Nature As Design's Inspiration

By Joe Duffy Oct 19, 2009

We’ve probably all experienced that day in our childhood—when lying on the front lawn—when the clouds overhead reminded us of something . . . a dancing elephant, Ben Franklin’s profile or that obvious ’52 Packard.

For many, finding form and function inspired by nature has played a significant role in creating brilliant design. For me, nature is at the heart and soul of nearly everything I do and create and it often provides metaphors that have led to solutions that have subtle impact.

Several years ago, I was working on a project from hell in Paris and had just left yet another depressing meeting and was walking down a boulevard back to my hotel when I happened upon some picture perfect leaves lying on the sidewalk. Call it divine inspiration or just a desperate need for cheering up . . . but those leaves reminded me immediately of my kids. I still can’t precisely put my finger on it. I guess it had to do with the seasons relating to generations . . . maybe a family tree? Something about those beautiful leaves triggered a connection that was powerful.

I picked up an assortment and brought them home. I knew they were to become an artistic element in the portraits I had been painting of my daughter, Bridget, and my son, Joseph (Image 1 :: Bridget & Joseph).  I love the textures they created and the unspoken layers of meaning they provided. To this day, I continue to design many portraits with elements from nature and these elements suggest the many dimensions and characteristics of my subjects (Image 2 :: Sarah & Duffy).

To me, there is nothing like a hike, run, ski or ride through the woods to inspire new design ideas. I go outside to be inspired. It’s some of the most enjoyable “research” I can take part in, it’s literally good for my heart and always inspires and fills my soul. Nature never fails to produce something new and interesting. Connecting my love for nature and being in the outdoors with my craft keeps me content, fulfilled and grounded.

For this reason, one of my design heroes is Andy Goldsworthy, his work creating design in nature is nothing less than breathtaking. If you haven't seen his Rivers and Tides documentary, do go out and rent it. Better yet, buy it.

Last weekend I was hiking through the woods in Northern Wisconsin and I happened upon nature in a way I had never seen it before. This happens more often than you might think. The rhythms of the elements and how they interact to create totally new visual inspiration are constantly changing and playing tricks with my expectations. It’s why I have to constantly get out and see what Mother Nature’s cooked up for my hungry brain.

At any rate, this time out I was treated to a totally new natural color spectrum. It had snowed the night before, just enough to create this random patterning with the autumn leaves that were at peak color both in the trees and along the forest floor. I had never seen autumn colors so vivid before because I had never seen them mixed with a stunning, sun-lit, super sharp white before. I snapped a few quick pics that don’t do the scene justice and got back to the studio and started mixing paint – divine inspiration! (Image 3 :: Leaves)

Lastly, I’ve selected a few designs—a few of ours—but mostly from others and the imagery of nature that I suspect served as divine inspiration (Image 4 :: Nature).

Enjoy . . . and get out there, be inspired!

[Cell cuff, David & Martin; Newton Sneaker packaging, TDA Advertising; Roses on the Vine table lamp, Swarovski; Loppet poster, Duffy and Partners; Bamboo chaise, Ezri Tarazi; Birdhouse, Azul Amuchastegui Bari; Thymes Azur packaging, Duffy and Partners]



What others think:

  • This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for wrgtnii! 

    Roberto Oct 6, 2013 — 12:35 am

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