Thursday Salute to Originals: Patterns – More Than Just Wallpaper

Peter S. Stevens, an author who published “Patterns in Nature,” describes how there are finite ways that patterns can be structured. They can be described as repeating shapes or forms and are often thought of as the organizational skeleton of parts of a composition. Each pattern has an underlying mathematical substructure no matter where it is used, and they can help organize structures in a particular manner so that they are consistent throughout each motif.

But patterns aren’t just simply limited to repeated aesthetic elements devised from human imagination, like wallpaper, a tile layout, or a tailored landscape. These orderly designs can be seen in other more surprising areas with patterns that rival even the best manmade motifs.


Though at first glance, nature may seem to be more randomized – shapes of clouds or the heights of mountains never seemed all that orderly to us –  upon closer inspection, underlying patterns can easily be seen.  Take the inside moldings of a Nautilus shell. This visible patterning has developed over time attempting to explain order in nature, and creates the unique interior structure of this marine mollusk.


Fractals are another one of nature’s patterns. In this type of pattern, a specific form is repeated over and over again in a radiating (or spiraling) organization. The fractal pattern can be seen in very small instances, like the center of a sunflower, but are also visible in much larger natural occurrences, like galaxies.


On the other side of the spectrum, there are patterns in computers. Probably doesn’t seem like the most obvious arena for a design motif, but, here, patterns aren’t necessary used for visual purposes. Computer programming uses patterning to structure and govern a device’s operation.  With specific series of 1’s and 0’s, those strings of patterns (or codes) define the interaction between objects, which usually describes an overall pattern followed by an entire system and its relation. These simple patterns of 1’s and 0’s can even be used to determine a general solution to a commonly occurring problem.


One creative computer coder, Alka Cappellazzo, has even used the inherent patterning of computers to create “patterned” artworks that seem to have no orderly structure at all. (Which actually starts to remind us of the underlying patterns in nature…..a plant or animal may seem random on the surface, but if you dig deeper, organized structure is at the heart of its being. Same goes for Cappellazzo’s creations. Crazy how things come full circle!).

Patterns are used everywhere, and allow us to make connections, predict what is to come, and allow us to solve problems efficiently (and create some pretty awesome visuals, too!). For transcending category, scale, and imagination, we salute patterns and the mathematics at the heart of this design motif.

Image credits: IMG Arcade, Telno Tumblr, IPoint Tech, Wanted Pattern Tumblr