Beginners-mind: back to pattern basics.

I've been writing a bit on patterns and how they are affecting us, and I really enjoyed writing about the Fibonacci Sequence. I guess I'm a bit nerdy that way, but I never stopped to think about how someone without a designers eye would assess a pattern. Do they see the rhythm? Do they see the emphasis? What about the harmony? These were puzzling questions to me, and I thought that I would bring us all back to a beginners mind about patterns. Most of us don't see the patterns in things and we mostly see thru it or accept it as the way things are. However, there are some of us, like me, who get lost in a pattern and it can actually be dangerous  (like when driving down the highway and I see the dashes and dots on the road, marking where we are to stay within the lines, but it memorizes me to the point of obsession. NOT a good obsession to have, let me tell you.) The mark of a good designer is some knowledge of design basics, but the mark of a great designer is to be able to quickly identify which of the five broader pattern categories a client falls under, and to be able to describe them with clarity.

These five basic pattern categories are:

  1. Structural
  2. Naturalistic
  3. Stylized
  4. Geometric
  5. Abstract


A structural pattern allows the product or material to form the basis of the design. Examples of a structural pattern are: wood grain, marble veins, specks in granite/quartz surfaces, slate variations, and the satin finish of a stainless steel grain.


Naturalistic patters are just that, drawn from nature, and they are as close to realistic as possible. Examples of naturalistic patterns are: flowers, leaves (my Mom <3 leafs), fruits, animals, and landscapes.


Stylized patterns have the appearance of structure, but they're a bit deceiving because they have no pretext or other visual queue reference in the design. Examples of stylized patterns are: a border, decorative wallpaper, or a whimsical detail.


Geometric patterns are mathematical and they combine and mix together with little applied ornamentation. Examples of geometric patterns are: circles, squares, triangles, stripes, plaids, polka dots, and, sometimes, lace.


Abstract patters are geometric based, but they are loose and free to express in order to provide drama. Examples of abstract patterns are: geometric patterns mixed with asymmetrical motifs in varying colours, materials, and finishes.

Get involved

What patterns do you want to know more about? Email us at submit [at] designkula [dot] com with "Patterns" in the subject line. I look forward to writing more on patterns.