Join Dave Schultze for an in-depth discussion in this video Symmetry, part of Design Foundation 3D: Shape and Form.
- Symmetry is defined as being constructed of exactly similar parts, either facing each other or in a circular arrangement, and symmetry is everywhere. We see it in the natural world where it very likely inspired the very first caveman designer. It's been theorized that we humans are attracted to symmetry, because so many organisms have evolved with this bilateral symmetry, like this green beetle here or any butterfly. Many products also have symmetry but it's not always obvious at first glance. First some definitions.
There are two basic flavors of symmetry: the axial kind, which is what we just saw, and as can be seen in any mirrored reflection. These reflections can also repeat going from simple two-sided, all the way up to a crazy kaleidoscope effect. Along the way, shapes can distort and do ever more beautiful or weird patterns. The second flavor is radial symmetry where the parts go around in a circle. In 3D software we call this a polar array. Here I am constructing a cool 3D spiral stairway all from a single step form.
I do love 3D. A great and an unexpected example of radial symmetry is Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York City. What's interesting about this symmetrical skylight is that the rest of the building is fairly asymmetrical, as seen here on the exterior. But the coolest part of the building is the art gallery. It's a gently sloping spiral that goes from the ground-floor, around several times, and up to the roof. The design was controversial at the time it was opened in 1959. Critics felt that the design would overshadow the works of art inside.
Others said who hangs paintings on a curved wall. On the contrary right said, the building and paintings are an uninterrupted, beautiful symphony - such has never existed in the world of art before. Everyone loves confidence and a good argument. This also reinforces another one of my personal design theories. "You can never please everyone so don't try." I've actually worked for a place that did try, even when it wasn't required or necessary.
You can probably guess that the work was exceptionally boring, and you'd be right. A funny story. One of the coworkers once told me that symmetry is a crutch for weak-minded designers. I've never forgotten that wonderfully strange comment, especially when many years later, I was reminded when I visited one of the masterpieces of neoclassical architecture. Here is Andrea's Palladio's Villa Rotonda. Built in Vicenza, Italy, it was completed in 1571.
Here we have symmetry everywhere and it's stunning, and inspiring. Starting with the floor-plan, we have symmetry on two axes, so all four sides are identical. The structure is topped by a half dome. The height is supposed to form the final boundary of a perfect cube, but that part was difficult to perceive when I was there. This is another interesting note about perception. Some thing's that you plan in 2D will look different in 3D when it's complete. Here at the entry approach, Palladio used forest perspective to make a more impactful approach.
Forest perspective is where normally parallel lines are purposely converged to exaggerate an effect, like something appearing to be larger or smaller, or further away. So former coworker, I guess this proves that all rules and weird opinions are meant to be broken. Symmetry is natural. Done well, it can help to organize a design and ultimately create a timeless classic.
First, see how the same idea can be applied in a smaller 2D scale—like graphics and print, fine art, and advertising. Dave then blows it up in 3D, and showcases examples from product design, furniture, architecture, and urban planning.
Projects and concepts are presented in an engaging and sometimes irreverent manner with images, videos, and personal and professional stories from Dave. Check out this fast-paced tour as it covers topics ranging from grids and axes to designing with humor.
- Design exploration with sketching
- 3D exploration with organic forms
- Grids and axes
- Defining space
- Color and contrast
- Texture and patterns
- Minimalism. Less is more.
- Retro. It's back!