Illustrated surface pattern design by Abigail Borg

Surface pattern design has enjoyed a bit of a revival in recent years, with a new wave of illustrators and designers fuelling the growing trend for decorated objects, illustrated goods and aspirational home wares.

An award winning designer, Abigail Borg‘s intricate drawings of botanical plants and flowers are beautifully constructed into colorful pattern design with a vintage twist. Graduating back in 2010 from Leeds University, her work combines traditional approaches to drawing with digital printing techniques. She was awarded ‘Best British Pattern Design 2010? by Elle Decoration at The British Design Awards and subsequently launched her own collection of hand-drawn and digitally-printed wallpapers, Abigail’s wallpapers stocked by Liberty of London.

We talk to her about her inspirations, influences and her tips for creating beautiful pattern design.

Interview by Lisa Hassell

What are your main inspirations and influences? How important is it for you to escape the studio and immerse yourself in your surroundings to recharge and renew your ideas?

It’s a cliche but I do enjoy walking around in the countryside or through gardens. Birmingham Botanical Gardens is one of my favourite places to renew my ideas, and photograph library! Lots of things catch my eye and inspire me, from old stamps, packaging, graphic design and fine art. I think it’s important to keep your eyes and mind open to things outside of your design discipline.

How do you stay creative? Do you keep sketchbooks, collect found materials, take photographs, or use mood boards? 

I do take a lot of photographs, which I love to look through every now and then. There’s always something in there I haven’t paid much attention to before, but perhaps feels right for what I’m working on at the time of seeing it. I’ve never been much of a sketchbook person, even at university I’d prefer to draw on lots of loose pieces of paper that I could hang up all around me to look at. I have started to collect reference books recently, especially on botanical and animal illustration. I’ve found car boots are especially good for these kind of books!

How does your design process vary from product to product, for example wallpaper to fabric to something smaller like your notebooks?

One of the main variations is scale. For my wallpapers I tend to use large scale and very detailed floral / foliage which really make an impact on a room, especially when being used on a feature wall. Notebooks and smaller products tend to have simpler drawings and repeat work, as the detail would simply get lost on such a small scale.

Can you share your design process with us – how do you begin a new design?

I’ve found simplicity usually works best. It’s easy to start work on a motif you plan to turn into a repeat pattern, and think you have to go crazy with detail and colour for it to be a success. It might look great as a placement print, but once you start assembling the repeat new shapes start to form, there might be some serious overlapping of elements and it can turn into a real car crash.

Repeats can be tricky, I often find it helpful to come back to designs days or weeks after starting them and look at them again with fresh eyes to work out where they are going. Experimenting with colour is something I love to do. Playing around – if im not on a client deadline I like to take my time.

What are the main challenges involved in producing repeat patterns? What do designers / illustrators need to be aware of? 

Perhaps you might start a pattern and say ‘I want this to include roses and peonies and that’s it’. Take time to experiment with elements that in your head you think just wouldn’t flow together. It’s hard to envisage what the final pattern is going to look like, and in my case often the most striking repeats are completely accidental. Don’t rush it. Forget any rules about what colours should and should not be seen together. If you think it works then go for it!

I have started to collect reference books recently, especially on botanical and animal illustration. I’ve found car boots are especially good for these kind of books!

Any tips for illustrators interested in trying surface pattern design?

My main tip would be to provide yourself with enough drawings and material to work from when creating a repeat pattern. I often have a drawing week, where I try and spend as little time doing anything else but drawing. Then you can spend time on the computer playing around with all of your wonderful drawings and seeing what works together.

*Extracts from this interview appear in How to create Surface Pattern design published on CreativeBloq. Read the feature here.


Posted on Apr 11th, 14 by | Twitter: @lisahassell

Founder & director of Inkygoodness, Lisa is a published writer and arts journalist, focusing on creative business, graphic art and illustration and design education. Her words regularly appear in Computer Arts, Creative Bloq, Digital Arts and IdN.

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