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Symmetry

Symmetry is an interesting subject in art, on one hand most of nature is made up of symmetrical objects, on the other hand we are all slightly different. Asymmetry, on the other hand, is also very pleasant for the eye. We are told, as children, that we must pick three dandelions, not two in order to make a better arrangement. Things that are too symmetrical are seen as unnatural and robotic, too perfect.

As children we drew stick figures, which are essentially completely symmetrical. Yet as we become designers and artists, we learn to manipulate symmetry and use it to our advantage to affect viewers psychologically. We learn that by changing the symmetry in a human face, we can affect the way people view others. Even in fashion, it is thought that people who are “beautiful” are more symmetrical than those who are not. However the human body is never symmetrical in its individual parts… the different pieces are never a perfect reflection of people and if we were to take a mirror, or to digitally manipulate a picture of ourselves to be the same on both sides the person looking back is completely different.

Humans gravitate towards symmetry a lot, though. We buy two nightstands, two lamps, two chairs. Our dining table with 6 chairs, three on each side, the placings with the various implements placed neatly to each side.  It is the details that we begin to select odd numbers of and playing with. Three different sized candles for the bedside table, different sized paintings to go over the chairs… It seems that we play with symmetry in our every day lives.

As a designer I find myself using Symmetry almost constantly. We are taught to balance images, and I often find myself wanting to echo shapes and colors across the art piece. However I think it is a special skill to decide when it should not be symmetrical. An example is when doing magazine layouts. Having the same design on both sides can be dull to look out without sufficient reason for it. Also, completely symmetrical designs can be very boring to look at. Throwing a third element into the mix that makes it Asymmetrical can be very useful for the design.