This project was all about patterns and surface design. At first, I was really excited because, though I had never tried to make a pattern before, I thought it would be an easy and fun project that would be relatively stress-free. I would soon learn just how much work goes into creating patterns. I chose to create my patterns on Illustrator, rather than by hand, because I wanted the extra practice in an unfamiliar software. Here are my final swatches (note, I scaled down the 2nd and 3rd patterns when repeating them, and the 3rd pattern repeats as a rectangle, not this exact square):

To start off the process, I made a mood board to figure out the direction I wanted to take with this project. Initially, I found myself drawn to patterns with bright colors and cute designs. I imagined my pattern being used for school supplies for middle/high school aged girls because I remember I used to love getting notebooks and pencils with cute patterns on them when I was younger (and even now!)

However, my pattern ended up looking a bit different than I envisioned. I did use concepts from my mood board such as the abstract dots, organic elements, and florals, but I ended up straying away from the bright colors. I did try my pattern with a lighter background, but I just felt it didn’t fit with the design as well as the darker pinks and greens did. As a result, my target audience shifted slightly older, and I now imagine my patterns appealing to college aged women or adults who are looking for a more subdued and elegant look for their office supplies.

After narrowing down my idea from general spring-themed elements to just peonies, I created the designs by drawing from pictures I had taken last May of the peonies in front of my house. At this point, after I had the linework done and had to begin arranging the pattern, I began to have some problems. They mostly amounted to my inexperience with Illustrator and my poor, tiny computer that’s not used to handling the software, I guess. I managed to get everything arranged, but decided to switch to Photoshop to do the coloring after pasting the linework in as a smart object layer. Then, I flattened the image before returning it to Illustrator to create the repeating pattern swatch, which helped ease the burden on my computer. There were definitely a few moments of frustration, but by the third pattern, I felt much more comfortable in what I was doing and the process was going by much faster.

I chose softer, muted colors for this pattern as I’ve been using a similar palette lately in my other work, especially in my paintings for Art 340. Near the end of the process, however, I wondered if the colors were perhaps too muted, so I bumped up the contrast a little bit. After seeing this version, the original seemed too washed out to me, so I kept the increased contrast in my final swatches. Here, you can see the comparison of the two:

Next, we had to create product mock ups to show how our patterns might be used in context. I chose to stick to the theme of school/office supplies, though I’m now wondering what my patterns might look like on other surfaces and products, as well. The first two, I created with free PSD files downloaded from I used the create-your-own product feature on to make the pencils and folders (and later edited them in Photoshop). After spending a long time searching for good templates on sites like pixeden, I found zazzle to be a much quicker (if less professional) way to test my patterns on a large variety of products without even needing to download anything or make an account. Overall, I think the mock ups turned out pretty well, and they really help to visualize how my patterns could be used in practice.

After doing this project, I find myself much more readily noticing all the patterns around me, especially when I go to the store. When I see a mug or a notebook with a pattern I like, I now think of the process of creating it, and how I can make something like that, too! Now that I’ve experienced first-hand just how much time and work goes into creating these patterns, I have a much greater appreciation for the surface designers that make them. Even though I had some struggles over the course of this project, I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I’ve really enjoyed surface design so far, so much so that it might be something I’ll try to work on even more in the future!