WWFLW Do? How Would Frank Lloyd Wright Approach Digital Design?

Written By Felix Chi - December 19, 2015

Widely recognized as the greatest American architect of all time, Frank Lloyd Wright was known for his organic architecture philosophy – the idea that design should create harmony between humanity and its environment. In fact, according to Wright, everything should be in harmony in a design: the whole and its parts, the form and function, the layout and the movement it encourages.

Frank Lloyd Wright was an avant-garde pioneer, whose timeless designs are still relevant a century later. Although he designed physical structures, digital designers can also draw inspiration from his minimal approach to details, layouts, form and function.


In contrast to the ornate design and arbitrary embellishments of the Victorian era, Wright used details only to support the building’s purpose. Every element, no matter how small, helped to define the overall aesthetic style. In digital design like architecture, superfluous details create unnecessary complexity – something that no digital user wants to experience. Avoid using visual trends just to be fashionable. Instead, ensure that every detail supports and enhances the overall style and purpose of the design.


Open floor plans are now the standard in newly built American homes, but it wasn’t always this way. Home layouts were once boxy and partitioned, with more attention to structure than living space. Wright designed free and open layouts around a central point, in order to manage movement and made the space more human. Managing movement is also a crucial component for digital design, where user experience must supersede structure. Digital designers must consider elements such as contrast, balance and reading direction in order to create an open layout that promotes usability. Unnecessary navigation, modules and panels elevate structure over purpose. Instead of cramming in information, arrange content into flowing forms that allow for immediate access.


Wright believed in a spiritual union of form and function, a natural experience driven by purpose. Simple in nature, his designs were never created for the sake of impression. For digital designers, this means that content, form and the user interface should be one – a holistic experience that promotes understanding.


If one word could define Frank Lloyd Wright’s aesthetic approach, it would be harmony. He used indoor and outdoor spaces to create a sense of harmony between each structure and its environment. In the world of digital design, there should also be harmony between the structure and its environment – aka the application and its device. Designers must consider the environment that their creations will inhabit. What is the device’s shape? Is it mobile? How is it held? Failing to design in harmony with the environment will produce a jarring experience for the user.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s approach to architecture can be used to simplify digital interaction, and promoting harmony between the design and the device – thus enhancing understanding and usability. Pay attention to the relationship between a creation’s greater purpose and its smaller parts, and push the digital realm into brave new worlds of design.

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