Aer Studios discuss biophilia as a mindset

A creative technology studio that looks to nature for inspiration

Whether based in a thriving urban metropolis or an idyllic rural landscape, there is value to be seen outside the four walls of every office. This is something that we always keep front of mind at Aer Studios. Nestled on the edge of the beautiful Cotswolds, Aer Studios is an agency that has adopted biophilia as a mindset — the beautiful natural world and thriving community around us serving as inspiration and insight and even featuring in our work. 

The mindset of biophilia  

Biophilia highlights the importance of nature in stimulating creativity and innovation and its role in improving mental and physical health. This concept underscores the value of integrating natural elements and themes into creative work and living spaces, and we’ve adapted this concept into a mindset. The natural world and our south-west location is a feature of what we do and who we are, and we have a deep love and connection to nature. With its breathtaking landscapes and rich biodiversity, this south-west setting fuels our creativity and innovation, and, we hope, infuses our projects with a sense of life and vibrancy. 

Biomimicry in design and tech 

Within this idea of biophilia is something called biomimicry, which is the practice of learning from and mimicking strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges. We recently developed an online game for the iconic children’s TV programme, Blue Peter. Our development drew on our mindset of biophilia, as well as implementing the principles of biomimicry. Let it Grow was created as part of the BBC Children’s, Education and BBC Radio 2 campaign to inspire young and old to discover the joy of planting and encourage people to turn grey spaces into wild and colourful places to help support the British wildlife. 

To come up with ideas for the game, our Head of Creative, Ant, took inspiration from the village and countryside surrounding our offices in the South West, including woodland, ponds and the local school playing field. Taking stock outside the bounds of the office, observing nature and immersing himself in the local environment gave Ant a refreshed perspective and a wealth of ideas for gameplay mechanics, game UI, species to feature, character designs and environments for different levels. We collaborated closely with the BBC Games team and the Natural History team to craft a game that encourages players to cultivate an ideal environment for diverse wildlife across a range of habitats and levels. By growing an assortment of plants and flowers, players can attract varied species to the habitat, enhance the wildlife satisfaction levels, and keep them coming back.   

Our connection to the natural world allowed us to tap into the necessary mindset for this project. It’s all too easy for digital and creative agencies to get lost in the high-paced urban landscapes, spending all day glued to screens. Instead, we try to stop and take a look around us. We’ve turned to nature, acknowledging that it has much to teach us. With millions of years of innovation, nature has perfected countless ingenious and sustainable solutions. We were able to take real-world examples and incorporate them into our digital solution.  

Biophilia and our people 

Our beautiful and nature filled south-west location has attracted unique and inspiring talent, and our team wear our location as a badge. Tucked away in the wilds of Wiltshire, Box is a place of unexpected brilliance, and the area has been inspiring creativity for decades.

Peter Gabriel, our landlord and neighbour, built Real World Studios right next door and, inspired by the local landscape, wrote a song about a spiritual experience atop Solsbury Hill (ten minutes away) after he left prog rock band Genesis. 

Walks and outdoor activities play a crucial role in how biophilia impacts how we work as an agency. Walking is something we use as a creative tool — a way to promote creative problem-solving and unlocking creative blocks, stimulating the brain and leading to a wealth of new ideas. We even take clients on walks. To facilitate this, we’ve established a boot rack stocked with wellies, readily available for both employees and clients alike to pop on a pair and go for a ramble through the countryside. 

The more time in nature, the more we can draw on these principles of biophilia and biomimicry, and inspire our people to seek creative and seamless digital designs and solutions. Ant’s work on the BBC project is just one example of how our environment can spark interesting ideas. 

Tech and nature blend together for us every day. We even use our natural setting to organise tech-enabled events, like our Easter scavenger hunt romping through the countryside using what3words to find hidden virtual Easter eggs in the woods and fields around us. As well as taking tech outdoors, we bring the outdoors in. Laura, our Chief Plants Officer, works hard to bring nature to us, and the greenery around our offices forms a part of how we work towards wellness, mindfulness and reflection.  

Biophilia and diversity of thought 

The South West region boasts a vast and diverse landscape that is home to a multitude of talented individuals and innovative ideas. As the industry places an increasing emphasis on geographical diversity, we are seeing a corresponding increase in diversity of thought and ideas, which is essential for producing exceptional work. The unique characteristics of the region, from its rugged coastline to its rolling hills and bustling cities, provide a rich source of inspiration for creatives and entrepreneurs alike. By embracing this diversity, we are able to tap into the full potential of the South West and harness its energy to drive our industry forward. 

Industry giants like the BBC are also actively pursuing geographical diversity, and geography has transformed into a celebrated feature. Our connection with our location and community had opened doors that we might otherwise have missed, which is exciting for everyone at our agency, allowing us exciting project opportunities and the chance to form connections with people doing big and bold things.  

Our recent BIMA-winning project, The Data Escape Room, came from local businesses forming connections and collaborating, for example. A nature walk led the client through the rambling countryside of Box and right by our offices. A connection over location and love of the landscape started a conversation that blossomed into an exciting project for us. It goes to show that clients are eager to embrace this mindset too. We see this as an agency that works with a number of clients focused on making a difference to people and planet — sustainability and making a difference at the core; biophilia allows that attitude to be incorporated even deeper within the tech.   

An adapted philosophy 

We’ve taken the principles of biophilia and adapted it in a way that feels natural to us and the way we work. The environment, nature and the thriving south-west community is something that’s always going to be important to us. It’s something we’ll carry on to any location we adopt in future, making sure we understand its unique attributes and communities, and the ways in which we can both benefit from and contribute to them. The concept can be embraced no matter where you work: Bristol and London are full of green spaces and have abundant inspiration.  

Biophilia is ultimately something that’s available to anyone — the fact that we are lucky enough to have such immediate access to such a vast and vibrant landscape is something for which we’re incredibly grateful. Biophilia adds flavour to our work and excites clients looking to embrace the diversity of thought, and the seamless innovation that being inspired by biophilia allows. 

Featured image: Aer Studios

Anthony Butterfield, Head of Creative, Aer Studios

Anthony Butterfield is Head of creative at Aer Studios. He is a digital designer and art director with a commitment to user centered design.He has over 13 years’ industry experience, working within the Advertising, User Experience and E-learning sectors. Designing for brands including American Airlines, British Airways, BAE Systems, Bloomberg, TfL, Barclays, Zurich, Paddy Power, Cineworld, P&O Ferries and LV insurance.

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