“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”
- Rachel Carson
While I may not be able to name every tree and flower when on a hike or walk, there are other ways to connect to the outdoors. Nature is its own masterpiece. Just as in any design composition, we can find line, form, value, shape, color, space, texture, and pattern in the landscapes of the wild. Whether it’s the endless expanse of a golden desert, or an undisturbed forest set against a range of rugged mountains, the majestic lines and the many shades of hues can be truly breathtaking. And, if we break up those landscapes into its finer details, we see in a woodland setting, the conical-shaped tree, the 5-lobed leaf, the tough, leathery shell of an acorn. I find this awe-inspiring, for here is an interconnected world of living things each with its own story and role in the larger ecosystem.
So, the next time you’re in the wild places, take a closer look around you and take in nature’s spectacular collage of spongy fungi, iridescent feathers, intricately veined leaves, and other amazing phenomena the natural world has to offer.
The most fundamental of the elements, line is defined as a point moving in space. Lines can convey different expressive qualities. The horizon line in a landscape can suggest distance whereas the vertical lines of trees in a forest can represent not just height but strength and majesty.
An enclosed two-dimensional form with both a length and width. Shapes occurring in nature are organic and are typically flowing and curvy in appearance. As opposed to geometric shapes, organic shape tends to be perceived as soft and calming. This is why many health experts have touted the healing qualities of being in a natural setting. Your mind doesn’t have to analyze the endless messages and signals that typically come from an urban environment, so you’re left to relax and take in the scenery with your full senses.
The easiest of the elements to understand, color refers to reflected light. Nature provides an array of hues that to humans may be pleasing to look at, but color can be critical to a species’ survival. For instance, flowers come in a variety of hues to attract certain pollinators. Certain male species of birds have bright plumage to attract mates, and certain insects or frogs are brilliantly arrayed to warn away predators. Colors also occur in non-living things such as in atmospheric phenomena. A great example occurs in western North Carolina where forests there release hydrocarbons that create the characteristic blue of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
What elements of design are you finding in nature?