Thursday Salute to Originals: Fingerprints
It’s no secret that fingerprints are unique. With over 7 billion people on the planet, the odds of your set of fingerprints matching someone else’s are in the quadrillions (that’s a digit followed by 15 zeros!). In other words, it’s not very likely.
But have you ever stopped to consider the impact fingerprints have on design on our perception of it? Yes, their undulating patterns can serve as a parti for buildings and designs, like this conceptual Fingerprint Building or the Fingerprint Lamp by Dan Yeffet (both below).
But aside from a pure visual influence, fingerprints themselves – their form, pattern, and function – facilitate a deeper, more cognitive impact on the design world, and ultimately shape how we experience and interpret it.
An intricate assemblage of ridges and valleys on the pads of our fingers create vibrations as they graze a surface, allowing our brains to deduce and qualify how a material feels. Because of these vibrations, we can differentiate between smooth and rough, scratchy and soft. Without these ridge formations, it would be difficult to articulate those variances in texture so precisely, if at all.
But pattern also plays a significant role in our interpretation of a material. The elliptical patterning of fingerprints (categorized generally as arch, loop, or whorl), allows for some ridges and valleys to always fall perpendicular to the surface, no matter the angle of the fingers. This, not only creates beautifully organic and one-of-a-kind patterns from a visual standpoint, but also allows for optimum vibrations, generating a faster, more accurate analysis of a surface.
Design, itself, is a very tactile process. As designers (and humans in general), we’re inherently inclined to touch, feel, hold materials in our hands; it helps us perceive them, interpret them, envision how to use them. And fingerprints are ultimately central in this ability.
So whether you’re inspired by their beautiful intricacy, or by the design principles deeply embedded within each, fingerprints are integral in the design world, allowing us to identify and connect to surfaces in such a uniquely physiological way.
Fingerprints are at the very core of our understanding of textures, and at 1 in 7 billion, they are truly Mother Nature’s own personal Salute to Originals.