Project 1

Pattern Design & Textural Interpretation

Due Tuesday, 2/13


“As a grid takes shape, it subverts the identity of the separate elements in favor of a larger texture” —Lupton, Graphic Design: The New Basics. Princeton Architectural Press, 2015, pg. 186.



The organizational system behind any regular pattern is a dot, a line, or a grid (from Pattern Chapter of Graphic Design: The New Basics”)

In the 2-part Pattern Design & Textural Interpretation project, we will engage and explore design elements and principles discussed in our reading through our own creations in Adobe Illustrator. This includes point, line, plane; texture; pattern; figure-ground; and color relationships: By engaging in a textural interpretation (Part 1), and by designing your own original patterns (Part 2), you will manipulate elemental forms (points, lines, planes) so they present themselves as a more complex visual composition. Manipulating and changing color, value, and figure-ground relationships will play an important role in creating dynamic visual patterns and textures.

The elemental building block(s) you will use for both projects should be pieces of typography: For Part 1: Textural Interpretation, you will use individual words and lines of text to create a textured image based on a photograph. For Part 2: Pattern Design, you will choose a single piece of type and repeat, rotate, and overlap it to create complex patterns. Using typographic elements as building blocks should help draw your attention to the fact that letters are nothing more than drawings, designs, or signs that we as a culture have agreed to interpret as language. This sensitivity will help you when we get to Project 2, where we will design our own typefaces.

Parts 1 and 2 will be completed consecutively in two separate Illustrator files. Prepare to brush up on your Illustrator skills and pay attention to your instructor’s specific technical specifications for the assignment (see Technical Specifications section).


Exploratory Work: Environmental Source Photographs

Both 2-D and 3-D aspects architecture can present the viewer with interesting textures and patterns. This is the shadow cast by the fire escape on the side of Bryan Hall. (Photo by Kristin Becker)

Collect original digital images from your day-to-day surroundings that you think are interesting examples of texture and pattern, based on your reading of these chapters from Graphic Design: The New Basics. These will be useful references for both parts of this project. They may also be used for blog posts. Save them in a folder called “source-images” on your DTC336 thumbdrive.

See “Schumacher Breathes New Life Into Frank Lloyd Wright’s Forgotten Textiles” and “Schumacher Launches Frank Lloyd Wright Textiles” for some interesting examples of how 3-D design spaces and 2-D space overlap in regards to architectural spaces.


Part 1: Textural Interpretation

This part of the project is adapted from Ellen Lupton’s “Physical and Virtual Texture” assignment in “Graphic Design: The New Basics.”

For this part of the project you will reinterpret one of your environmental source photographs into a vector graphic image in Adobe Illustrator. Translate physical texture—something photographed from the physical world in which all your senses come into play, including sense of touch—into virtual texture, in which sense of sight is primary (see page 72 from the Texture Chapter in Graphic Design: The New Basics, or page 56 in the online library edition).

First, choose a photograph you would like to use for this project. Pick a photograph that demonstrates contrast, including a range of fine and bold texture, smooth and rough texture, etc.

Second, write a descriptive paragraph about your texture, focusing on the formal characteristics of the image (what vocabulary and concepts can your use from your reading?).

Finally, using your descriptive text as content, re-create the texture typographically in Illustrator on an 8.5 x 11-inch artboard (place the reference photo on a second artboard so your instructor can compare). You may only use the words and lines of your text, no other backgrounds, shapes, etc. Employ repetition, proportional scale change, layering, and color. You may choose any one typeface, but do not distort its proportions as you scale it up or down.

Make sure to follow other specifications from the Technical Specifications section. Save the file as “”


Part 2: Pattern Design

This pattern design explores organic irregularity. (Student work from Kristin Becker’s DTC336: Composition & Design)

For this part of the project you will explore pattern design—building visual complexity out of elemental structures—while also gaining sensitivity to the interaction of color. You will design two different patterns: One will have a more formal, geometric structure, and one will explore organic irregularity. The patterns will be designed so they can be tiled in Illustrator using the Pattern Options panel, and you will assign varying color schemes (at least two variations) to each pattern, trying to achieve discovery of color interaction as well as the dynamic nature of figure-ground relationships.

For both patterns, begin with a single, isolated element as a building block: A single upper or lowercase letterform from a typeface of your choosing. The letter and typeface may differ for the two pattern types. Employ repetition, proportional scale change, layering, and color. Do not distort your letter’s proportions as you scale it up or down. You should also add a background color to your tile, which involves drawing a shape (follow guidelines from pg 142 of Using Color in Illustrator), but all other aspects of the pattern should be created using instances of your chosen letterform.

