Designing on Nature’s Terms: Visual Perception and the Emergence of Form and Meaning in Spatial Arts and Design

By Michael Heinrich.

Published by The International Journal of Visual Design

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online: March 4, 2016 $US5.00

Abstract: Evolution shaped our eyes and brains, and the conditions of natural environments and processes—far exceeding human control options—determined which of our perceptional competences were suited best to find our way and to survive in woods or savannas. The act of recognizing and interpreting patterns of natural appearances, transitions, and metamorphoses was—and still is—the daily bread of our visual perception. Our associative intelligence stores and cross-connects this stream of experience; by analogy, it uses these patterns to decode the unknown and the unfamiliar, to find the most appropriate and probable accordances as a reference for forthcoming interactions. Gestalt psychology and psychology of perception have investigated the emergence of separable forms out of the visual field and preferences of stimulus selection. But the more complex question of evaluation, meaningful classification, and integration of forms and structures within our visual experience still is an interdisciplinary challenge for aesthetics, semiotics, psychology, philosophy, and architectural/design theory and discourse. In this article, parameters of instantaneous visual attraction associated with properties of natural environments (e.g., anthropomorphic, biomorphic, or dynamikomorphic aspects) are described and systematically related to general modes of visual perception. They are exemplified by means of tangible design matters, and methods are discussed regarding how they can be made applicable and teachable. The idea of perceptual organization by patterns of transition and metamorphosis, outlined by psycho-morphology, is transferred to aesthetics and thus complements the terms “anthropomorphism” and “biomorphism” with the new term “dynamikomorphism.” A differentiated system of perspectives on design phenomenons that is able to define and to create successful design is outlined.

Keywords: Design Principles, Biomorphism, Atmosphere, Aesthetics

The International Journal of Visual Design, Volume 10, Issue 1, March, 2016, pp.19-40. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: March 4, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.323MB)).

Prof. Michael Heinrich

Professor (Visual Communication, Set Design, Design Principles, History of Interior Architecture), Department of Interior Architecture, Faculty of Design, Coburg University of Applied Sciences, Coburg, Bavaria, Germany