Art + Design

From the Design Desk: Trees


Trees can be signifiers of many things—the palm trees in California suggest warmth, while New England maples bring to mind changing seasons. Artists and designers know that trees can evoke different sentiments, from melancholy willow trees to romantic cherry blossoms.

Artist Lisa Congdon has a penchant for forests, especially birch ones. We have featured some of her woodsy landscapes in Forests Eco-Keepsake Notecards and the Birch Forest Flexi Journal. Lisa brings a distinctive color palate to these quiet environments.

The photographs above from 20×200Eivind by Michelle Arcila, and Untitled, Swamp #2 by Dorthe Alstrup—show just how much range in temperament and style trees can have.

Evoking a completely different mood are these Sugarloop trees I spotted on Oh Joy! Also quiet, but much sweeter.

I love our oversize (12″ x 12″) book The Life & Love of Trees with enormous spreads of full bleed photography. The book is filled with massive shots, delicate details, and beautiful landscapes. It displays trees from every angle with an incredible range of color and mood.

In considering trees as signifiers and visual puns, it’s fun to think about “new trees,” or the use of fake trees to disguise cell phone towers. Smarts & Crafts has some examples of this from an issue of Condé Nast Traveller with photographs by Robert Voit.

Digging deeper into the meaning of trees in an urban context, it’s useful to know where they came from. Burrito Justice, a San Francisco blog, has a great write up and catalog of local trees. Knowing which ones are from Japan, Chile, or Australia gives us a little visual clue as to the landscapes of these countries and conjures all that our imagination associates with them. A Brisbane box from Australia (top right) makes me think immediately of koala bears. Clearly it’s not just birds and furry creatures that bounce off tree branches, the imagination does too.

Suzanne LaGasa

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  • violet October 18, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Thank you for this post! I love trees


  • holly hatam October 19, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    The yellow tree drawing is so utterly whimsical!


  • Lisa October 19, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Thanks for another great post. Also worthy of mention are Lee Friedlander's photographs of apple and olive trees in the aptly titled book Apples and Olives (published in 2005 by the Fraenkel Gallery in conjunction with an exhibition). It wasn't published by Chronicle Books, but it is beautifully printed on matte white paper.

    Thanks, too, for your mention of local SF efforts to map and catalogue trees. I love this concept, especially for urban foraging purposes!


  • stacy October 20, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I like the big ole' cactus. Reading this makes me feel relaxxxxxxxxxed


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