Creating a surface pattern collection from one central design.
It began with a single leaf. My contribution to a calendar promoting Chicago’s Newberry Library debuted in the month of April, then went on to become much more. The initial task was to represent the library’s Genealogy Floor by creating an image encompassing multiple American heritages with their global origins. I chose to design a tribute leaf for each country or culture based on the motifs and colors I’d researched, then loosely assembled them to form our nation’s Family Tree.
Fast-forwarding to 2022: As the creative brief provided by the client had been limited to representing select continents, I expanded on the original tree by adding new leaf designs reflecting indigenous art from Latin America, Asian Pacific nations, and New Zealand, where I was born. The leaves were arranged into a repeat, while keeping the same loose placement on the bough.
A budding new collection. Next, I challenged myself to design to a full collection of surface patterns, iterating on the single-leaf motifs. I chose a shape or section in each motif to craft new, seamless repeats and simplified the initial color palettes. The new motifs turned out to be very different from one another, yet an umbrella aesthetic holds them together.
A pattern collection is akin to a family, where the siblings are unique while the parents’ genes are expressed differently in each. I think of my brother at 6’4” with auburn hair, freckles and fair skin, and me standing a foot shorter with an olive complexion and dark curls. Eyes, toes, nose. Fun, puns, buns.
Seems evolution is its own artform.
Can you match up the leaf to the motif? Comment below with the leaf letter and motif name.
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August 12, 2021 - Comments Off on There is an “i” in collaboration — and teams depend on it.
With the Olympics in Tokyo having concluded, I can’t help but think about the role of the individual and the team. We saw individual sports, like shot put, dressage, and golf...obvious team sports, such as rugby, soccer, and sculling...mini-team action in tennis doubles and beach volleyball...and the “tweener” sports — the hybrid of individual/ team competitions including gymnastics and track events. What comes through clearly when these athletes tell their stories, though, is that solo performances are best when team support is strong. Great results are collaborative.
Over the arc of my career, my work approach has been similar to an athlete training within a team or with a team behind them. While clients who refer me to colleagues say, “Call Helen” (thank you!), I purposely named my company EnZed Design to umbrella the many creatives who make the project happen. There’s usually a writer, often a web designer, sometimes a photographer, illustrator, or other talent whom I creative direct and/or collaborate with. Then there’s the client and their team, who inform the process and bring their own creativity and ideas to the table. And once things are rolling, the supportive vendors — printers, signage and service providers — come into play. It takes all to make the deliverable actually deliver.
The trick to making a project successful is developing the strategy with the end goal in mind, placing the right players together, and working closely in real time to make it happen. Most often adjustments are required along the way — like an athlete adapts their game to wind, sun, heat or injury. Generally the margins are not as tight (0.5 inch vs 0.001 second) and there is not always a clear winner or loser; finishing and engagement are the measures of success.
The most satisfying thing for me about collaboration is at the end of the project, there’s proof of accomplishment with lines blurred as to whose idea was whose. Like the top contenders at the Olympics, we have something to hold up and show the world we did it — a printed piece, a website, a campaign, a logo behind the reception desk. A brand launch is a glory moment and we celebrate it together. The creative process and the people I work with is what makes me want to do it again and again.
Special congratulations to the USA and New Zealand for record-breaking medal counts in Tokyo. Go teams!
When I stumbled upon Jade Purple Brown on Instagram @jadepurplebrown, I was immediately drawn to her bold, striking illustrations of women living, doing, being. Colors and shapes exploded off the screen, capturing (and freeing) the power of each person, leaving me wanting to meet her and hear her stories.
In the book Words to Live By, 50 original quotes from 50 inspiring women jump off the page. The quotes are not public domain, so fresh and zesty. Each is designed with colorful typography and paired with a gorgeous illustration, bringing power to the words with images of strength, unique beauty, and resilience. Maybe I see these qualities, because it’s what I need right now, but each time I page through it, a different image catches my eye and brightens my outlook. I marked a few favorites with Keep Tabs, color coordinating the tab with the image, of course!
