"Symmetry - elements with visual equivalence"

BACKGROUND

Symmetry, in our opinion, is one of the most influential design concepts out there. Our innate preference for symmetrical things has been long documented, and goes beyond just the scope of graphic design. Physicist Alan Lightman seems to sum it best:

“Symmetry leads to economy, and nature, like humans, seem to prefer economy. If we think of nature as a vast ongoing experiment, constantly trying out different possibilities of design, then those designs that cost the least energy or require the fewest different parts to come together will take precedence, just as the principle of natural selection says that  organisms with the best ability to survive will dominate over time.”

In other words, humans like patterns – a way of making sense of the world. If something is in obvious order, our minds signal no threat of danger. In addition, symmetry remains the most basic and universally-accepted aspect of beauty. It further conveys balance, harmony, stability.

ACHIEVING SYMMETRY

There are three types of symmetry: reflection, rotation, and translation.

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1) Reflection symmetry – is the mirroring of an element around a mirror line, an imaginary central axis. For example, imagine a butterfly, or an open book.
2) Rotation symmetry – is rotating the same elements around a common center. Imagine someone riding a bicycle – the spokes on the wheel rotate around the wheel center.
3) Translation symmetry – is putting the same elements in different spaces. As long as the orientation of the element is the same, this kind of symmetry applies. For example, imagine a beehive – there are many hexagons of the same orientation next to each other.

Incorporate symmetry into designs when things like recognition, acceptance are important. Alternatively, when you want to provide balance to the viewer, perhaps without them even being aware other than on a subconscious level.

EXAMPLES OF SYMMETRY

Symmetry in media design. Notice how reflectional symmetry is achieved, despite posters not being a 100% reflection.

Symmetry in interior design. The right image clearly conveys more balance, focus through symmetry.

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Symmetry in logo design. Did you notice how many of the world’s most recognized logos are symmetrical in design?

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