About the Residency

Spend three months with Ginkgo working at the intersection of your creative discipline and synthetic biology.

At Ginkgo, we’re continually looking for innovative ways to design with biology. Multidisciplinary thinking has the power to catalyze critical insights into our shared futures on this planet and beyond, and so, as biology becomes easier to engineer, we are eager to open up our foundry to creative collaboration. A joint initiative spearheaded and curated by Ginkgo Bioworks and design agency Faber Futures, the Ginkgo Creative Residency (GCR) provides an experimental platform for creative thinkers to explore both the potential and implications of synthetic biology. That’s where you come in!

Meaning: How have language, metaphor, and fiction shaped synthetic biology, and can we find new scripts to generate other meanings?

If DNA is the “code of life”, what new perspectives can help us read, think, story and make worlds with biology?

Human-centered language is represented through sound, gesture, spoken word, written script or visual elements. These are context-specific symbols, and through their various forms constantly evolve as both passenger and shape-maker to the society and culture they exist within. For language to “work”, a sender and a receiver need to enter into active exchange or dialogue.

For our 5th iteration of the Ginkgo Creative Residency, we invite submissions from practitioners whose creative work investigates how language interacts with technology, and who are able to bring that knowledge to explore meaning in the field of synthetic biology.

Synthetic biology relies on a plethora of metaphors, analogies, origin stories and science fiction narratives to describe its technical underpinning and utility, as well as its promise for planetary betterment. Depending on who is doing the talking, to whom, and to what end, the field borrows language from fields like computer engineering: “parts” can be “standardised” and “assembled” to create “self replicating machines”. Meanwhile theological references like “Noah’s Ark” are commonly used to depict the benevolence of research areas like metagenomics for the preservation of biodiversity. Reducing biological systems to components pieces while removing the parts we don’t understand, enables us to focus on what can be controlled to make biology predictable and therefore easier to engineer. In the lab and removed from the ecological context of biology, what meanings are lost, what meanings are created? What other ways exist of crafting language and therefore outcomes in synthetic biology?


Whether your medium is written fiction, poetry, sound, coding, linguistics, anthropology, philosophy, and/or visual art and design, we invite you to submit a project proposal for stories, poems, artwork, and other creative outputs that engage with this years’ theme on MEANING. You’re someone who’s able to bring a critical lens to the brief, have some experience building relationships and collaborating outside of your field, and able to adapt in a new setting.


Through an international open call process, we invite you to submit a project proposal in response to the theme MEANING. This year the residency has the possibility of either being virtual or in person. If you choose to work virtually, your proposal should reflect the possibilities of remote working, and suggest what kinds of strategies you might want to use to engage with your work and disseminate it. Applications close on 18th July at 11:59pm EST.


We are here to support you and will work closely to tailor the program to your needs as much as is possible.

Residents will retain copyright and ownership over work created at Ginkgo Bioworks during their residency, sharing image usage rights with the company.

Residents will receive a $5000 monthly stipend.

Any additional project development budget will be based on project scope.

The Team

Your application will be evaluated by our core GCR team. If you are shortlisted you will be interviewed by the whole team. Each member of our team will provide mentorship during the residency, and interact with you by way of crits and weekly check-ins throughout your time at Ginkgo. The GCR team is here to help you successfully develop and execute your design brief.

External Jury

We have invited a panel of external jurors to contribute to the program. The jurors will offer critical perspectives on the complex and multifaceted topic of language, metaphor, and fiction. Each member will take part in our shortlist evaluation process and provide mentorship during your residency.


  • We want to hear from you if you are a futures-oriented practitioner of materials, processes, products, interactions or systems. We welcome creative perspectives across analog, digital and biological realms. If you find it difficult to define your practice, we get it, so don’t be afraid to apply!
  • A well-developed understanding of the intersections of design and science is essential. Experience with biology and laboratory tools and processes is not required but is advantageous depending on what you hope to achieve during your time at Ginkgo.
  • You must be available to participate in the program from September 1st to November 30th, 2021.
  • International applicants are welcome, and we will work with you to secure a visa if necessary, although we cannot offer any guarantees that it will be approved.
  • If you are shortlisted for an interview, we ask that you keep the week of the 2nd of August free for an interview with the team and our external jurors (via Google Hangouts).
  • We also feel it’s important to point out the obvious here. There’s a serious lack of diversity in our industry, and that needs to change. Our goal is to help drive that change. We hope to continue to build an industry whose culture promotes inclusion and embraces how rewarding it is to work with people from all walks of life. We welcome proposals from people of all backgrounds, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, age, or ability.


Applications closed on:
July 18th, 2021 at 11:59pm