Once I discovered this book, I had to have it—actually five of them, as each woman in my inner circle absolutely needed a copy. Maybe you do too! — Helen
My love for travel started before I was two years old, when my parents flew me from New Zealand to Chicago, the beginning of what became their 30 year adventure in the United States. Each summer, we traveled. My brother and I made a nest in the back of the station wagon and we’d motor around the vast countryside of America or we’d hop on a plane to vacation overseas, taking advantage of my father’s light summer workload to see the world. Even as a child, I took in new cultures through small details and remembered each state or country by their textures, textiles, buildings and gelato flavors.
Today I see patterns everywhere I go, whether at home in Denver or in foreign curiosities. I've learned that each country reveals itself through the people’s expression of art, pattern and design. What is rendered are revered items of daily life or spiritual aspiration. Through my adventures, I’ve discovered that culture is not contained in a museum, but open to all and constantly evolving — simply walk, wander and take it in.
On my recent trips to Tokyo and Kyoto, I found objects rich in color and variety of pattern. The Japanese attention to detail is highly symbolic of their respect for others and their surroundings. Their connection to the Earth and its energy is part of their spirituality and expressed via the vermilion, gold and colorful patterns on their Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. There’s a rhythm to their spaces, creating visual patterns in three dimensions. Most of the printed patterns you find on papers and fabrics are representations of nature — flora, fauna, water and sky. Many are symbols associated with spirituality, luck, abundance and good fortune. This Kiriko clothing company article shows the most prevalent patterns, explaining their names, symbolism and origin.
The Japanese mix patterns and color expertly, which is especially notable in the multiple fabrics layered in their kimonos. You also see this in their fine art. They combine patterned papers as borders or mattes on hanging paintings and within hinges and borders on painted screens. Patterns are inlaid on boxes and painted on ceramics. Their combinations of pattern scale and object shapes within them is deft and often unexpected. Most of us are familiar with origami paper collections that fan out a gorgeous mix of patterns. The variety of these origami packs in Japan is dizzying. When I visited the iconic stationery shop Itoya in Ginza, Tokyo, I spent nearly 2 hours combing through 12 floors of paper, washi tape, journals, cards, bookmarks, pens, and shaped sticky notes. My Pinterest board on Japanese Design has an array of eyecandy featuring items with innovative simplicity or intricate decoration — all with a deliberately delicate touch.
What’s particularly interesting to me about Japanese pattern is the motifs are ancient yet very contemporary. This mix is evident everywhere in their culture and takes many forms. In modern Tokyo, it’s subway riders with heads bowed absorbed in their phones balanced by their custom of bowing in greeting. In Kyoto, it’s a hunger for shopping high-fashion brands balanced by young people renting kimonos and queuing for tea ceremonies. (Side note: The shoe selections in Japanese department stores are on a scale I’ve not encountered before. Wowza.)
Harmony and beauty come from this knack for balance. A quality I love about the Japanese people is their utmost respect for one another and their surroundings. You’d be hard pressed to encounter brash personalities or see careless littering. At the end of a rainy day, Tokyo’s subway train floor was shiny and spotless. The city’s manhole covers are famously shared on Instagram. Consumerism is high and space is precious, yet patience and civility underpin the culture. As the world capital of cute, with a love of animal ears on everything and hats on cats, I surmise that people strive to find small joys in many places or moments, especially in Tokyo, one of the world’s most densely populated cities. I’ll have to explore the country more to test that theory. Until then, enjoy these 20 photos + 20 haikus expressing my impressions of Japan (3 minute video). Arigato.
EnZed Design is an award-winning design studio established in Denver in 1996. By merging the focus of a boutique firm with full-service design, we excel in imaginative solutions. We’re strong on strategy. We consider brainstorming a fine art. We use pattern, dimension and texture to transform print, paper, and architectural surfaces. And we prize knowing our corporate and nonprofit clients see us as energized, reliable partners.