Monday, July 2, 2012

Surface Design - Week 5 (Pattern - Part 2)

It's taken me a little while to get to the exercises for the final week of Module 1 of the Surface Pattern Design Course, as the hubby and I had a week in Italy and a week with family in the UK. But I did spend LOTS of time in Italy drawing all the beautiful plants and flowers around the 16th century house we were staying in, and I feel like I might be just starting to find my style : )

However, just as I'm figuring out my design style, for the final week Rachael gets us to step out of our comfort zone and try designing for different themes, creating characters and working with checks.

Here's the round up of Week 5's exercises:

5.1. Presentation of Designs and Co-ordinating Patterns

In this tutorial, Rachael explained the importance of producing a series of co-ordinating patterns when producing a design, so that potential buyers see not just one design, but a whole range that could be used across a range of stationery, or bedding, for example.

Other methods of presentation include making a product mock up, i.e. showing the design in the shape of a proposed product, such as a cushion or gift bag, or superimposing a design (for example for wallpaper) to the background of a photograph of a room set. These again help a potential buyer to visualise the final usage of the design.

To create my co-ordinating design collection, first I came up with this colour palette/mood board, using one of my flower photographs from Italy:

Then, using some of my botanical drawings from Italy, I created the main design, and then the complimentary designs, using some or all of the colours from my colour palette.

Phew! That was actually much harder than I thought, to come up with co-ordinating designs along the same theme and colour palette.

Finally, I created a cushion mock up from the main design, using the "burn" tool in Photoshop to give the effect of the shadows created by a fabric such as silk.

5.2. Patterns for products

Rachael then encouraged us to think about what products we would like to see our designs on. This involved thinking about what products you have a passion for, as well as what products might suit own personal design styles.

For me, I love natural fabrics, like silk and linen. I think silk in particular would be a good medium for my designs, so I envisage my designs on products such silk scarfs, dresses and cushions. The only problem is going to be getting these manufactured in small enough quantities - the digital printing companies that print on silk tend to be based in Italy so I'd need to look into what their minimum print runs would be.

Perhaps I would have another line of products on cotton and linen, for example homewares such as teatowels, napkins and tablecloths, which would incorporate simple drawn designs in limited colour palettes. These would be easier to have manufactured locally in small quantities.

5.3 Designing your own business stationery

Next, Rachael walked us through her process for designing her business stationery and website and how this reflects her design style.

The exercise under this tutorial was to design a logo, business card, letterhead/invoice and basic website look. I've decided to hold off on this until I have a better handle on my design style. For now, I'll stick with the simple clean look that I currently have on my photography/design website ( and related business documents, but in the future, I would like to at least make my logo a bit more unique and perhaps add some hand-drawn texture to the background of my website.

5.4 Character creation

To mix things up a bit, and take us out of our comfort zones, the next exercise was to design a pattern based on a character.  I knew straight away who would be inspiration for this:

First I did lots of drawings (trying out different media including black pastel, various pens and charcoal pencil)

Then, inspired by this funky colour palette (courtesy of the brilliant Design Seeds),

I created my own colour palette to work off:

I chose the monkey drawing I liked the best, scanned it into Photoshop, gave it a zingy orange colour from the palette above and then (using the technique learnt in 5.5 below) created this basic box repeat design:

Finally, in Photoshop (using colour overlays on the motif layer and the paint bucket on the background layer) I played around with different colour combinations to come up with these variations, using colours from my colour palette:

I can imagine these designs on swaddling cloths, bedding, laminated bags or even as giftwrap.

I'm planning to get some textiles printed to use in a few projects for our baby, due in November, so I may use this design as a starting point and create some co-ordinating designs - it will be so great to have textiles at home that I've designed myself!

5.5. Technical Workshop:

This week's technical workshop taught us how to create a technical repeat in Adobe Illustrator using a basic spot pattern. After creating my spotty repeat in Illustrator, I opened the file in Photoshop to change the spot colour and background colours to tie in with my colour palette above (I'm sure there is a way of doing this in Illustrator too, but I'm more familiar with Photoshop).

It's good to be able to switch between the two applications so although I'm more of a Photoshop girl, I will persevere with getting to grips with Illustrator as it definitely has benefits in terms of being able to create a perfectly seamless repeat.

5.6. Check it out!

The final brief for Module 1 was to take a traditional check and elevate it to a special pattern. For this exercise, I drew inspiration from these two pictures I took in Italy of some scratched up old green doors. I just loved all the textures in them, and thought they would make an interesting design when combined with a check pattern.

So I created a checkerboard of squares from the images above together with parts of a hand-painted cross-hatching pattern I had from the mark-making exercise I did in Part 2 of this Module (which I recoloured in Photoshop to compliment the green and silver tones of the photographic images). I added a hazy filter over the whole image, to help tie all the elements together and tone them down a bit:

However, I thought this looked a bit too regimented, too quilt-like, so I mixed up some of the sizes of the boxes in the checkerboard and rejigged the smaller boxes around:

I finished the design by overlaying my revised checkerboard with some of my silhouette botanical drawings in a contrasting navy (at 85% opacity to allow some of the background to show through):

It's quite a complex design, but it fits the brief and I think it could make an interesting scarf!

Summing up

I really enjoyed the opportunity in this final week to combine the skills I've learnt in Module 1 with my drawings and photographs to come up with some creative designs. I feel like I'm starting to get a sense of my style although the character and check briefs certainly got me thinking along new lines that I probably wouldn't otherwise have explored.

Module 1 has flown by and I can't believe how much I've learnt over the space of a few weeks and how much I've loved learning to design. Now it's onto Module 2, which is all about creating a professional identity, brand image, starting a label and understanding trends.

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