Exploring fractals and design

Fractals are intricate geometric structures created when patterns (or pieces of patterns) are altered and duplicated at ever-diminishing scales.  Besides having a tremendously important effect across a range of sciences, fractals make a stunning picture on your tablet. Even simple shapes can quickly grow complicated when they are altered again and again.  A close look can reveal endless variations of the same design theme.

Scientists use fractals to comprehend better rainfall trends, patterns formed by cloud and waves and the distribution of vegetation.

They have been called mathematics for the eye and emotions.  Others that have been overwhelmed by the beauty see the hand of God in fractals.

Naturally occurring fractals

Countless examples of fractals can be found in nature.  Plants, animals and even nonliving structures like rivers and rocks have designs that can be duplicated using mathematical laws.

nautilus shell
The nautilus shell’s spiral pattern is based on the duplication and alteration of a single curved rib.

The rib is the seed shape.  The succeeding ribs are duplicates of the seed shape that have each been altered in the same way, a process that is called iteration.  In the case of the above image, each rib has been rotated slightly, scaled-down and moved in a counterclockwise direction.

The leaf’s seed shape is a straight line.  Each iteration creates a duplicate line that branches from the first.  Each part of the vein of the leaf forms a part that is in some way similar to the whole.

Fractal design, according to promising research results, may help the stress response of the observer.  Stress reduction is of enormous benefit to society and their use by designers to influence mood and communicate balance and harmony in their designs.

Additional Reading

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Golden Ratio – guide rather than law

Since the Renaissance, many artists, and architects have proportioned their creations to approximate the golden ratio. The ratio itself has been known by many names, including the Phi Ratio, the Fibonacci Ratio, the Divine Ratio, the Golden Mean, and the Golden Section.

Affichiste (design term)

Affichiste. Name (literally ‘poster designer’) taken by the French artists and photographers Raymond Hains (1926-) and Jacques de la Villeglé (1926-), who met in 1949 and created a technique to create collages from pieces of torn-down posters during the early 1950s. These works, which they displayed for the first time in 1957, were called affiches lacérées (torn posters).

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