Beauty is subjective, and symmetry is beautiful. That explains a lot about symmetry doesn’t it? But most people agree that symmetry truly IS beautiful. It gives us a sense of harmony and provides an aesthetic appeal to a visual. But overdo it and it gets plain boring! Asymmetry on the other hand can seem much more interesting and out of the box when implemented with the right feel.
So – if we agree that symmetry IS beautiful, but can get boring at times, and asymmetry is curiously interesting in spite of the fact that it is not as perfect, which do you think is more appropriately used in visual designs?
Do you think one is to be preferred over another? Or do you believe both work together? Read on to understand more!
Objects in the real world are usually NOT symmetrical at first glance. On the other hand, nature does evolve objects towards symmetry in an uncanny sense. Gravitational forces probably play a large role with natural symmetry around us. Maybe the fact that we DO find symmetry in nature leads us to believe it is “as things should be”.
Symmetry can further be classified into 3 types:
Reflective Symmetry – This is also called bilateral symmetry at times. This is nothing but the mirror image of an object around a bilateral axis. The axis could be pointing towards any direction, and that is irrelevant. What IS relevant is one side of the axis is mirrored on its opposite side. Natural life forms usually display this type of symmetry and a fine example is the wings of a butterfly.
Rotational Symmetry – This is also called radial symmetry and it is the rotation of elements around a certain central point, much like electrons in an atom revolve around a nucleus, or the planets around the sun. Well, the elements do NOT have to MOVE where rotational symmetry is concerned. A natural example is the petals of a flower growing around the central area. In design, this kind of symmetry can be employed to provide a feeling of movement.
Translation Symmetry – This is also known as crystallographic symmetry, and it deals with the location of certain elements in different spaces. It could happen in any given direction just as long as the orientation remains undisturbed. Life forms in nature can display translation symmetry through reproduction! This type of symmetry can display rhythm in a design and it can also be used to give the viewer a feeling of movement or a dynamic action. You could also use it to make backgrounds.
Apart from the obvious sense of aesthetics that symmetrical designs produce, they can also be recalled or remembered more easily than asymmetrical designs. This is why logo designs are often symmetrical. Symmetrical designs give a sense of balance and harmony, unity elegance and even stability. On the negative, they can often be looked upon as static designs and some may even call symmetrical designs downright boring!
Asymmetry is the ABSENCE of symmetry, to put it in a nutshell. It implies the absence of balance and everything else that symmetry stands for. Asymmetry is very common in natural forms as well. You are more likely right handed than left handed, one of our feet is sometimes a size larger than the other and fiddler crabs have one claw larger than the other! These are all examples of asymmetry in nature. Further, dolphins have a left fin smaller than a right, so as to make space for the asymmetrical heart inside, and clouds take random shapes!
Maybe it is because of this complex form associated with asymmetry that we find such shapes interesting. An asymmetrical design warrants attention thanks to their lack of balance and feeling of wholeness. Further, asymmetrical designs offer much more variety than symmetrical designs. They give a modern look and feel to a design, and offer a sense of vitality. They are also harder to incorporate into designs.
Asymmetrical designs create active spaces which further lead to unrestricted forms of visual expression. On the negative side, if you overdo asymmetry your entire design can lose form and it can tire out the viewers’ eyes.
Combining the Two
There is no one preferred design element when you look at asymmetry and symmetry. It depends totally on the design, the person making the design and the people who are the target audience. Whatever the message behind the design though, we wish for it to be aesthetically appealing to the eye at the end of the day. Symmetry can convince a designer that we need it the most. On the other hand, asymmetry is an attention grabber in its own right! So we need a little bit of both really, more often than not. You need to find a balance between symmetry and asymmetry in your designs to give the creation a balance as well as elements that grab the eyes.
You could decide to use symmetry where the element needs to be recalled over and over (we earlier spoke of logos). And then you could use asymmetrical elements where it is more important for the viewer to give it temporary attention on a conscious level. You could take things as far as to use a multitude of symmetrical elements, which put together make an overall asymmetrical design! On the other hand, why not use a bunch of asymmetrical elements to create a symmetrical feel when put together? Both of these can work really well!
Further, you could make use of rotational or translation oriented symmetrical patterns to give your designs a sense of flow or rhythm. You could add a little touch here and there by breaking up symmetrical designs with lines or ‘bruises’ to give them a sense of asymmetry while remaining symmetrical in essence! One can go on and on once you understand the ease with which you can use symmetry and asymmetry in your creations!
At the end of the day, it is YOU the designer who finally decides which is BETTER for YOUR design. Have you experience in designing symmetry or asymmetry logo design?