Interaction Design WikiInterdisciplinary Modules

Imitation of Life

Interdisciplinary IAD Module Spring 2019, in cooperation with


Joëlle Bitton
Clemens Winkler

The module takes place over 4 months, preparation phase 18.02.2019 to 28.05.2019 and final challenge 20/21.06.2019.
See timetable below for detailed hours and classrooms. 


Duy Bui <>
Jennifer Duarte  <>
Michelle Schmid  <>
Mara Weber <>
Colin Schmid  <>
Janina Tanner <>

Overview and Objectives: Imitation of Life

The course is an interdisciplinary collaboration between Interaction Design, ZHdK and the biodesignchallenge in NYC. Other collaborations will be involved. Within the topic “Biodesign”, we discuss potential future interactions between the inert and the living materials, civic engagement with the environment around us, dissemination of scientific knowledge, bioethics. We propose to frame that with the term of Biodesign.

Living Materials

This course investigates ad-hoc design practices in wet biology and the articulation between living materials and inert materials. The scope of the investigation looks into the biosphere, such as oceanic conditions. Our approach is to ponder on life on Earth as an otherworldly, distant abstraction and to bring it back to a scale that can be more familiar and approachable, especially in the context of education. 


The course is structured with lectures, discussions, mentoring sessions, webinars, independent study blocks, as well as exercises showcasing methods from interaction design. In addition, we have online resources on the given Canvas E-Learning platform, visits in Labs and external experts joining us.

Objectives of the course

Experts in the Zurich area:

1. Marc Dusseiller, is a Zurich-based artist, scientist, hacker, instructor, and co-founder of Hackteria
2. Andy Gracie, is a London and Barcelona-based artist and also a co-founder of Hackteria 
3. Dr. Yaakov Benenson, is a biologist and chemist and professor at ETH Zurich
4. Dr. Martin Fusseneggeris a professor of Biotechnology and Bioengineering at ETH Zurich



Through a set of workshop sessions, we will look at Biodesign for social, ecological systems, nearer material environments, the personal/intimate space, and of the human body down to bacterial levels

Materials as Mediators
Materials surround us all the time, even if we tend to ignore it through our everyday habits, like on our digital journeys around the globe, we are still constantly immersed in it. What about their certain properties, conditions and transformations constituting the space around us? Like the air and atmosphere as a phenomena, we inspire (from latin breathing in) and respirate, we speak through, we form our intimate atmospheres, we can observe this medium on various scales, might it be observing pollutants in the sky down to our microbial clouds surrounding us all the time. By manipulating and co-creating with these material conditions, we learn to play with underlying systems.

Design Speed Dating

Expectations and Gradings


Biodesign Challenge 2019

December 21st:
Regular Registration Closes

Name of Lecturers in brackets {} jb: Joëlle Bitton, cw: Clemens Winkler

February - 
Team Building

Group sessions

  • Welcome and Intro 
  • Setting up resources (dropbox, google doc, wiki)

Exercise 01

  • Design Speed Dating
    Noticing your own personal interests in biodesign: 
    - what could be human actions related to futures in biodesign? (physical and moral)
    -  what could be environments to design with, in, for? at what scale?  
Independent studyIndependent studyIndependent study
ClassroomChez Toni

March - Experts Contact and Experimenting



  • presentation round of team projects

Instructor and BDC Staff Checkin

Independent study

Independent study


April - Design Process

Independent study

Independent study008

Independent study

Independent study


May - Design Process


Submit all Student Projects to BDC (finalist and nonfinalist)
_Dean/Jurors/ Marc/ helping experts - to come in represent - slideshow presentations, gallery show is best!
_how to bring the project to end - potential -

Independent study

Independent study

Independent study



Related Links: 

Dropbox Link:
Google Doc Link:
Canvas Link:


_Stefan Helmrich. Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas
_Frank R Paul´s “Amazing Stories”