What is Surface Pattern Design?

freelance life starting out Jul 07, 2022

Written and produced by Erin, Digital Design Media Manager


Ever wondered what surface pattern design is? Then you’re in the right place. We break it down (with picture references) in this two minute vid. Enjoy.

Look around you. On your desk you might see a pretty notebook, mug or phone case. 

If you’re in your bedroom there might be a floral bedspread, a stripe wallpaper or a polka dot pillow.

Open your cupboard doors.

Photos: a beautifulmess.com

 Have you got dresses? Skirts? Trousers? Or workout gear?

Photos: Joyce & Girls; Monte & Lou; Ralph Lauren; Lulus; Ell & Voo at Rebel Sport

These may be feature florals, checks, paisleys, tropicals or tie-dyes.

So basically, any art created to be mass produced on a product surface is considered surface design. And that counts for every kind of product. Homewares, accessories and also fashion apparel.

The pattern part of the term “surface pattern design” of course refers to repeated patterns.

What is a repeated pattern?

Any kind of design that repeats seamlessly, like on a roll of fabric. 

Photos: Longina Phillips Designs

Now how does that compare to textile design? 

Textile design is a similar practice and there’s a lot of cross-over between the two.

Just like surface designers, textile designers create two dimensional art intended to be printed on the surface of a product and put into mass production. 

But textile designers don’t always design in repeat. Placement prints and engineered prints are also frequently used in textile design. 

Photos: Oscar de la Renda; Tory Burch

Placement prints are art pieces designed to stand on their own, like a great image on a t-shirt. 

Photo credit: Johanna Ortiz; Proenza Schouler; Naeem Khan

And engineered prints are designed to fit a particular garment pattern. The print might have a border design for the hem of a dress, or densely-placed flowers for a waist band or reverse colourations for a sleeve cuff. 

Textile designers need a little extra technical knowledge on how to prepare files for printing on fabric.

You might be watching this and wondering if a career in surface pattern or textile design is for you.

If you’re creative and looking for a way to monetise your art, then the answer is probably yes!

There are so many opportunities to put your art on product in this world.

Because, as we’ve just described,  there are lots of different types of products just waiting to be improved with your lovely work!

If you’d like to know more, please download our Ultimate Handbook for Surface Designers.

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How to design fabric for high end brands
The secret to a successful career in surface pattern design
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