Fractals are patterns that repeat infinitely, retaining their shape while becoming smaller or larger in scale. These patterns are common in many natural processes, such as plant growth or landscape formation. Moreover, fractals have found a use in a variety of cultural contexts, often appearing in decorative and religious imagery. To the human eye, fractal patterns have a distinctive and often attractive look; thus, they are often found in visual design.
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In particular, patterns found in Islamic architecture and art often have fractal qualities. Islam forbids depictions of people, thus the focus on geometric ornaments. Multiple meanings are attributed to these ornaments, from pure beauty to a visualization of the Divine or representation of the “transitory nature of the physical world” (Shaw, 2021, para. 28). Over the centuries, such patterns have become a significant part of Islamic art.
In design, fractal patterns can similarly represent multiple meanings depending on the creator’s intent. For instance, fractals, as seen in nature, can be used to attach a natural theme to an object. Floral or plant patterns, thus, can represent infinite growth or natural expansion. When used with technological imagery, fractals can also represent infinite complexity or scalability of systems. From a practical perspective, the use of fractal patterns in visual design can be beneficial because they can repeat indefinitely, removing any size limitations of the object being designed,
Finally, from a practical standpoint, replicating natural fractal patterns can be beneficial, as well. They are generally efficient in terms of surface area or exposed surface, which allows the construction of more efficient devices (Pearce, 2018). Similarly, fractal patterns allow to create realistic-looking computer-generated graphics (Pearce, 2018). As such, fractals are a versatile tool that is not only visually and aesthetically attractive, but efficient in practical applications.
Shaw, W. (2021). Islam and art: An overview. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. Oxford University Press. Web.
Pearce, K. (2018). Fractals in nature: Develop your pattern recognition skills in the forest. Web.