Posted in Photography on 16. Feb, 2011
Botanical design has always been something that’s fascinated me along with hundreds of designers through the ages. These days however botanical design is much more than simply botanical illustrations. We look to nature to solve some of the most important problems of our time.
Arguably the single most important pioneer in this area had to be German Biologist Ernst Haeckel. Driven by tragic failures in love that colored his view of life Haeckel’s portfolio, first published in 1899 illustrate his approach of the “unity of all living things” and the wide variety of forms are executed with utmost delicacy.
Haeckel’s influences are clear in work of French Artist Émile Gallé who worked in glass, and is considered to be one of the major forces in the French Art Nouveau movement, as well as German photographer and Sculptor Karl Blossfeldt who is best known for his close-up photos of plants.
These days, other designers like Ross Lovegrove is so well known for looking toward nature to create amazing structures like the Solar Trees below (TED Talk on “The power & beauty of organic design“.)
But these days Haeckel’s work brings new meaning to other groups, including fellow biologists, scientists, and corporates. Biologist Janine Benyus helps corporates solve problems through nature. In a recent TED talk, she discusses 12 sustainable design ideas from nature in particular, one problem in technology – Self assembly without Carcinogens. Silicon is part of the carcinogenic problem in manufacturing of our chips, where through mimickry a biomineralisation process can actually result in Bio Silicon from organic silicates.
Janine is so right when she says that the biggest design challenge of our time is to find a way to do what we do without destroying the place that we live in.
Life creates conditions conducive to life.
Wayfinding has been defined as all of the ways in which people and animals orient themselves in physical space and navigate from place to place. The term might have been coined by urban planner, Kevin A. Lynch for his book Image of the City (1960), however the real part that interest me has to be Waysigning. My term for the signs & symbols that guide us to find our way. This art has been perfected by some amazing Waysigners. Companies like Mijksenaar really excel at getting into the human psyche and figuring out how we find our way.
In my mind though Wayfinding is not only limited to navigating places, but also instructions for objects. Here are some examples of instructional design by Paul Mijksenaar. Getting into the Synoptic and Discrete Sequences is a whole different topic for future discussion.
Here are some of my own shots of the excellent Waysigning that has been implemented in the British Museum. I think the reason I love this so much is because it goes hand-in-hand with another design discipline that I find fascinating, ‘Museum Design’.
After writing this post, I drove past the new Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town, which truly is an architectural marvel. The stadium is very minimalist, and the Waysigning has been done in a similar way. I am not convinced that their choices of colour etc are necessarily the most impactful, as many of the signs simply get lost. If they followed the theory in Architectural Signing and Graphics, Follis & Hammer 1979, they would have known that their black signs would have to be 225% the size of the same sign in white to be as conspicuous. In other words, Yellow signs would have been much better at the small sizes.
Wayfinding – Part science, part art, and just a little magic.
Francois Botha, 2010
In a new move this year I have decided to find more inspiration from the things I experience first-hand every day. I believe that with the access to vast resources we have these days, the first thing we do when we need inspiration is head online to one of our trusty resources. We do this almost to the extent where we live our own lives by proxy.
To start this off, here are some shots of things which inspired me on my recent trip to the UK.