Another week is here and punctually a new topic has come along. Today the subject I will discuss is informal design.
What is that you ask. Well before we start analysing what it is, we have to understand the difference between formal and informal design.
The word formal comes from Latin forma “form, contour, figure, shape”.
In our case we want to focus on the word shape. In fact, formal design pieces are formed by geometrical shapes and are very far from being alike what we see in nature.
On the other hand, informal or organic design, takes inspiration from what is already in nature and aims to bring the beauty of the things in nature to a higher level of design and sophistication.
During my research, I have really been drawn into this subject, in particular in the way organic design has taken form in architecture. I came across a stunning example of an artist who has beautifully expressed the concept of organic design in his work, the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
I believe the best example which explains the philosophy behind organic design, is Wright’s famous Fallingwater.
Fallingwater was commissioned to Wright in the 1930s by a rich family of Pittsburgh who wanted a retreat home away from the city. They asked the architect to design a house “by the waterfalls”, little did they know what the final look of the house would be like.
When asked how he came to think of Fallingwater, Wright simply replied that he wanted the family to live in connection with the waterfalls, and not just close to them. From this principle, he built the house of top of a 30-foot waterfall. The choice of colours also expresses how the artist wanted his design to blend in with the environment, and make a sort of fusion between man’s creation and nature. The whole building is made out of materials which remind of the natural world, and the walls feature plenty of glass walls facing the outside. This way the occupants feel like they are never sure whether they are on the inside of the house, or on the outside in the middle of the woods.
After this example, I think it is much clearer what we mean by organic design. So the next question that crossed my mind was… What can we apply organic design to? What fields can be influenced by thinking in terms of nature and going back to a natural way of seeing the world?
I found the TED talk by Ross Lovegrove extremely inspiring. If you don’t know who he is, check out his awesome portfolio (http://www.rosslovegrove.com).
Ross Lovegrove is a Welsh product designer who is considered to be one of the most influencing designers of today. In his website, I read that his vision and consequently his designs are stimulated by thinking of products in a trinity of technology, material science and intelligent organic form.
To understand this concept a little bit better I will try to analyse one of Lovegrove’s designs and investigate the thinking behind it. The product I chose is one of the simplest looking but with a very deep meaning behind it, and it is Lovegrove’s Ty Nant water bottle.
The water bottle design process all started from here:
A sketch, you argue even a child could have done that, and I agree. On his TED talk (minute 2:59) the designer states that is “my impression of water”.
So what’s the next step? Lovegrove argues at this point he is not even thinking of how and if the technology we have nowadays will be able to produce what is in his mind, he just doesn’t want to limit his imagination at this stage. So the next phase is the production of a 3D digital representation of the object which looks something like this:
After being sent to production, Lovegrove says whilst he held the finished product in his hand he felt like nothing, and he thought he had failed. But he continues and says only when he put water inside the bottle he understood what he had done: he had put a skin on water itself. Ty Nant is an icon of water itself (minute 4.09)
Does this example answer my first question FYI what can we apply organic design to? Yes it does, because after this example I believe it can be applied to absolutely anything.
I came across another interesting article on CNN’s website, where Lovegrove has been interviewed on one of his latest projects, which features a capsule to be placed on the peak of Italian Dolomites in order to fully appreciate the surroundings.
His client in this case wants to be able to sleep under the starred sky of the Dolomites which he loves and has lived around for all his life. Lovegrove, not worried about money or technical constraints, has been thinking of a capsule which would be mirrored on the outside and transparent on the inside in order to give the occupant a 360 view of the alpine beauty.
This week I have also tried to bring myself a bit closer to the world of organic design by trying to draw something organic from two very unnatural shapes, the square and the triangle. Do you think I have achieved to create an organic shape?