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!

Friday, July 6, 2012

EtsyLabs Munich Workshop: Printing on Fabric

Last night, I attended a fabric printing workshop in Munich sponsored by Etsy Deutschland. The group was given some stencil designs by Steffie Brocoli - check out her blog and beautiful shop on Etsy hello possum. Or you could, like I did, design and make your own stencils.

As always, I seemed to work much slower than everyone else, really deliberating over my designs and spending ages cutting them out and re-doing them. But by the end of the night I did manage to get this canvas tote printed with a leaf design based on one of the drawings from my sketchbook.

Stencilling designs onto fabric is really easy. You'll need fabric paint, a sponge, piece of clear acetate or paper, cutting knife, a cutting mat (or thick piece of card) and your chosen fabric to print on (lighter colour is best).

Here's what you do:

1. Cut your design out either on a piece of paper or better still a sheet of acetate (which you can then use again) to create your stencil.

2. Place the stencil onto your chosen piece of fabric (e.g. tote bag, T-shirt, baby onesie etc.), insert a piece of card behind the fabric (i.e. inside the bag or T-shirt) to provide rigidity and fix the stencil in place with some masking tape to stop it slipping around.

3. Using fabric paint and either a flat stipple brush or a sponge, dab on the paint through the stencil onto the fabric. Don't apply too much paint at once and don't brush the paint on as this will result in the paint seeping under the stencil and the design not having very clean edges.

4. Carefully peel off the stencil and hang the fabric up to dry.

5. Once dry, you can add more details with another stencil, for example in another colour, and when you are happy with it iron on a medium heat, no steam (with an old rag between the painted fabric and the iron) to fix the colour.

I'm planning on using this technique to personalise some plain baby onesies and bibs for our baby due later this year. It's also a great way to make unique teatowels and tote bags which make thoughtful and useful gifts.

Here are some more pictures from the evening.



Thank you Charlotte & Tabea for organising!

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 (www.liaedwards.com) 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.