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[Herald Design Forum 2016] Ross Lovegrove seeks to move design from the mechanical to the biological

For acclaimed Welsh industrial designer Ross Lovegrove, the essence of successful modern design is bringing humanity in harmony with nature. And today’s revolutionary technologies are making this task more possible than ever before.

“It’s the natural, logical path for design to be born out of nature, where humans with new eyes and computational power can produce more logical and beautiful things in architecture, cars and products,” Lovegrove said in an interview during the 2016 Herald Design Forum in Seoul on Tuesday.

The 58-year-old veteran designer is best known for his fluid, futuristic designs inspired by forms of nature. He rose to fame for designing the Sony Walkman and Apple’s iMac computers in the 1980s, and has since worked with major brands such as Airbus Industries and Peugeot.

Ross Lovegrove (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)
Ross Lovegrove (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)

A proponent of Green Design which seeks to merge ecological awareness with the designing process, Lovegrove is looking to create diverse industries that possess both “beauty” and “logic” — or the combination of aesthetics and environmentalism.

“It’s all right talking about beauty and funky design, but at the end of the day, where is clean air, how do we take away noise pollution or the breakdown in the nature of our environment? I think these are much more fundamental,” he said.

Lovegrove identified his work as part of “generative design” — mimicking nature’s organic, evolutionary approach to design. Lovegrove’s works strive to move from the mechanical towards a biological-tech age.

“Mechanical stuff by definition is made with heat, violence, smelly industrial processes. Wouldn’t it be great if we could make more with synergistic material contents that favor the planet?” he said.

In search of new inspiration from nature, Lovegrove said he recently spent some time in the Galapagos Islands with British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, the famed author of “The Selfish Gene.”

“There are some incredible species on the island. There is no light or air pollution at all. ... The animals there are so acclimatized to their environment,” he said. “But I don’t think we (as humans) are acclimatized to our environment.”

Looking ahead, Lovegrove is interested in working on diverse industrial projects that synergize humanity with the Earth by making use of today’s new materials and engineering technologies.

For now, he is in discussion with Elon Musk of SpaceX over collaborating on the company’s space missions and the Hyperloop -- a high-speed transport system touted as an eco-friendly alternative to California’s rail system.

Among the first to begin work on autonomous vehicles, Rossgrove also hopes to improve the urban landscape with autonomous cars.

Lovegrove wants to convey a message to young designers that “working on things which might be a bit ‘hippie’ (referring to green technologies and products) is really cool.”

“I’m considered as someone who is developing a new aesthetic for the 21st century. A new aesthetic which is more biological and less mechanical,” he said.

By Sohn Ji-young (
catch table
Korea Herald daum