In life we are told to be “balanced”. I agree — but realize, we can achieve balance in life with asymmetry!
The Philosophy of asymmetry
From a philosophical perspective, I love the idea of asymmetry.
This is why:
- No human being is perfectly “well balanced” in all of their things in life, their skills, their strengths, etc. Most of us are “specialized” in certain things in life. For example we might be disproportionately good in mathematics and science, but not as skilled in English and written prose. But that’s okay, perhaps your super-strength in one field can still give you balance in other things in your life.
- With life partners, perhaps it is better to find someone who is totally different from you, but someone who balances you. For example, I’m very spontaneous and follow my gut, whereas Cindy is more of the planner and strategist. Our “asymmetric” relationship actually makes us stronger. This might be better than having two people in a relationship who are more similar than dissimilar.
- Society thrives from having lots of different specialists: I think this is what makes humanity and society so strong: having a society where we have specialist doctors, specialist architects, specialist teachers, specialist food producers is better than having lots of “average” generalists.
Too much symmetry in the human face isn’t attractive.
My belief: Beautiful things and people are more beautiful when we are not too symmetrical!
Fun questions to ponder on asymmetry
Questions to consider:
- Why is the heart asymmetric? Perhaps asymmetry is what allows blood (and other things) to flow.
- Why isn’t there more asymmetrical designs? Why are cars mirrored perfectly (between driver side and passenger side?)
- What are the benefits of asymmetry in design, society, and us as individuals?
- What parts of the human body are symmetrical and what parts are asymmetrical? What are the benefits of either?
Successful asymmetry design
Most modern digital cameras are asymmetric, which make it a better functioning piece of equipment for right handed people. Question: Why isn’t there any cameras designed for left handed people? (Tyranny of the majority)
Why isn’t there more asymmetry in life?
Several things to consider,
Unfortunately most of modern design and architecture is all about symmetry. But in actuality, anything that is perfectly symmetrical is actually ugly. For example with the human face, there is an “uncanny valley“: more symmetrical faces are seen as more attractive, but a human face with 100% perfect symmetry is seen as horrific.
I’ve always seen Bonsai trees (and trees in general) as beautiful. Interesting to note, almost all bonsai trees are asymmetric.
And all nature is asymmetric, there is no 100% symmetry in nature!
Yet the beautiful thing about trees and nature: they’re still balanced, and don’t fall over or break!
I remember when I was a student at UCLA, we were taught the design of Royce Hall was intentionally made asymmetric, to make it more beautiful. Note the left tower has 3 windows, while the right tower only has 2 windows:
Seeing this crab (fiddler crab), was one of my most exciting discoveries. Why? It reminded me of the Megazord from Power Rangers: the strength of the Megazord is it’s asymmetry from the diverse range of power rangers. Note the asymmetry of the weapons, and also the feet:
Once again the concept is very good: it is diversity in humanity which causes us to be stronger and to thrive!
Note the gender and racial diversity:
To study this concept more, I recommend reading Antifragile by Nassim Taleb, and reading his chapter on the “barbell theory”: we are better when we embrace extremes in life!