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THE NY TIMES ON THE SCIENCE BEHIND GREAT DESIGN

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According to Lance Hosey, the chief sustainability officer at the architecture firm RTKL, “A revolution in the science of design is already under way, and most people, including designers, aren’t even aware of it.” What does this mean? Well in his recent New York Times article “Why We Love Beautiful Things” Lance breaks down some fascinating recent and not so recent findings in regard to human responses to certain visual stimuli. For those who love this sort of thing as much as I do, I’ve gathered a few of my favorite details and paired them with some spaces and items I think you will want to see. Here we go!

1. Looking at an appealing product sets off a part of our brain that controls hand movement, i.e. we see something we like, our brain compels us to reach for it. Above – Nendo’s Shivering Bowls made of ultra soft and flexible silicon. Irresistible!

 

 

2. Having the color green in your field of view can increase creativity and motivation. Viva 2013 color of the year, Emerald Green! Although, about a year and a half ago Jonah Lear told us the color blue was the key to creative inspiration. Hmm. Above – a green accented bedroom designed by Itziar Echebarría.

 

 

3. Views of landscapes can improve recovery in hospitals, learning in classrooms and productivity at work. In the absence of a landscape view, murals (not necessarily of landscapes) have occasionally been shown to invoke a similar effect. Above – View of a contemporary landscape from an Israeli home by Pitsou Kedem Architects.

 

 

4. We’ve known for centuries that people are attracted to the proportions of the golden rectangle but here are some new findings… items set to the ratio of the golden rectangle are the easiest for the human eye to scan. In fact, text laid out in this format is more easily read and retained by the human brain. Above – Both the facade of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and the famous face of the Mona Lisa conform to the proportions of the golden rectangle.

 

 

5. Humans have been found to be universally attracted to fractals – a complicated irregular pattern (often found in nature) built from simple repeated shapes that are reduced in size each time they are repeated. However, not all fractal patterns are equal, it seems humans are attracted to a very specific fractal density. Fascinatingly, this optimal density of void to solid has been found in the works of famed artist Jackson Pollock. Even more fascinating is the fact that viewing this pattern can reduce stress by as much as 60%! Above – Jackson Pollock’s “No. 1, 1949”. Are you feeling less stressed?

 

So what does this mean for us as artists, architects and designers? Partly it means that as human we are strongly hardwired to respond favorably to certain common visual stimuli. As Maya Angelou says, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” And so it follows that the more we know about what makes us attracted, comfortable and productive as a species, the more tools we have at our disposal to create not just good but great design. For those interested in the hows, the whys and the science behind it all, I thoroughly recommend reading the full New York Times article here.

 

Images: 1. via Nendo, 2. via Casa Vogue, 3. by Amit Geron Photography, 4a. (Notre Dame Cathedral) via Airstop, 4b. (Mona Lisa) via Oracle Education Foundation, 5. via LA Times Blog Credit: Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

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