TYLES Tuesday: How TYLES are designed... a case study.

So, I talk a lot about my inspiration. And yeah, that's a huge part of my process. But it's not everything. To actually design TYLES, I have a few rules I live by:

1. Start the design in one corner, or over the entire design. It's one or the other.

When I start my designs, I usually draw it out in one of two ways. Either I work in one corner, which is essentially a 4" square, or I work over the entire 4 corners of the pattern at once. Working in just the one corner usually delivers a smaller repeat, which is generally a more delicate pattern. Working over the entire 8x8 piece will usually turn out something bolder. 

When I started my Chaouen pattern, for instance, I started in the bottom right hand corner. I wanted to draw something pulled from Moroccan design (shocker), but I also wanted it to be a bit more fluid and less hard geometric. I considered painted tilework, as well as the amorphous plaster walls of the riads. And I just started drawing curved-edge shapes into that one corner of the piece.

Once that corner is done, of course, I duplicate it and mirror it around the entire 8x8 panel, so that the pattern is in repeat. The fun of that is watching the shape I just drew out morph into other shapes as the corners are put together. It's almost magical.

BTW, "Chaouen" is the nickname of the beautiful blue city of Morocco, Chefchaouen. If you'd like, you can drool over my inspiration city here

2. Keep the lines feeling as they started -- hand-drawn, not too perfect.

I *always* begin my TYLES patterns as drawings. I draw digitally these days, on my Cintiq, but I keep some of my old habits from the analog-only days -- I start out in a blue pencil line, every time. Old habits die hard... Eventually, I do a version with a black line, once all my decisions are made. But I don't clean up the lines much.

Those uneven lines and shapes are super important. I didn't set out to create perfect geometric repeats. That's not who I am. I'm an artist, first and foremost. I want people to know that their pattern is an original one. Therefore, it's important to me that when I bring the pattern into another program to prepare it for production, I don't over-perfect the shapes. I want things to be a bit uneven, a bit bumpy, slightly a-symmetrical. That's the beauty of the piece, after all.

3. Build a design that's just as lovely in only one panel as it is in 12.

This is super important to TYLES. We need to ensure that if you are just using one or two panels, it looks just as lovely as if you were using 30. The product is designed for use in a small space just as easily as a large space. Unlike wallpaper, TYLES can go anywhere -- including in the middle of a wall or as a simple border -- and TYLES needs to be beautifully versatile to fulfill that obligation.

4. Simplify that design with a nod toward... production.

Yeaaaahhhh... ok, all of the above goals are great for the general look and feel of a pattern. But what about getting it MADE?! Yes, I actually have to consider that. I started out making super complicated patterns, and that was a mess for production. No one realizes this, but TYLES are actually made almost entirely by hand. Sure, the vinyl is cut by a machine, but after that, it's hand-weeded (meaning, they pull all the shapes and cuts we're not using out by hand, with a tool), and then assembled by hand to form the correct pattern and size. If it's a two color design, the two different colors in the pattern are put together, by hand, on the same piece. This is super-hard stuff! 

I mean, look at this pattern! It's kind of awesome, but it's SOOOOO complicated. This would take forever to put together!

As such, when I started working with my production team, they were very frank. They told me what would work and what wouldn't. No more crazy complicated patterns. No more patterns more than 2 colors. Nope... this has to be a better, cleaner design.

It kind of reminds me of my artwork. I have always been drawn to people, portraiture being my main thing. I love to get really into recreating a person's face, every crevasse, every dimple, all the colors, so that I can bring them most to life. But you know, I also like doing distorted portraiture and caricature. And in order to do that, you have to distill a person's features, and distort the face without losing the spacial relationship on feature has to another. It's tough. But it's all about simplifying things.

So, back to simplifying the patterning... It's limiting, yes. But that in and of itself gives me more of a challenge. It's really hard to whittle down a design to the purest, simplest version of itself. Most patterns go through 3 or more iterations before I get there, all because I need to simplify them. And I approach each new pattern with more and more of an eye to that process, so I'm in a unique mindset on it. I love how graphic that makes the patterns, while also retaining a certain bespoke quality to the final look. It's really all about color, shape, and white space.

I hope you enjoyed the peek into my process today, featuring the Chaouen pattern as a case study! Subscribers, you know this means a special gift has arrived for you in your mailbox! If you're reading this and don't subscribe, well, hurry up and get on that! The next TYLES Tuesday will mean a special discount for you as well. =)



Nicole Block

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