Insects: Models for Design at 21 21 Design Sight
Curculio camelliae anatomy by Macoto Murayama

Insects "offer hints for the future of humankind" says Taku Satoh

Architects and designers should look to the insect world to find solutions for the survival of our own species, says Japanese graphic designer Taku Satoh.

Satoh directed the exhibition Insects: Models for Design in collaboration with scientist Takeshi Yoro. On show at 21 21 Design Sight in Tokyo, the exhibition explores the role insects have played in the history of design.

According to Satoh, humans can learn more from these tiny creatures than most other species on earth.

Taku Satoh
Taku Satoh has been fascinated by insects since he was a child

"Insects do things that seem unbelievably high tech by human standards," he told Dezeen. "This is because their world is overwhelmingly large, and vast numbers of species exist, each evolved into great diversities."

"The kinds of inspirations they offer are, I think, infinite," he said.

"The insect world is amazing"

While humans have only been on the planet for around 200,000 years, many insects have been here for hundreds of millions of years. For this reason, Satoh believes humans should look to insects for clues about our future survival.

"The insect world is amazing, as I became more and more aware while preparing this exhibition," he said.

"Their enormously long-term survival, I am sure, offers hints for the future of humankind too."

Insects: Models for Design at 21 21 Design Sight
Satoh directed the exhibition Insects: Models for Design. Photo is by Satoshi Asakawa

The designer also believes insects could be useful in the development of new technologies for robotics, communication and materials.

"For example, the means by which beetles fold and store their wings can be helpful in devising new systems to store satellite aerials, umbrellas or tents," he told Dezeen.

Insects: Models for Design at 21 21 Design Sight
The exhibition explores the role insects have played in the history of design. Photo is by Satoshi Asakawa

"The study of insects' brilliant lustre can lead to new paint technologies," he continued.

"Another example is how insects escape predators by suddenly curling into spheres and tumbling out of range. This can be used in robotics."

Influenced by "insect encounters"

Satoh's own interest in insects began at an early age. As a child, he would spend humid summers collecting insects he found in the trees, forests and rice fields close to his suburban Tokyo home.

Nostalgia for this led him to come up with the idea for the exhibition and to reach out to Takeshi Yoro – an anatomist known for his love of insects – to get involved.

"As a designer, I wondered where my attachment to form came from," he said. "I'm sure it was influenced by those insect encounters."

Insects: Models for Design at 21 21 Design Sight
Exhibits include an "audio-visual theatre of insects" by Yosuke Abe, Kenji Kohiyama and Muneroshi Maruyama. Photo is by Satoshi Asakawa

Insects: Models for Design is on show at 21 21 Design Sight until 4 November 2019.

Exhibits include an "audio-visual theatre of insects" by Yosuke Abe, Kenji Kohiyama and Muneroshi Maruyama, and a structural analysis of caddisfly nests by architect Kengo Kuma and a team of engineers.

There's also a project by designer Keita Suzuki called Insect Specimen Case of Tools, including a beetle-like bottle opener and ladybird-inspired sneakers.

"The layout is not rational, nor designed according to logical principles," said Satoh. "Rather, exhibits are positioned to give the feel of encountering them unexpectedly, as if visitors had entered a forest full of insects."

Insects: Models for Design at 21 21 Design Sight
Also included are photos of caddisfly nests by Kenji Kohiyama

Satoh hopes the exhibition will encourage more people to take an interest in insects and potentially learn from them.

"I very much want people to reengage with insects," he added. "Too often we try to eliminate them, almost by reflex. I want to revive a curiosity that risks being forgotten."

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