Project Two

Pattern Design

  • Due for presentation on Tuesday, 10/9 and Thursday, 10/11 (Put the file you want to present in your dropbox folder before class starts)
  • Final files due in dropbox Tuesday, 10/16


“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”)

For the Pattern project, you will design two patterns (one organic construction/tiling method, one geometric construction/tiling method) that have specific and unique sources of inspiration. You should also be able to articulate what the pattern will be used for or how it will be implemented/applied in real life: Will it be virtual or physical in its application? Just like the Gee’s Bend quiltmakers had reasons for using the materials and construction methods they did, you should also be able to defend and explain your creative choices. You may think about how the historical and cultural circumstances of Gee’s Bend affected the women’s work: How can your history and culture affect the way you respond to this assignment?

Looking at the world around you can often provide inspiration and creative motivation. What aspects of the physical environment inspired the quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend? How did representational imagery perhaps become more abstract in the making of a quilt? Here is another example of how someone’s surroundings and life influenced a foray into pattern design: “Schumacher Breathes New Life Into Frank Lloyd Wright’s Forgotten Textiles” and “Schumacher Launches Frank Lloyd Wright Textiles“.


Pattern Development Specifics

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

You should 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. The shape you use, the overall pattern you design, and the color relationships you build should all have ties to the creative motivations that drive you (see Overview above).

For both patterns, begin with a single, isolated element as a building block:  You may design/draw the shape yourself in Illustrator, or you may choose to use a single upper or lowercase letterform from a typeface of your choosing. The shape may differ for the two pattern types. Employ repetition, proportional scale change, layering, and color. 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 (follow guidelines from pg 142 of Using Color in Illustrator), but all other aspects of the pattern should be created using only instances of your chosen shape.

Geometric Pattern. Create a formal, geometric pattern that has visual complexity using one shape 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/shapes), they may group them 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 shape 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, if you are using them for this project. Also, 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.

Documentation. Document your color schemes, along with your individual pattern tile design and the shape 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. You should also document your creative inspiration for each pattern on at least one artboard, as well as some demonstration of how you imagine your pattern would be implemented in real life. You may use both images and text to document your creative inspiration. Make sure you name each pattern design: This will likely be connected to your creative inspiration or the imagined use of the pattern design.

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. If you use a piece of type as your shape: 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. Pattern from “Graphic Design: The New Basics”
  2. Rhythm & Balance from “Graphic Design: The New Basics”
  3. Gestalt Principles from “Graphic Design: The New Basics” (Figure/Ground in old edition)
  4. Color from “Graphic Design: The New Basics”
  5. Organic/Geometric 


  1. If you need an overall Illustrator review: Watch How To Get Started With Adobe Illustrator CC – 10 Things Beginners Want To Know How To Do
  2. Read 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: Turn in your “” in your shared dropbox folder. If you have linked files, such as jpgs of reference photos, these may also need to be placed in the dropbox folder.


Final Critique / Presentations

You will present at least one of your pattern designs, along with your creative inspiration, to the class during critique on 10/9 and 10/11. This presentation should demonstrate your understanding of class material and will be part of your final grade for this project.