Decorating an apartment is all about infusing your space with a sense of you. And what could be more integral to your style and your sense of self than DNA? Genetic Ink, a New York City-based startup, aims to elevate genetic sequencing to high design with a system for turning genetic information into a wall-ready piece of art.
Here’s how it works: Genetic Ink sends you a DNA collection kit. You swab the inside of your cheek, send it back to the company, and they sequence your DNA in their FDA-approved lab. (Your sample is anonymized to protect your privacy.) Using an algorithm, they turn that sequence—your individual arrangement of A, T, C, and G nucleotides—into a work of art, based on an original design called Spark, by Swiss-Canadian artist and designer Mathieu Daudelin. The final product comes in 17 different color schemes and four different sizes. They'll even image your dog's or cat's genetic material.
Alex Pyatetsky, a senior advisor at the company, explains the design in terms of flowers. Daudelin's design is kind of like the species of the flower, which generally determines each plant's color, the length of its stem, the shape of its leaves, etc. "But the particulars are determined by DNA," he says. Likewise, the nuances of Daudelin's design are determined by the sequence of the source DNA.
As genetic sequencing becomes cheaper, companies like 23andMe are capitalizing on our desire to know as much as possible about our genetic makeup, though concerns over privacy and regulation abound. Pyatetsky says the art is "not necessarily a complete and all-encompassing picture of your DNA"—it's not a matter of displaying an expansive readout of your health information on the wall for anyone to read. Because of the sequencing technique Genetic Ink uses, "you can’t take it and recreate someone’s entire genome," he tells Co.Design.
Genetic Ink isn't the only company breaking into the novelty DNA field. DNA11 sells DNA-based prints, too, though the design looks a little more like something you'd see a lab tech scanning in CSI. Artists are using DNA to reconstruct portraits of people from used chewing gum and fingernail clippings. One creative entrepreneur is determined to make salami from the DNA of celebrities like Kanye West.
Pyatetsky goes on: "Your DNA is quite literally your personal identity. Part of what we want to do with Genetic Ink is say, we can express your DNA in a way that really expresses you, and it can be beautiful."
The process is a little costly, starting at $200 for a 12-by-16-inch canvas and going up to $700 for a 3-by-4-foot image. Such is the price of individuality.