Week 3: CRJ Challenge – Faber Futures & Transfunctional media

c) List 10 different types of practice today. You will be exploring the terminology and language that we use in the area of graphic design:

  • Choose a piece of design that breaks definitions of design practice and write a paragraph describing this practice.


Faber Futures –  “Learning from nature, making with life”

Natsai Audrey Chieza founded Faber Futures after eight years of working in biodesign with the mission of “learning from living systems and integrating design, biology and technology … to generate holistic models for sustainable futures” (1).

Addressing how we perceive the textile industry from an environmental perspective has been a pressing issue for many years: it takes 2,700 litres of water to manufacture a cotton T-shirt (2), and textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally, after agriculture (3). The effects of the water pollution are commonly found in developing countries, where fashion companies are more likely to produce out clothes, and the chemicals used to dye textiles are “disruptive to hormones and carcinogenic” (3). Furthermore, large amounts of water are used to grow cotton plants and the use of pesticides to reduce the cost of processing not only pollutes the water supply for human and biosphere alike but increases the pesticide-resistant plants.

How, then, will we start to address the issue? Chieza “tells TLmag that although this task is daunting, ‘it’s nihilistic to walk away. The question is: how do you tackle something? I see that very very daunting task as something that can be picked apart'” (4). Her background in architecture led to understand the importance of a single screw in the entirety of a building, and how when all of the parts fit together then you have this tangible thing” (4).

Chieza began looking at how  “living organisms can be programmed to demonstrate specified behaviours or produce high-performance and sustainable materials” and how to create partnerships for her mission, because “the value in collaboration cannot be understated, it is intrinsic. It cannot happen any other way” (4).

Sometimes it is as simple as creating a glossary so that everyone understands each other and can have a conversation on the same level. Another way is through storytelling
Lara Chapman, TL Magazine




For 3 Days of Fat, Chieza’s live exhibition grew colonies of bacteria taken from the Thought Collider’s Amsterdam-based Fatberg, revealing the diversity of the microbiome. The aim was to raise questions about “biological constraints, situational behaviours, cultural attitudes towards the emergence of the unseen, and how the whole “truth” of a microbiome cannot really ever be seen or known.” (5)


Project Coelicolour and Colour Coded (6 and 7)

The Forbes Pigment Collection, located in the Harvard Art Museums, stores thousands of samples of pigments in every imaginable hue and contains “some of the rarest and culturally significant pigments employed by artists across the world since 1,000 BC.” (6)

Chieza created a pigment with Professor John Ward of University College, London that is stored within the DNA of S. coelicolor, created in the synthetic biology lab from a wild strain of the soil-dwelling organism Streptomyces coelicolor. They wanted to “see whether its naturally secreted pigment compound could be used to dye textiles” and “discovered that unique interactions between S. coelicolor and protein fibres could yield a colourfast finish without the use of chemicals – and with significantly reduced water usage compared to current industrial dyeing methods” (6 and 7).

Using this discovery, the pigment has been encoded onto DNA, which has the potential to store 215 petabytes per gram (8) and to endure 700,000 years. Compared to human-created storage formats (think of Betamax…), storing data on DNA is beginning to be possible and desirable.


Faber Futures x Ginkgo Bioworks

As the first artist-in-residence, Chieza took the above projects forward by dying silk textiles with the S. coelicolor to produce beautifully pattern garments.

c) List 10 different types of practice today. You will be exploring the terminology and language that we use in the area of graphic design:

  • Come up with a new term that describes this area of work.


Faber Futures has borrowed and crafted terminology to describe what they do:

Sector agnostic

Cross discipline

Disciplinary thresholds

Cross thresholds and intersections

All pretty cool, right? I like etymology and how you can take apart a word if you know enough of the prefixes and suffixes. Telephone and Telescope use tele-, which means far way, photo- means light, chrono- means time. It’s been common to use Greek and Latin words, and as words have been borrowed through the centuries, meanings have shifted and not quite the original. Or, the concept that was already named has already been expanded on; for example, ancient Greek philosophers Leucippus and Democritus (c. 460 – c. 370 BC) theorised the existence of the atom, the smallest particle possible. It was so named because it was indivisible, ancient Greek ἄτομος, which was formed from ἀ- (a-, “not”) +‎ τέμνω (témnō, “I cut”).

I digress. I like the prefix trans-, meaning “across”. Transport, transpose, transsexual, Trans-siberian, translation, transatlantic. I also like the idea of how different medium can be used for different functions, even from the one they were intended for (whether by a higher being or not). So my phrase is

Transfunctional media

Definition: How to use different outputs in different ways for different purposes.


  1. faberfutures.com
  2. worldwildlife.org/stories/the-impact-of-a-cotton-t-shirt
  3. independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/environment-costs-fast-fashion-pollution-waste-sustainability-a8139386.html
  4. tlmagazine.com/faber-futures-natsai-audrey-chieza/
  5. faberfutures.com/wild-type/
  6. faberfutures.com/projects/project-coelicolor/colour-coded/
  7. faberfutures.com/projects/project-coelicolor/
  8. sciencemag.org/news/2017/03/dna-could-store-all-worlds-data-one-room
  9. immatters.com/Faber-Futures-x-Ginkgo-Bioworks-Scale-Void-Assemblage-001

One thought on “Week 3: CRJ Challenge – Faber Futures & Transfunctional media

  1. Pingback: Week 3: Critical Reflective Journal – Anna Robinette

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