The Natural Movement

by October 30, 2004

Last week I brought up my desire to see more digital design groups of philosophical influence. Diverse groups of artists, writers, scientists, programmers, and other specialists with a common vision working to fuse cross-disciplinary knowledge into better digital information systems and consumer products. The possibilities this approach enables are evident in the digital products spawned through it.

But what might a Digital Design Movement focus on today? What philosophy could unite practitioners and introduce next generation designs to the digital domain? Is design minimalism a strong enough rallying call? What about the lure of three dimensions? Or perhaps a Thoreau-esque journey to the woods?

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach.” –Henry David Thoreau

Thorough examinations of natural systems and forms have the potential to reveal unique visual, structural, and behavioral design solutions. The presentation-level (visual design) of interactive systems can be enhanced through naturally occurring color combinations of which there is no shortage.

The behavioral (interaction) and structural (organization) aspects of digital experiences could potentially be guided by existing natural systems. To this end, the science of Biomimicry “studies nature's models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems.”

“Biomimicry uses an ecological standard to judge the "rightness" of our innovations. After 3.8 billion years of evolution, nature has learned: What works. What is appropriate. What lasts.”

How nature can solve information architecture or interaction design problems has yet to be thoroughly documented. But the principles outlined by Biomimicry proponent Janine Benyus at this year’s Pop!Tech Conference (via Kottke) might spark some ideas. And who knows, maybe even a movement (or two).