Last updated on February 21st, 2020
You find surface design all around on the things of daily use such as your towels, bed sheets, and clothes. In fact, the field of surface pattern design is vast. It covers almost everything — you can see patterns on cards and wrapping papers, gift products, wall art, home decor, children’s apparel, fabrics, book covers and so on. Fabric is the sector that uses surface patterns the most as people like to wear them.
But many people are not aware of the term surface design as it is comparatively new. This design is also mistakenly known as photography and graphic design. The fact is that, creating a logo design or other graphic design is entirely different from designing patterns on the surface. So, before proceeding further, know what precisely this design is all about.
What Is Surface Pattern Design?
The surface design includes any pattern, illustration, hand lettering, and other artwork that a designer creates for printing it on any surface. The intention is to increase the visual appearance of a surface. This is the reason why you see surface design everywhere on custom coffee mugs, kitchen utensils, birthday cards, pillows, bed linens, throw rugs, and many more. The surface of all these products, along with others, can be designed beautifully with a pattern to make them look pleasing.
Printing Is A Part Of Surface Design
Since every surface design has to be essentially put on the surface, printing automatically comes into the play. The printing creates patterns on the surface. There are many kinds of techniques to create patterns prevailing currently.
For example, under relief printing, blocks are created to print unique patterns. Screen printing is another kind for creating patterns on a surface. You can digitally repeat a surface design pattern to create many such designs in a unique way on a surface. Compare that with a professional graphic designer, who is not necessarily closely associated with the printing of the design.
Surface Designers Create Patterns
The job of a surface pattern designer is to create patterns and repeat them. When the design is repeated, the surface gets a character, movement, energy, and life as well. However, most such designers work in a specific field to have mastery over a style.
For example, many of them are product designers, while others are textile designers. They are the people who can imagine patterns and then work on realizing them into a design and style. Therefore, a surface pattern designer must know more about fashion trends and colors.
But there is more to creating a surface design pattern. You need to be proficient in all aspects of the designing.
Here Is The Video Of The AMA Session With Teresa Chan
Here We Give You Some Essential Tips To Design Unique Surface Pattern Styles
01. Have A Keen Eye On Things Around
You should develop the habit of observing the world around you so that you find some patterns lying in nature and artificial things. Make sure that you have sufficient reference material at hand before you start designing work. Many designers dedicate days to gather patterns from nature or by merely drawing them on a sketchbook. If you have some powerful drawings, play with them on computer and see the result.
Remember that an idea can come from anywhere. Even a tiled pavement or a well-decorated house can stimulate your creative brain for new ideas. How about exploring nature’s flowing lines to illustrate your designs? You should be inspired by the objects, shapes, and sounds prevailing everywhere in nature.
02. Collect Things For Inspiration
Inspiration comes from several sources. Apart from observing the nature around, you should also try to build your own collection of beautiful objects, photographs, color combinations, handmade fabric bags and cushions, wallpapers, fashion magazines, digital photos, reference books, masterpiece designs, and many more.
Sometimes, just going through this material, an idea strikes and you start working on it. So, like graphic design ideas, there are many inspirational ideas you can explore in surface pattern designing as well.
03. Keep A Record Of Your Ideas
Surface pattern designs vary a lot, and you have to come out with an entirely different idea every time for products, apparel, and other surfaces. Many ideas come to mind but you forget them frequently after you are busy working on a particular project. But those ideas are valuable.
So, keep the record of the places, products, people, etc. that you found interesting. You can also use sketchbooks on the go to make little doodles, drawings, and sketches. Then, you can revisit them to have a fresh look and use the ideas later for different projects.
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04. Adopt A Simple Pattern Style
Make sure that you develop a simple surface design pattern style that viewers can understand immediately at the first glance. You can give a vintage twist to your colorful pattern design, but it should not get complicated. Simplicity is the key to creating unique designs. If you are not careful, your repeat pattern may result in a jungle of directionless designs and patterns.
05. Use Old Works
One of the best ways to design creative patterns is to use your own old works and give it a new twist. If your client has seen your past works, you can convince him to adopt from those works and develop new patterns from them. In that case, there is no need to make a new design. Instead, play around with individual elements of old designs to create a colorful and dynamic illustration.
06. Form Repeat Patterns
You can create repeating patterns in many ways. It is better to know about how designers have been constructing designs into repeat patterns. You can then use that knowledge into your contemporary artwork.
Play with different elements and experiment with your drawing. The chances are that you will find the most amazingly striking repeats accidentally. That is how creativity works many times. Try to find out a simple way to have your design style into desired repeating patterns.
07. Take A Look At The Trends
Find out what is trending in the world of surface pattern designing. You will come across some trend forecasting. Think of using some of them as per the requirement of your clients. But make sure that when following the trends, you give them your own style. Do not follow the trends purely as they are without molding them into your style to give the design unique looks.
08. Consider The Impact Of Scale As Well
You will be applying pattern design on a wide range of surfaces, which poses many problems. For example, in case of making your pattern style for fabric with a specific big tile size, then it is difficult to use that pattern for a smaller size such as for an iPhone cover.
A pattern on wallpaper will look different than you imagine it on the mobile screen. Therefore, it is better to use large scale and detailed foliage for wallpapers. For smaller products, prefer a simple drawing and repeat work since the details will not be clearly visible on a small scale.
09. Experiment With Patterns
There is no limit to the number of surface pattern design styles you can opt for when you need some unique patterns. But it may turn out that many of them are already in use or they do not suit the design needs of your clients. Moreover, remember that surface pattern designs are not restricted to textiles and wallpapers only. You can experiment with ceramics, which will also be suitable for your portfolio.
Try to come out with something new in geometric patterns. You can also give a new twist to homewares, hand-painted things to find out what unique design patterns emerge. Such experimental works will take your work to new heights. The designers should not be afraid of creating an entirely new pattern with colors and other elements.
These tips will surely help you in designing and developing your surface patterns. Follow these basics and then invent your own ways. But these essential tips are no alternative to expert advice on surface pattern design.
An AMA Session On Surface Pattern Design
To have a thorough understanding of some key aspects of surface pattern designs, Designhill, a leading creative marketplace, recently conducted an AMA [ Ask Me Anything] with Teresa Chan on September 9, 2019. Teresa Chan is the founder of Chan Graphics, and herself a highly-skilled, experienced and talented surface pattern designer and illustrator. She has worked in many industries, locally and globally. She has worked with top brands, and her collaborations include stationery, home goods, wallpaper, textiles, furniture, and fashion with distribution in Bloomingdales, One Kings Lane, TJ Maxx, Walmart, and Stitch Fix. She also has an extensive licensing program with Mark & Graham, Casetify, Camelot Fabrics, and Paintbrush Studios.
During the AMA session, Teresa shared her thoughts on different issues related to surface pattern design from her experience for the benefit of the design community. She answered to the queries that most surface pattern designers want to be answered and discussed key aspects of this design style and how to develop a unique style that helps you stand out. She also taught how to leverage Instagram for marketing and have your unique voice in a crowded space.
Surface pattern design is a field that many designers are showing interest lately as an engaging creative activity. Surface designing is present everywhere — on products, apparels, tiles, etc. The designer should have a keen eye for things around to find new patterns of nature and artificial things. A simple pattern style should be preferred over complicated repeat patterns. But keep an eye also on the trends.