A method for creating original work & developing your style

design tips evolve as a pattern designer pattern design principle of 5 Jan 16, 2024

In this article you'll learn about a method I use in my own design process, that helps me create better, more qualitative work. And to push myself to evolve as a surface pattern designer.

I call it the principle of 5.

Essentially it means that I explore several options, to give myself the opportunity to make a creative choice for a design, which allows me to create the best design possible.

Let me explain exactly how it works and then you can give this principle of 5 a try too, and see how it can help you go beyond what you normally do.



The Principle of 5

As artists and designers we love having the freedom to create what we want. Just go with the flow as we feel like it and see where it takes us, with no rules or limitations.

This freedom however, can become our enemy. Because going with the flow is creating within our own inner worlds, and sooner or later we will hit a plateau and feel like we're stomping around in the same place. Perhaps you can relate?

The human brain always wants to save calories, that’s why we like taking shortcuts, doing stuff with as little effort as possible. When creating any kind of art, like designing patterns, this can lead to the principle of ONE. Which means that we create from one idea, usually based on what comes to mind first.

The first idea is often what lies top of mind, closest to our current references and based on things we see or experience often. But the risk when designing from the principle of ONE is that your work will be similar to what you’ve already done, or similar to someone else's work that you may have been inspired by.

The principle of One also means that you settle with the first try, which frankly often results in immature and underdeveloped work. Perhaps even cliché work... 

The principle of 5 is about avoiding that, helping us develop our ideas and arriving at an end result that is beyond the ordinary, already made, what everyone else is doing, clichés. 

It will help you create original, mature, developed and sophisticated work. By creating at least 5 options, that gives us choices, from which we can choose the best version. With only one option = no choice. With 5 versions = 5 options to choose the very best one from. 

It is more work? Yes. But it will help you create better work. Better work is what's going to move you forward.


Here’s how you can apply the principle of 5 to your work

1. When you have an idea for a pattern or artwork,
push beyond that first idea and come up with 4 more alternatives or versions of that idea.

2. With those 5 ideas, come up with at least 5 options for motifs for each idea and from those you can now make a choice based on what you like most, what makes you curious, what feels fresh and novel, or what will be the best choice for your intended end purpose for the design.

3. With the idea and motifs you choose, now explore each motif on your list by coming up with at least 5 versions of how to depict them. For example a flower: different angles, buds, fully blossomed, number of petals, single or several clustered together, with or without leaves and stems.

4. Then, with each version, for example a specific angle, draw the same flower and angle at least 5 times and try to change something each time.

Now you have created at least 25 illustrations - 25 options for you to choose between. This gives you the opportunity to make a creative choice. The best choices to make the best possible design from the best idea.

It has also pushed you to go beyond the familiar and go deeper, exploring new things, evolving and creating something in a new way. And you most likely have learned a lot from it too.

That’s my principle of 5. Try it out and see how your imagination and creativity will open up to make work that feels original and well crafted!