in relation with a contrast science fiction art projects around synthetic biology and scientific goals: some art and design projects will emphasise on the creation of creepy/monstrous creatures (see picture bellow), while scientists goal is to make more perfect creatures. One is concentrating on the worth case scenario and how the scientific research can become out of control when release from the lab. The other one tends to look only onto the short term, the academic aspect of the research or the bright side.

I will finished by this ‘letter’ for the Open Call Exhibition – For an exhibition titled: Yours Synthetically in the Ars Electronica Center, where they explore “current dialogue with biology, tackling the complex ideas, systems, models and unpredictable realities, in which the results will be long lived, as any changes to the planets biome will be, forever Yours.”

 

Dear Humanity,
We have to talk.
Let’s just say that our relationship has been a bit challenging lately. We’ve had some ups and downs for sure, the ups of global temperatures and carbon in the atmosphere, and the downs such as the variety of species still sharing our planet.
As you know, I’m a bit concerned about our future. Take this whole area of synthetic biology for example. You say that you understand, that you care, but just because you’ve sequenced a few bits and pieces doesn’t mean you can read me like an open book. Sometimes it feels like I’m just another one of your machines. Is that it? Do you just want to engineer me?
These “synthetic” organisms you’re playing with, what are they going to be when they grow up? A bit of give and take wouldn’t hurt sometimes, not always you you you. My clock is ticking and I really need some commitment from you, what’s your long term plan? Do you even have one?
Yours Synthetically, Life on Earth
Open Call Exhibition – For an exhibition titled: Yours Synthetically in the Ars Electronica Center, in Linz Austria, 2013.