The Physics of Great Design

The philosophical root

Design is a mix of both art and science, and as a visual medium, rooted in aesthetics. This makes it hard to put a philosophy into words, but we gave it a try and have found it to be really provocative when we speak with potential clients.

“Great design is a force of nature.”

It seems simple. We’ve all experienced the power of great design, how a great design is more than the sum of its individual parts. We’ve experienced its elegance, its stopping power and its seductiveness.

But the idea “Great design is a force of nature” is based less in art and more in science. The idea is rooted in physics and the four fundamental forces of nature: Gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force.

Here’s a short explanation of the relationship between great design and the four forces of nature:


Anything with mass is pulled to the center of the earth. That’s gravity. Similarly, great design should pull you closer, it should attract you with an unspoken feeling of importance and weight. Grounded.


There are two parts to the force of electromagnetism. The idea of attraction — when applied to design means it should pull you closer and stay with you. But great design is also polarizing, and for some it should push back — on preconceived notions or ideas. This is the magnetism of design.

But the second part of electromagnetism is that it creates electricity. It creates energy, a shock — the same thing you feel when seeing a design that breaks through.

Weak Interaction

The Physics of Great Design

The weak interaction is physics is the nuclear force that causes decay. It breaks things down.

Great design does the same thing. It can make older designs inferior, it can make things obsolete. In some cases, it can reframe a discussion around a dated idea and move thinking forward. While this may all seem negative, the decay creates the opportunity for design to evolve and improve. So in the end it creates innovations and breakthroughs.

Strong Interaction

This is the strong nuclear force in physics. Of all the physical forces it is the strongest, it creates energy, is associated with color and it is the force which binds everything together. In short, it’s what makes it all work.

It’s the fundamental building block of everything around us. For us, it’s what allows a great design to bridge digital experiences with real-world perceptions. It binds the digital to the human.

Finally, great design holds everything together. It communicates, catalyzes and makes everything work. It’s the fundamental building block of everything around us — for Wolf&Whale, it bridges the real world and digital experience. It’s how things like brands live in a digital space and create cohesiveness.

While our ideas behind this probably wouldn’t stand up to the rigors of a doctoral thesis, hopefully it brings some context for how we find greatness in a subjective business.

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