Biophilia is humankind’s inherent connection to nature. It’s why crackling fires and crashing waves captivate us; why strolling through a park soothes us; and why shadow and light can affect our mood. Biophilia suggests that we have a need to connect with nature and that nature can impact how we think, act and feel. It is commonly associated with architecture and interior design, however biophilia in graphic design also has the potential to create connection between people and nature.
Research shows that even short periods of time spent close to nature can have restorative effects on our physical and mental health. Yet our increasingly urbanised and digitalised lifestyles are removing us further from our natural habitats, with around 90% of our time spent indoors.
The term biophilia was popularised by American psychologist Edward O Wilson in the 1980’s, when he observed how increasing rates of urbanisation were leading to human’s disconnection with the natural world. Over time, this realisation has led to the development of products and services that aim to tackle the contemporary human condition of ‘nature deficit’. The notion that we are at our best when surrounded by nature, or reference to nature, is a topic of discussion for designers of space, product and materials alike, which has brought about the development of ‘biophilic design’.
Biophilic design is most common in our physical surroundings and can be seen in architecture, urban planning and interior design. It has been used as an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work and learn in order to connect people to nature. Take for example the Google campus in Dublin featured in the image below. New research supports measurable, positive impacts of biophilic design on health, strengthening the belief in human’s innate connection to nature and raising its importance within both design research and design practice. The most important aspect of biophilic design is adopting a new consciousness toward nature, recognising how much our mental and physical wellbeing relies on the quality of our connections to the natural world.
Impact on graphic design
The increased responsibility placed on designers to consider the environmental effects of their work leaves us wondering; if the presence of biophilia in our surroundings can improve our mental and physical wellbeing, perhaps the same notion can be applied to print and digital applications. Using hues of green, exploring organic shapes, and avoiding monotonous repetition could visually re-establish a sense of connection to nature. Creating symbolic references to contoured, patterned, textured or numerical arrangements that persist in nature or applying textural elements that replicate or mimic natural elements can provide a rich, indulgent feel.
From the increase of green spaces in urban landscapes, to the rise of the humble house plant, the importance of biophilia is growing. It’s fuelled by consumers increasing value for sustainable spaces, products and brands. It’s no wonder that the World’s Favourite Colour is a shade of green.
Designer at Truly Deeply
Image credit to Joel Peel, OfficeSnapshots.com, and Scott Webb