Design Strategy
March 19, 2021

Nature effortlessly achieves what takes designers so much effort to copy.

Open Reference

When I first saw color gradients on the computer, they were stark.
Think of 1990's PowerPoint font with a rainbow gradient fill.

By default, color gradients on the computer change in evenly spaced percentages from one color to another, this generally looks horrible, so their usage died out.

But in recent years, the gradient has made a return, both in a nostalgic 90's design push (which still looks horrible) and in a more subtle approach.

Designers now have tools to blend colors; gradients have angles; they are not linear from one side to another. The result is that color gradients can take on the effect of a painting.

This new wave of gradient usage looks more natural, more appealing to the eye, and breaks up the harshness of the screens we use.
But even with a nicely crafted, long suffered effort, you end up with this fixed-in-time picture.

In contrast, when I stand outside and scan the sky, especially near sunrise and sunset, the colors of the gradients in the atmosphere change subtly and continuously.

Nature effortlessly achieves what takes designers so much effort to copy.
There are many lessons in this idea.

On gradients:

1. Don't make bad copies of nature.
If we don't have the time to spend translating the beautiful analog world into our digital space, it's better to throw away our bad gradient copies, select fixed binary colors, and move on.

2. Remove the grey middle from gradients.
If you are a designer, learn how to remove greys from the middle of any multi-color gradient you are making. Add a 3rd color stop in the middle.

3. Embrace biomimicry gradients.
If you want to copy nature, why stop at subtle gradients nicely turned into a picture. Wouldn't it be cool if the gradients on screens were ever so subtle changing with the passing of time - a kind of biomimicry gradient?

If you're making a gradient and it's not turning out well, don't make a gradient.

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