Imagine owning a one-of-a-kind scarf. I’m not talking about a scarf that’s part of a limited edition collection, but a truly unique accessory that nobody will ever own but you.
Design startup Dot One is making this a reality with DNA-personalised textiles and prints that represent your DNA code.
After using an at-home DNA kit, customers send in their samples for profiling. Once the results are done, Dot One uses an algorithm to convert that raw data into colour and pattern, forming your very own print.
The founder of Dot One, Iona Inglesby, struck upon the idea while studying design products at the Royal College of Art. We spoke to her about this amazing concept.
Where did the idea for Dot One come from?
‘The idea came about whilst I was studying product design at the Royal College of Art, working on a project with a Scottish weaving company who had a huge catalogue of tartan fabrics. I was interested in how each Scottish family had a material affiliated to their name, and yet when I asked about the reason for the colours and patterns of the tartans there was no meaning behind them.
‘I wanted to create a material that intrinsically represented a family and so decided to explore the idea of using genetics as a language to code the weaving pattern creating a sort of “DNA tartan”. This initial concept transitioned into Dot One where we created a wider range of products based on the idea of celebrating and representing identity through design’.
Were you interested in science before Dot One?
‘Yes, I am a bit of a science geek! My parents were both in the medical field (I used to play at building my dad’s old medical training skeleton in my bedroom when I was a child). More recently I took part in some synthetic biology workshops at Imperial College London which ended up influencing a lot of my design work and the project which led to Dot One’.
Where does the DNA get sent once customers send theirs in? How accurate is each DNA profile?
‘The customers send their DNA sample directly to AlphaBio Labs – who are one of the leading laboratories in DNA profiling in the UK. They specialise in forensic identity testing as well as legal paternity cases. The results are extremely accurate; no test available can claim 100 per cent but they proudly state that their testing can determine a probability of over 99.99 per cent’.
What products are on offer from Dot One at the moment?
‘DNA Personalised Print – Shows a unique part of your DNA code which identifies you from the other 7.4 billion people on earth. You can also compare similarities and differences between family members visually.
‘DNA Tartan – This is a blanket made with two people’s DNA cross referenced to give a tartan pattern. Or a single person with their DNA split by maternal / paternal data and cross referenced (as you inherit exactly 50 per cent from each parent and so there are two results at each data point).
‘DNA Personalised Scarf – 100 per cent lambswool, handwoven in England by Helen Foot Design.
‘DNA Family Tree – To celebrate family but showing how you inherit genes from generation to generation as you can see the percentage of the DNA profile shared between family members’.
We love the concept of Dot One! What has the response been like from others?
‘It has generated some really strong opinions from people, which is fantastic! Most have been positive – people seem to get excited about it as they probably not have imagined a DNA test being part of a consumer experience before. Also for those who have not known much about genetics, it’s quite a fun way to learn some facts about the basics. We noticed interest from the design world as well as the science world so it’s great to sit between the two.
‘On the flipside (which I also think is great) some people absolutely hate it!
‘They have strongly raised issues around privacy and identity theft and the kind of paranoias surrounding surveillance in general from our browser history to our medical future. I think it is intelligent for people to question the information they are given by companies, and consider the importance of their data which they can choose to share or not.
‘When I read these comments referring to Dot One – it’s kind of funny to me that people are so cynical and think it is some sort of evil corporate entity who will use their genetic data to take control. We are purely using the data for the purpose of creating personalised design pieces for people to celebrate their identity and learn about genetics in a fun and positive light.
‘STR-based DNA profiling this does not signify anything of the customers predisposition to diseases etc – it is non-diagnostic and used purely for identification purposes.
‘However, if you are planing on committing a series of crimes and wish to remain anonymous then you probably shouldn’t order a DNA Personalised Scarf ;)’.