Biophilic Design Trend: Natural Analogues

We previously introduced a new trend of biophilic design and its three categories: 

  1. Natural Analogues encompass the indirect, organic biophilic design in an environment. This category takes on a more subtle approach of rekindling our innate desire by bringing in elements that remind us of nature, such as selecting color palettes or patterns that occur naturally.  
  2. Nature of the Space appeals more to humans’ emotions by designing a place that promotes a sense of mystery, refuge or risk and peril. 
  3. Nature in the Space is the most straight forward of the three and brings the outdoors into the built environment. 


Each unique in the ways biophilic design can bring nature into an environment, but all can work together to provide a space that fulfills humans’ desire to be one with nature. The patterns within these categories also provide various benefits, both mental and physical. 

The first of the three categories, natural analogues, encompasses indirect and organic biophilic design elements in an environment. This category invites the “unnatural” into the world of biophilic design. Patterns, objects and colors are transformed into art work, furniture and decor to reconnect humans with nature. Along with nature in the space, natural analogues provide many benefits, such as cognitive development, stress reduction and an improved emotional state. The emphasis on this category of biophilic design is to transform nature into a previous unnatural setting with plenty of room to be bold and create the extraordinary. 

Biomorphic Forms and Patterns
Biomorphic forms and patterns are the first type of natural analogues. It is essentially bringing naturally occurring patterns into the environment. There are many patterns recorded across all areas of nature that can be translated into biophilic design. A common pattern based on numbers is the Fibonacci Series or the Golden Mean. This pattern can translate to design through decorative sea shells or fossils as well as textured materials like carpet or wallpaper reminding people of patterns seen hiking through a forest or walking along the beach. 


winding stairwell


Material Connection with Nature
A more obvious approach to this category of biophilic design is to use materials that have not been altered too much as part of the building infrastructure. Designers have achieved this by leaving wooden beams exposed, using rocks in their natural form or choosing a color palette that is predominantly green. The less artificial or altered material, the better, however the goal is to use altered material rather than materials that do not have a connection to nature at all. For example, if real timber beams are not accessible, wrap steel beams in a way that makes it look like real timber beams. The focus of this type of biophilic design is to remind people of nature through materials. The benefits further support stress reduction, improved cognitive performance, a decrease in diastolic blood pressure and better creative performance. 

table by a window with wood beams


Complexity and Disorder
Nature has a balance between complexity and order. The intricate details that seem so complex work together to create a living organism and keep an ecosystem alive and thriving. There are several different patterns that seem too complex to study or to even comprehend, but they are found across many groups of nature. Think about the capillaries in a person, the way limbs and branches grow on a tree and how streams carve through the side of a mountain. The patterns are similar, yet unique to their natural elements. The key for this type of biophilic design is complex patterns should follow a hierarchical order or format. Order must be emphasized; the complexity has to be organized or the environment will be overwhelming and over stimulating. The complexity and disorder pattern of natural analogues positively impacts perceptual and physiological stress response and creates a sense of comfort. 

Example of natural analogue being complex and orderly


The beauty of natural analogues is it can be on a small scale, such as decor, or large scale, such as wrapping the outside of a building with a biomorphic design. The creative ideas and possibilities are endless.


Imagine nature in your environment. Explore and learn more at