NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 40

Overview

Nature and Interactive Environment Design

‏Mehdi Haghshenas

Interactive design has created an opportunity for interaction with nature in some built environment projects, helping people communicate effectively with their surroundings. Therefore, the digital spaces used in the interiors or exteriors of buildings have somehow become the extension of nature into contemporary life. The current essay views this issue from two angles, aiming to promote visual studies and to discover aspects of nature and the functions of designing an interactive environment.

1. Similarity between types of human-nature interaction and interactive environment design
Despite the fact that interactive environments are artifacts and fundamentally differ from nature, digital technology has led to an unprecedented form of interaction — through influencing the design process and its transmission mechanism. Hence, without attempting to address the differences, I would like to mention some the similarities herein.

Interaction with the physical aspect / construct. It is not possible to understand nature by merely looking at it; rather as direct contact as possible must be established with its manifestations through all the senses. In interactive design, contrary to other forms of design, the audience needs to become more involved with the work than just looking or hearing in order to experience a work. Therefore, touching a work is also considered an essential part of the communication process. From another viewpoint, there is a similarity between human interaction with the physical form of nature and interactive design construct. In interactive works, the audience is faced with objects and some parts of communication and message transmission might be carried out through touching and surfing their digital screens, or through the way the series is physically arranged in its surrounding environment.
Interaction with form and content. Form and content within nature and design, which has its roots in the history of art, natural philosophy, and environmental aesthetics has various aspects and it is, of course, beyond this essay’s scope and objective to explore. From a very broad perspective, interactive environment design, just like nature, is composed of various visual aspects and components which are interconnected in a whole and within a web of multiple functions. The form and content a designer designs in order to present it through an interactive system include various elements and visual qualities and different levels of readability, just like nature.
Interaction in sharing data. The tendency to collect and bring elements of nature into our homes or offices stems from an inherent interest in making them our own, getting to know them, and sharing them with others. This is the goal and plan of some people and institutions, like collectors and wild life museums; it encourages them to collect, preserve, and display collections of natural elements. The interlinked characteristics of media used for designing interactive environments, mobile phones, and other digital devices used by people creates a similar form of communication in data downloading, storage, and transfer.
Interaction through decoding, manipulating, and rebuilding capabilities. Issues such as conducting experimental studies, dissection, genetics, and intervention in changing the water flow are examples of how human beings treat nature and realize their goals. Interestingly, in interactive design, audiences can act as users and make changes in the work; they can control the work or even modify the presented data; they can intervene in the data presentation method and rearrange and reset the presentation sequence. Therefore, adding fun, attraction, a sense of involvement and even adjustments to the needs and goals generates another form of interaction.
Collective interaction. The presence of people in nature leads to their active involvement with the environment and a closer experience with others. For instance, hiking or swimming in the sea lead to collective communication and interaction among people stimulated by the nature and being in abnormal situations.

2.Typology of interactive environment design in connection with nature

The current typology is the categorization of goals that the majority of interactive environment designs have pursued until now in relation to the nature. It is always possible that a work simultaneously falls into two or more categories, since the project design procedure can follow one or more objectives.

Recording reality. In addition to taxidermy animals, fossils, pictures, etc., interactive design represents reality and provides information about types and methods of life of different species, recreates the natural crises scenes, and explores and discovers more widely in order to improve the qualitative level of human-nature communication. Focusing on the establishment of wild life museums, giant aquatic species aquariums, and cosmology centers is part of the human effort towards recording, studying, and further knowing nature. This attitude also determines the necessity to design and use extraordinary potential in the process of preserving the diverse types of creatures and introducing them to the society and future generations.
Education and explanation. Aiming at educating and explaining, a branch of design attempts to focus on nature, solve present and future problems, and resolve the ecological issues and crises which have spread all over the world. In our era, one might wonder why nature inevitably provokes discussion about natural crises. This proves the necessity of responsible and lifesaving design objectives. However, such a tendency is not considered a critical plan; it rather pursues the positive objective of the significance of nature in most of its fields of activity, and attempts to promote society theoretically and practically through education and propagation of positive attitudes.
Nature as the solution. Another category of design benefits from nature as a source of inspiration in solving client problems. These works result in the continuity of nature inside urban life and imply a calm feeling rooted in nature to the audience. Although the presence of nature in these designs is often considered as an important factor in place-making, the main idea of this attitude is our life style in urban environments. If not the cause of separation from the nature, our urban life style has hidden the original, diverse types of nature from our view and experience and has remained limited to certain of its elements.
Decoration. The decorative aspect of interactive environments is a general title that refers to the essential function in creating beauty and amusement. One of the important capabilities of decorative design is that it has diverse presentations such as real, abstract, and symbolic — and realize different goals from this perspective (such as creating harmony in the environment or serving the main concept of the environment). Its main goal is to bring the decorative lessons of nature to contemporary life; just like the bark of the tree and the color of a bird's feathers are essential to them

‏Mehdi Haghshenas

mehdihaghshenas@hotmail.com

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