Abstract Humans are endowed with cognitive modules specialised in processing information about the class of natural things. Due to their naturalness, fractal art and design can contribute to developing these modules, and trigger affective responses that are associated with certain natural objects. It is argued that exposure to fractals in an art and design context can tap these effects. This entails that such patterns are not only an artistic and creative tool, but develop different aspects of the human individual. Although fractal patterns could be relevant for different educative areas, exposure to fractals has particular urgency for art and design education because it could lead to more psychological receptivity for adopting rich formal grammars. This is valuable, given the fact that some current architectural design is difficult to harmonise with the workings of the human mind.