The Process is the Point

This weekend I finally had some quiet time to work on my surface pattern design again. It’s one of those things I pick up from time to time. I love the challenge of it. For a long time, you needed to have a copy of Adobe Illustrator to make seamless digital pattern tiles. Now that the iPad has evolved in such an efficient design tool, there are many affordable apps that facilitate the process. I like to use Procreate to make the pattern tiles, and then test them using the Graphic app. There is also a nice way of doing it using art boards in the Affinity Design app. I’m sure Adobe Illustrator has moved on to even greater automated professional pattern design capabilities, but where’s the fun in that? And who wants to pay for Adobe Illustrator?

I am always looking for inspiration. One of my favorite pattern designers is Camilla Frances. I always look at her patterns and try to “crack the code” of what makes it so good. One day I was looking to see if I could find an interview with Camilla Frances- maybe one where she talks about her process. What I discovered is that these designs are not created by one person; rather, by a team of designers, that is lead by Camilla Frances.

That was kind of an eye opener for me. It emphasizes that practice is what makes the design so good. The more designers you have practicing something, the better the results. You can look at a designer’s work, and wonder how to crack the code of what makes them so good. Or you can practice, practice, practice until you lock in to what makes something good on your own terms. 

But often practice is tedious, and frustrating. I wonder what the point is. I think, “I’m never going to sell any of this. I barely even create things for myself.” (Well, except for my tote bags.) But last weekend I just felt this complete desire to immerse myself in the process of pattern design. And it made me realize, if I can find a way to enjoy the process, then the process is the point. The end product – who knows what that will be. A bunch of files that sit on my hard drive that never amount to anything. A tote bag or a tumbler that I make for myself and carry to work. Or maybe someday a design that will actually sell in a marketplace. It doesn’t matter. When I get bogged down in wondering about the end result, I miss out on the joy of the process. 

But what about the frustration? When I get frustrated, I naturally gravitate towards the internet to escape this feeling. My brain says, “You need more info! More inspiration! You don’t need more practice. You need to crack the code!” But where does all that searching lead? Sometimes it leads to more Camilla Frances type operations, but other times it leads somewhere much worse…

Many searches lead to what I think of as “the online course rabbit hole.” So many surface pattern designers are creating courses, either on the business end of it, or the process. And it always makes me wonder, if someone has figured out how to be a successful surface pattern designer, why aren’t they spending time making more surface pattern designs? Why are they trying to sell online courses? 

The process is the point. Don’t let anyone take that away from you, including your ADHD addled Internet brain. Just keep practicing your process until you create your own code.

Here are some of the practice patterns I made this weekend: