Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Surface Design - Module 2, Week 1 (Collections)

So now it's onto Module 2 of The Surface Pattern Design Course taught by Rachael Taylor.

Whereas Module 1 was very much design focused, getting us to find inspiration around us, get sketching and think about colour and pattern in our designs, Module 2 is more focused on the professional side of surface pattern design. Over the course of the module, we'll be looking at how to put together a collection, trends in the design industry and then building and marketing our own brand identity.

Week 1 was all about collections.

1.1. Designing

To begin the first week, Rachael, got us to get designing again. First, by choosing an object in the room, making various sketches of this and then picking a colour palette from a photograph or magazine image and useing that palette and the sketches to create a design. I received some beautiful sculptural alliums this week, so striking that I just had to draw them. Here's some of the sketches I made using a big fat marker pen and some regular printing paper (to ensure I had strong lines when I scanned them in):

The colour palette came from some photographs I took of the flowers. But I didn't want the colours to be an exact replica of the flowers as per the photograph, so instead I used some of the subtler colours in the image to create the palette. I created the design concept below including my photographs, sketches and the colour palette:

1.2. Putting a Collection Together

Rachael explained what it is that makes a collection of designs (for example they may be tied together by motifs, a concept, a colour palette or some of all of these elements) and how important it is to produce collections of designs, rather than individual designs. Collections are far more valuable to a buyer, since they can use them across a range of products (for example stationery, giftwrap or bedding).  One design on its own may not get noticed, whereas a collection will immediately help a potential buyer/licensee envisage how those designs may be used on a range of co-ordinating products.  A collection also helps you, as as designer, to showcase your design style.

There are different ways in which a design collection can be utilised. For example, a collection may be sold outright to a buyer, licenced for a particular period of time and purpose, used in your own product range or used as a portfolio piece to showcase your design abilities.

The creative exercise under this topic was to look for a collection (either in homewares, fashion, stationery or beauty) and deconstruct this by (a) identifying the different patterns, the motifs used, the different scales, co-ordinating elements and the colour palette, (b) considering what category the patterns fit into and (c) what it is about the collection that is appealing.

For this exercise, I chose a set of cake tins by Orla Kiely, which I received as a birthday present:

The key motif here is the stem design. But it has been used in different ways. On the really big tin, it is used at the biggest scale in the collection in a cross-hatch pattern in all colours from the collection's colour palette (zingy orange, earthy brown, navy, mustard yellow, olive green and grey). Two simpler versions of the same stem motif are used on the grey tin (where the pattern is made by a raised texture, and the scale has been reduced right down) and on the small tin, in a simple colour palette using yellow mustard for the background with the stem design as a white outline. The final two tins have different motifs (flower heads), but co-ordinate with the rest of the tins through the colour palette (picking up only certain of the colours in the palette), and also the theme (botanic) and style (graphic retro).

I think it's a really great example of a collection of co-ordinating patterns, appealing to the current trend for all things retro (both in the colour palette and motif style), which have been applied to everyday useful objects.

It definitely will make me consider playing with scale and adapting the same motif in different ways. As Orla Kiely shows, the possibilities even just with one motif are endless:

1.3 Creating Your Own Collection

The next exercise was to create collection based on the sketches and colour palette I created for exercise 1.1, experimenting with scale, composition, colour and contrasting patterns. I scanned in my drawings from 1.1 and experimented with layering different motifs, scale and colour combinations. I ended up with tons of designs, but narrowed down to the following final collection, called "Sculptural Blooms":

1.4 Physical Product Mock-ups

The next step was to present the collection. You'll see some digital product mock ups I made using the technical workshops in 1.5, below. But before doing that, Rachael also suggested we make some physical product mock-ups by printing off our designs and wrapping them around some products to get a feel as to how they might work on different items. Below you can see I made physical mock ups of a book and cake tin. It's a bit of a buzz to get an idea of how your designs might look in 3D, on real products.

1.5 Technical Workshops

Tying into the idea of presenting our designs, this week's technical workshops showed us how to make a room set up and also how to use a product template:

Here's a room mock up, showing one of my designs from the "Sculptural Blooms" collection as wallpaper:

And here's another of the designs applied to a product template for an over mitt, using Adobe Illustrator (not my favourite software, but I'm trying!). This is the kind of template that would be supplied by a manufacturer for a design to be applied to.

1.6 Working to a brief

The final exercise of the first week was to create a concept design board for a new line of stationery. I'll be sharing my designs for this in a separate post later this week, so watch this space.

1.7 Interview with Louise Tiler

Finally we were given an audio interview with recent graduate Louise Tiler who has won numerous awards for her designs and has already launched her own label. What I took away most from this interview was the importance of entering competitions, to get yourself known in the industry, and also staying true to your own design style.

Next week: Trends!


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  2. I would order 'sculptural blooms' as a wallpaper in our Irish retreat. This is amazing work.

  3. What a lovely, informative article. You've been working so hard. I love Alliums and already have some Allium wallpaper, but I would definitely love to have this, it's really soft and delicate, yet also big and bold. Great photo of the product mock-ups too.