Perfection doesn’t exist, yet we all spend our lives frustratingly pursuing it. Have you ever stopped to admire the imperfect and unexpected? Through this article, we are going to embrace the true power of imperfection thanks to the ancient Japanese Wabi-Sabi philosophy, and how we can use it to improve our creativity.
What is Wabi-Sabi?
Wabi-Sabi is the view or thought of finding beauty in nature’s imperfection and impermanence.
Wabi refers to a more simplistic and understated beauty of “less is more”, whilst Sabi refers to the beauty of imperfection and taking pleasure in it. This philosophy has become a new way of life to focus on the blessings in our every day and appreciate the beauty of how things are, not how they should be.
Especially in the past year, having had to restrict our lifestyles, it’s the simple things that have been appreciated more than ever. We have had to slow down and take a step back, giving us time to think about what we truly love. That’s how Wabi-Sabi has helped us and inspired our designs and content.
Imperfectionism is more productive.
As mentioned earlier, perfection is a myth and striving to achieve it is entirely counter-productive. By identifying the beauty in simplicity and embracing imperfection, we can create designs that stand out and are unique - and above all, that empathise with our users.
Also, there is a universal shift of brands regressing back towards a more humanised approach to users, and showing a more compassionate side to their brand. This is achieved through both content and design, where there is less focus on showing only the best of the brand, and instead, focussing on what’s real - which users feel more identified with that than anything else.
Wabi-Sabi helps us put the user’s wellbeing first.
User Experience (UX) is a design process to understand people’s emotions and behaviours in order to optimise human-digital interaction.
Wabi-Sabi is like a sort of UX tool that helps us empower our users and put ourselves in their shoes.
The simplistic, natural and calming qualities of Wabi-Sabi lead to a more restorative experience.
To help envision this better, think of it as a stroll in the park - you experience soft fascination through elements such as the birds tweeting, the natural landscape and the gentle breeze - once you have taken the walk, you feel more content and relaxed - that’s a restorative experience.
Nature is the base of everything, so it makes total sense to use it as inspiration in our digital products which we consume on a daily basis.
So, what does Wabi-Sabi look like in digital design?
There are some key elements of digital design that can be inspired by the Wabi-Sabi principles:
Using organic shapes that show irregularity will provide a more naturalistic and human aesthetic. These create a less clinical environment and are more appealing (through soft fascination) to a user than perfect symmetrical shapes that anyone can produce but aren’t really relatable.
Symmetry within your design doesn’t always make for a better user experience. Designs with the Wabi-Sabi aesthetic often have an asymmetric website or design because they only incorporate the elements that are actually needed. Incomplete designs reflect the Wabi-Sabi idea of impermanence - this is particularly effective when incorporating CTAs.
Natural colour schemes
Mirroring the beauty of nature through colour schemes is an extremely effective way to bring Wabi-Sabi into any design. The colours include blacks, browns, greens, beiges, whites and rusts, that reflect the natural environment around you.
Referring to the Wabi of Wabi-Sabi, the simplistic effect of this aesthetic can be achieved through little text, simple shapes and lines, and a focus on space that allows the essential aspects to breathe.
Your design can include texture through overlays of organic materials. Overlays of marble, wood grain and sand are just some of the many examples that can bring the natural elements into your design.
Wabi-Sabi is not only a philosophy for a simpler, more grateful lifestyle, but also a fantastic way to revert back to a design that’s more compassionate about your users. Now is the time to be more natural and imperfect, for a more productive strategy that has restorative powers!