Geometric Pattern. Create a formal, geometric pattern that has visual complexity using one letterform as a building block, and one specific color scheme of 5-6 colors. Consider the architecture behind your pattern: Will it read as dot, stripe, or grid? Though you are starting with dots (isolated elements), they may group to form stripes (linear elements). Use of overlap and tiling method may lead to a more complex grid structure.

In an organically-tiled pattern, it is unclear where one tile ends and the next one begins (from “Graphic Design: The New Basics” Random Repeat Design Problem.

Organic Pattern. Create a second pattern that appears to have a more organic structure, again using one letterform as a building block, and a new specific color scheme of 5-6 colors. This pattern may be more tricky: You will want to create a sense of randomness, but the edges of your tiles need to be handled carefully: When the organic pattern is tiled, it should retain its sense of irregularity. The structure of your tiling method should not be readily apparent as dot, stripe, or grid. (See page 209 from the Pattern Chapter in Graphic Design: The New Basics, or page 193 in the online library edition).

Color Schemes. In order to achieve visual complexity and see color interaction and figure-ground relationships, you should begin each time with a color scheme that employs 5 or 6 colors. Then, create a variation on this scheme in a second version of each pattern to see if you can change the way colors interact and figure-ground relationships appear. This means that by the end you will have at least four swatches saved in your Swatches panel: 1) Geometric Pattern Design; 2) same Geometric Pattern Design, with color variation; 3) Organic Pattern Design; 4) same Organic Pattern Design, with color variation. You may have more if you explore additional color scheme variations. Sometimes it can be fun to draw a color scheme from one of your reference photos for this project. Also, attempt some of various models you read about in the Color chapter: If your geometric pattern uses an analogous color scheme, try a split complement, or a triad for your organic pattern design.

Make sure to document your pattern tile design, your color schemes, and your elemental building block (in this case a number two) on a separate artboard.

Documentation. Document your color schemes, along with your individual pattern tile design and the letter you used as a building block, on your first artboards. Subsequent artboards should show your patterns and their color variations as all-over patterns: Draw a rectangle to fill the artboard and fill it with the appropriate pattern swatch. Do this for each pattern and color variation you have tried.

Make sure to follow other specifications from the Technical Specifications section. Save the file as “”


Technical Specifications

Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based drawing and design program (you can use bitmap images in Illustrator, and you will, but the software is not made for the editing of resolution-based images). You should be able to engage this project to create complex designs regardless of whether you are an advanced student or a beginner. Make sure to complete the required Illustrator tutorials, regardless of your skill level.

For both “” and “”:

  1. All artboards should be 8.5 x 11 inches.
  2. Convert type to outlines before handing in final files. (Make sure all instances of type are selected and choose Type > Create Outlines.)
  3. Make sure bitmap images are either embedded or linked to the images in your “source-images” folder. (Go to Window > Links to verify.)
  4. Make sure the various paths and objects you have used are well-organized on your Layers panel. Especially for Part 1: Textural Interpretation, you will want to the various components of your image ordered in some logical way using multiple layers or groupings of objects. This is because your image will be made of many, many separate pieces.
  5. Save the specific colors you use in the Swatches panel. It is also a good idea to save the colors you plan to use together is a Color Group.
  6. Export your final files as high resolution jpegs (Export > Export As) and save them as PDFs (File > Save As) in addition to saving as AI files.


Required Readings and Tutorials

From Graphic Design: The New Basics:

  1. Point, Line, Plane
  2. Texture
  3. Pattern
  4. Figure-Ground (or Gestalt Principles)
  5. Color


  1. Watch How To Get Started With Adobe Illustrator CC – 10 Things Beginners Want To Know How To Do
  2. Read the Using Color in Illustrator


What You Will Hand In

Printed: Print out color copies of each of your 8.5 x 11 artboards. If you go to Cougar Copies, you will want to print from the PDF or the JPG. You can print in color in the Avery computer labs (101, 103, 105) as well.

Digital Files: On your thumbdrive, in a folder called “yourlastname-project1”, your file structure should look as follows. Any additional drafts or work files you have for the class should be put in a separate folder called “work”. Don’t let me be confused about what files to open!

   --"source-images" folder, with images inside
   --"work" folder, if you need it, for drafts, etc.


Student Presentations

Be prepared to walk the class through either your Textural Interpretation or your Pattern Designs on Tuesday, 2/6 and Thursday, 2/8. (Schedule changed due to instructor illness.)