Elizabeth Ricketts


Bachelor of Design Illustration Editorial Print Photography Speculative Narrative Aotearoa

An exploration into human connections with nature.

When thinking about who I am as a designer the first thing that comes to my mind is my innate curiosity. Fully understanding who and what I’m designing for is something that is intrinsic to my personal practice and something I think is of utmost importance. My strengths lie in branding, advertising, illustration, and photography but one of the things I love most about design is its variety.

I care deeply about design for social good and creating work that has a positive impact. I’m passionate about working with/on ethical and sustainable brands as well as working on brand development for new small businesses. I pride myself on my hunger to be better and am always working to develop my skills. The thing I strive to achieve within my design work is creating meaningful work that I’m proud of, which is something I believe I have done with creating my final design project – Planted.

This book has been produced to celebrate and simulate nature through the medium of printed and bound materials focusing on four different ecological areas located on New Zealand’s North Island. This publication is a collection of illustrations, photographs, and sourced writings situated around the concept of biophilia; the positive effect nature has on human well-being.

The overarching context of my research and design outcome was first articulated by Edward Wilson in his 1984 book, "Biophilia". This term describes the innate connection human beings have with nature and how this connection results in positive effects on both the mind and body. After researching and discovering this theory it inspired the concept of my publication which is to simulate the effect nature has on human wellbeing within a publication using graphic design conventions. Planted is about juxtaposing the expressive with the scientific to effectively simulate the nature of a place.

The design and content of the publication were largely inspired by the work of traditional naturalists from the 18th and 19th centuries. Specifically, the work of Alexander Von Humboldt and John Muir whose naturalist books, poems, writings, illustrations, and maps were referenced throughout the design process of the publication. The way in which way these explorers documented and portrayed the new ecologies they were exploring was hugely influential when I was thinking about what I wanted Planted to embody. They were highly skilled illustrators and scientists whose work inspired my scientific and observational illustration style and also led me to explore mapping as a design feature.

To me, to fully be able to simulate nature effectively not only did I need to have a purely observational/biological portrayal, but I also needed to have an expressive medium – one to invoke meaning or feeling. To do this I decided to implement one of my biggest passions and hobbies which is film photography. Using my Pentax K1000 I decided to shoot on expired film – a risky decision as it meant that I had no control over how my photos would turn out – but I knew shooting on expired film meant that my outcomes would have impurities and therefore even more expression. To me, Planted is about marrying the scientific with the expressive, using a  juxtaposition of observational illustration and emotive photography to compellingly communicate diverse ecologies.