24 Oct Fractals In Design With Michele Alfano

  Fractals are complex patterns that consist of repetition on a large or small scale. Michele Alfano, Principal + Founder of boutique studio MODmadeNY and design blog MOD Design Guru shows us how fractals exist all around us and are now emerging in Art and Design.

Fractals In Design With Michele Alfano

I have always found Fractals fascinating. They hold the secret on how our universe is designed. Studying Applied Mathematics at Union College was my first exposure to fractal structures where I studied how self-similar patterns formed from complex equations repeat itself at different scales from the microscopic to the cosmic. I left mathematics and went on to apply these types of fractal patterns in Architecture school and later in my own design work. I gravitate towards a repetitive geometric design and it is this kind of work that grabs my attention and architectural eye.


Fractal Snowflake Geometry. Photo by Bradley Rothenberg

If you were at DIFFA Picnic by Design, my Molecular basket design had a fractal nature with patterns essentially repeating over and over again. Inspired by atoms, the design revealed how we are all made out of atoms – our bodies and the universe. The universe is made up of 5% atoms and the rest dark matter and energy. Astronomers as well as medical researchers are on the brink of discoveries whether it be the vast unknown or diseases like AIDS. The molecular basket stands as a beacon of hope.


Michele Alfano’s Molecular Basket. Photo by Michele Alfano

Whether you realize it or not fractal formations are now emerging in décor, fashion, furniture and in photography. See some fantastic designs that I have come across on my travels….


Wooden Clutch by Tesler + Mendelovitch

Calculated angled patterns describe the wood clutches by Tesler + Mendelovitch. The designers created a wood skin that acts like a textile. The designers figured out that the diagonally-oriented crosshatches of the wood veneer was necessary for the construction to perform.


Gem Collection. Photo by Michele Alfano

Debra Folz created the Gem collection inspired by the reflections of light and transparencies found in gemstones. What I found most interesting were the metal and glass tables translate facets through layers of color.


Elish Warlop. Photo by Michele Alfano

Elish Warlop created the Walnut Window shade which registers different patterns of light throughout the day. The bar can rotate opening up views if desired.

Furniture designer David Trubridge has devised some thrilling light fixtures all based off a simple shape that connects together. The repetition creates some unexpected patterns and wonderful lighting effects.


New York School of Interior Design. Photo by Michele Alfano

The DIFFA organization who promotes the creative arts puts on an amazing event every year called Dining by Design. It showcases up-and-comers mixed with premier design voices to create intimate, unique dining scapes. Above image was New York School of Interior Design’s dining display dubbed Action=Life – a dynamic repetition of triangles that represent three essential characteristics of someone fighting HIV and AIDS: strength, courage and perseverance.


Pratt Institute. Photo by Michele Alfano

Pratt’s team concept “Transcending Darkness” used an uplifting light sculpture of numerous hanging individual triangles. Each triangle represents the 36.9 million people who are living with HIV today. The mirrored reflection multiplied the density of the light formation. The density of triangles disappearing represented the hope that the virus will decrease and eventually disappear. Quite powerful in person.

A new way of making interlocking textiles was realized in the the fractal nature of a snowflake in one of Victoria Secret’s Fashion shows. Victoria Secret and Swarovski went to Architect Bradley Rothenberg with 3D printing Specialist Shapeways to create the Snow Queen’s fractal snowflake-inspired corset. Fractal’s seemed to have a lot of potential because the same geometry could repeat & interlock with itself, while changing scale creating a textile that could have different performance characteristics throughout. The end result was a textile that grew out of an organization of small textile-like snowflakes to larger structural snowflakes. The 3D printed lingerie was made out of nylon and coated with thousands of gorgeous light catching Swarovski crystals.

Artist Adrienne Moumin uses a hand-cut and assembled 3D Gelatin Silver photo collage process where the result can never be predicted until the composition is complete. The process and the collages themselves have several similarities with those which exist in fractals. The work contains a repetition of patterns, which are isolated from a larger image and the complex forms assumed as a result of numerous spatial dimensions which are indivisible by any number.


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