Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Look at the Organic Grid


While investing methods and tools on how to organize and set project parameters I came across a paper published on the internet by Edwin Tofslie, an Art Director and Designer, that defines a method of organizing and presenting information called the organic grid (tofslie.com/organicgrid.pdf). He uses the internet as an example of visual organic design where information is presented in a format that requires speed, efficiency and usability. The internet is essentially evolving into a tool that mimics the organic attributes of life and how as organisms we move and perceive the world. Tofslie points to another paper written by Benjamin Fry in 1997 on communication design (benfry.com/organic/thesis-0522d.pdf). Fry’s work is more in depth and provides examples that are overlooked from a purely visual perspective. The structure of the internet, when mapped at any given moment, supports a highly complex and dynamic system in a continual state of flux.

Fry’s, “research introduces a process of creating dynamic visualizations called Organic Information Design. This process was developed through the study and analysis of decentralized and adaptive systems, in particular, the traits of simple organisms…By examining how these features make an organic system effective, insight is gained into how to design a visualization that responds to and synthesizes data in a similar manner. The result of the design process is an Organic Information Visualization, a system that augments the perception of qualitative features dynamic data.”

He gets to the heart of the matter of mapping invisible interconnections that not only exist in nature outside the scope of our immediate senses but in the synthetically underlying designs of a technologically interfaced world.

In nature under the rubric cycle of life everything is contingent on everything else, meaning everything posses a necessary and dependent trait that substantiates its own existence. It is a Darwinian mechanism that internet and computer technology models ascribe. The straightest line to survival is to become interdependent. Yet that line is not necessarily straight and most often a series of tendrils leading to other things either giving or taking. A static grid does not have the ability to adapt, contain and map all the contingencies of dependency. An organic grid organizes biometrically akin to nature and is much easier to adapt to than one imposed by statistical and symmetrical uniformity.

Introduce the accretion process in nature where organisms replicate and combine to form something greater than the sum total of their parts. Every particle (atom, molecule, cell, leaf, star, solar system, etc.) is similar but not exactly identical, each possessing their own unique imperfections, hence our own unique features and identities. These imperfections are accentuated when an attempt is made to repeat an action. A personal signature transpires because it cannot occur the same way twice. This is a commonality that identifies the interconnection and interdependence we have with our environment.

Ironically as many designers and artists attest, to pursue a greater scope of possibilities parameters are set in advance to direct the decision making process. Recognizing and utilizing biometric methods of organization plays an important part in the outcome of my projects. To present ideas relating to accretion, a synthesizing process that can evolve infinitely, parameters or restrictions that guide my working processes are set in advance. Without deviation from the set parameters the work could be considered conceptual as defined by the artist Sol Lewitt. Parameters are structured around an organic grid most notably in my infinite drawing series (above) where the outcome of one grid influences the layout and mapping of the next. By plotting points from one drawing to the next I explore possible configurations and the grids continue to evolve without any specific end result. The drawings become a ritualistic means and opportunity to introspect and transcend for a moment. Operating within set parameters they are a document or record of my descions and actions. The act of drawing and the drawing itself operate within a structure that allows for flucuations.

Fry uses the work of artist Mark Lombardi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Lombardi and pierogi2000.com/memorial/lombardm.html ) to illustrate a visually literal example of organic mapping. There are a plethora of examples in art and design. The organic grid, most notably in the form of the internet, can be considered a unifying gestalt of current visual and conceptual aesthetics. It may possibly be one of many signifiers in a cultural and social restructuring whereby pyramidal hierarchy becomes obsolete, slowly eroded and undermined by a system in a constant state of flux.