Project Two

Pattern Design

  • Due Thursday 10/10 at beginning of class

Required During This Project

  • Complete Organic/Geometric assignment by 10/3
  • Watch and practice Pen Tool 1 and Pen Tool 2 tutorials
  • Read second PDF excerpt from “Working Knowledge: Skill and Community in a Small Shop”
  • Read “Pattern,” “Rhythm and Balance,” “Gestalt Principles,” and “Rules and Randomness” and review “Color” chapters from Graphic Design: The New Basics
  • Read PDF excerpt on Organic and Geometric forms from Timothy Samara’s book “Design Elements”
  • PDF pgs 17 to 24 of Using Color in Illustrator  (explains how to use the Pattern panel)

“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”). This structure will be apparent in your geometrically-structure pattern design.

For the Pattern project, you will design two patterns (one organic construction/tiling method, one geometric construction/tiling method) using one of the forms you drew for the Organic/Geometric assignment. You may wish to simplify the form or refine it before using it to create a pattern. Think about how the patterns you design might be considered representative, in an abstract sense, of the process that inspired the initial Organic/Geometric form assignment: What type of handwork, tools, materials, and knowledge were you thinking of? What motion, action, process, and outcomes result from this? How can that inspire the construction of your patterns? See Pattern Development specifics below. Choice of color and use of the Pattern Options panel in Illustrator is crucial for successful completion of this project.

Pattern Development Specifics

This pattern design explores organic irregularity. (Student work from Kristin Becker’s DTC336: Composition & Design). In this example, the single building block is a letter V because the students did not draw their own shapes first.

You should explore pattern design—building visual complexity out of elemental structures—while also gaining sensitivity to the interaction of color, which you read about in the “Color” chapter of Graphic Design: The New Basics for Project 1. 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. The shape you use, the overall patterns you design, and the color relationships you build should all have ties to your original inspiration for the Organic/Geometric assignment.

For both patterns, begin with a single form, just one of the shapes you drew for the Organic/Geometric assignment. (The single shape you choose as a building block may differ for the two different pattern types you will explore. Also, you might want to simplify or refine the shape before using it.) Employ repetition, proportional scale change, layering, and color changes as you design your pattern. Do not distort your shape’s original proportions as you scale it up or down. You should also add a background color to your tile, which involves drawing one additional shape as the base layer of your tile design (follow guidelines from PDF pg 24 of Using Color in Illustrator): All other aspects of the pattern should be created using only instances of your single chosen shape.

1) Pattern Type 1: Geometric Pattern. Create a formal, geometric pattern that has visual complexity using one shape as a building block, and one specific color scheme of 4-6 colors. Consider the architecture behind your pattern: Will it read as dot, stripe, or grid? Though you are starting with dots (isolated elements/shapes), 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.

2) Pattern Type 2: Organic Pattern. Create a second pattern that appears to have a more organic structure, again using one shape as a building block, and a new specific color scheme of 4-6 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 4 to 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 (So, the pattern structure will not actually change but the colors will, and this may affect the way the viewer perceives the pattern structure due to figure-ground shifts). 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. You may want to attempt some of the various color 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. In this example, the single building block is a number 2 because the students did not draw their own shapes first.

Documentation. Document your color schemes, along with your individual pattern tile design and the shape you used as a building block, on your first artboard. 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 you name each pattern design in the Swatches panel.

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

Your work for the Geometric Pattern might look something like this:

This is an example of what your Geometric Pattern submission might look like. At minimum, you would print three pages: Your documentation sheet and two pages that show your pattern structure with at least two different color variations. Your Organic Pattern submission should also have a minimum of three pages.


Technical Specifications

Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based drawing and design program (you can place bitmap images in Illustrator, 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 watch and read the required Illustrator tutorials and info, regardless of your skill level.

You will have to two Illustrator files, one for the Geometric Pattern Design and one for the Organic Pattern Design:

  1. Name your files “” and “””
  2. All artboards should be 8.5 x 11 inches.
  3. Convert any type you use to outlines before handing in the file. (Make sure all instances of type are selected and choose Type > Create Outlines.)
  4. Make sure bitmap images, if used as reference, are embedded (Go to Window > Links to verify).
  5. Make sure the various paths and objects you have used are well-organized  and named on your Layers panel.
  6. 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.
  7. Export your final files as high resolution JPGs (Export > Export As) and save them as PDFs (File > Save As) in addition to saving as AI files. (Note: for JPGs, each Artboard will export as a separate file, so you may organize these in a folder if you wish).


What You Will Hand In

Printed: Print out color copies of each of your 8.5 x 11 artboards. You should have at least three pages for Organic and three for Geometric (see above image). 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 (AML 101 or 105 Color Printer) as well.

Digital Files: Place all your files in a folder called “yourlastname-pattern-design”. This folder will contain your AI, PDF and JPG files (see Technical Specs above). Zip the folder before uploading via the relevant assignment page on Blackboard. The folder must be compressed as a ZIP.