Understanding patterns – elementary tutorial

Pattern’s rely on rhythm and repetition of shapes to create a harmonious push and pull of negative and positive spaces.

It is the understanding of these repeated interlocking’s that forms the basis of creating logo’s , monograms and other type spaces.

The creation of patterns begins with a simple shape, which acts as the building block. Lets consider a triangle :


Note that even with such a simple form, you can see how it interacts with the negative space around it.

Next, play around with the shape to see, the various ways in which it can connect with itself in a symmetrical way:


Re-iterate, re-position and you will soon be creating new shapes (in this case the semblance of an ‘invisible’ square),


Try adding a little more complexity. In this case, I begin by adding a scaled down version of the same pattern, renders more complexity and depth to the solid form, in this case, the scaled down version appears to be pushed through towards you.


Next, play a little with colour and dimension. Perhaps add a background to your shape to make it more visually interesting.


As you try the various combinations, the possibilities of movement and depth become more obvious. The cluster of shapes begins to transform into something that can be used as a repetition towards creating a pattern.

Lets continue with this pattern then.

Line up repetitions of this building block and see that a skeletal base of a new pattern emerge. Example: In the pattern below, note the emergence of lattice work in various shades of blue.


By changing the colour of some of the square backgrounds, the pattern develops a greater aesthetic of positive and negative spaces.


Play around with colour palettes that will allow some shapes to emerge and some to recede.

You can also change the saturation of colours , render them transparent or even make the pattern look less symmetrical.

The possibilities are limitless.


That is it, you have created a pattern out of a triangle in under 10 minutes.

Although the usage and utility can dictate the design and  form of patterns, there is no right or wrong way of creating these.

A study on patterns from various cultures, geographies and time periods will reveal, the unexpected ways in which shapes come together to form harmonious compositions.

Like all things design, keen observation towards developing an understanding on how shapes and elements come together will help you build your pattern aesthetic.

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