Back to the roots in design

Author: Electra Safari


“Back to the roots” is quite a common phrase used nowadays, don’t you agree? Hearing this most people would reasonably think of nature and our so-called “ancestors” covering themselves with tree leafs as a way of protection from climate excess. However, this phrase encloses more than that… Over the past couple of years it has become a flourishing trend and so, we are witnessing a shift towards a more eco-friendly mindset and numerous inspiring DIY techniques for dealing with everyday circumstances.

What gave birth to this trend though? Some argue that it is a result of human distress based on environmental changes, and what professor Glenn Albrecht described with the term “solastalgia”. Other support it as a way to ground ourselves against the widespread technological advancement we are experiencing over the last 20 years and others believe is just a type of reaction against the repulsive tendency of “mass-production” and a need to approach authenticity.




Whatever the cause is, this trend involves and influences the design field as much as others. Designers start to adore, love and respect in a greater percent what nature is offering generously to them as materials to shape their ideas into reality. Someone can barely avoid not noticing this new attitude when looking at recent products, interior decorations, and fashion. There is little chance to miss a café or restaurant, nowadays, where wooden surfaces serve as tables, cardboard boxes are used as light decoration, and cork is covering at least one of the walls. And all these in a context that creates the impression that everything has been made by hand, maybe from the staff itself. Despite this sense of “off-hand work” dominating the place though, the ending result has, surprisingly enough, a sleek image. Every element, from colours to materials and shapes, fits nicely together granting the space with a warm and cosy feeling that relaxes your brain and eyes.



However, this new movement is not only about the use of raw materials. Forms and shapes that the power of nature has successfully composed over the years are a source of inspiration for people in the design field and this is eventually reflected in the outline of their relative creations. As a result, a library made of wood can also look like a tree stump; a plate can follow the shape of a tree leaf; a chair can remind of a silkworm’s cocoon and so on. Nature’s diversity in patterns, colours and formats serves as an open exhibition that can stimulate tones of unique ideas for designing and for that designers get more and more interested to explore it.



Backing this direction in design, this certain style has been drawing the attention of consumers too. Being evenly influenced by this trend, they seem to welcome products and creations that relate somehow to nature and appreciate in a greater manner relative works. May that be a result of finding the rawness of the materials more familiar and in line user-friendlier? From a personal perspective, there is something about the style of such products that awakes our feelings towards protecting and loving our environment and in parallel creates an emotional attachment to them. In a recent research I carried out examining the human emotional reaction to the touch of wool, known to come from the sheep’s skin, I experienced this emotional attachment when participants talked about feelings generated by the contact with the fabric such as safety and cosiness but also familiarity in a sense of associating it with pleasurable and soothing moments of their past life.

In addition to this emotional aspect for consumers, the minimalism that also typifies most of this eco-friendly creations, or those that remind of natural shapes and forms, goes well with today’s shift towards liking simplistic and clear designs and that could, in the first place, be proven only by referring to the thriving sales of Apple products lately. People seem to find more appealing products with simple and ‘’quiet’’ synthesis.



All in all, is this orientation “back to the roots” here to stay? Is this trend going to flourish more in the near future along with environmental and technological switches, taking more and more designers under its influence? For how long can nature be a source of inspiration for the latter despite its unexplored diversity? We cannot know anything for sure. But, we can recognize that it is gaining more and more funs over the time and the results are more than ravishing!





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