Rarely does a design studio’s sensibility assert itself as strongly as that of Patternity, the London-based “pattern consultancy” founded by Anna Murray and Grace Winteringham in 2009. With their positively addicting photo Tumblr, Murray (an art director ) and Winteringham (a textile and surface designer) curate a previously unseen world of pattern, roving restlessly from the catwalk to volcanic craters to our own innards, X-raying the world to reveal moody, beautiful treasures. The pair has also debuted products of its own, like the gorgeously witty Patternity stockings seen below. In developing my new Imprint series investigating the meanings of patterns (read the debut post here), I knew that talking with Patternity was an absolute must. Recently, I caught up with Murray via e-mail.
First, I have to ask: What’s up with the pattern image in your e-mail signature?
The pattern is our trademark signature print, which is formed from the fundamental shapes that make up all matter—and our first Patternity logo. We change the link frequently, so the last one you received should redirect you to the NASA homepage. Last week it was the Royal Horticultural Society; last month, the WWF. Patterns are everywhere, so our logo is meant to symbolize this manifesto!
I want to ask you about trends, since Patternity both designs patterns and does trend forecasting. Which pattern(s) should be filling the world in, say, six months? Any informed guesses as to why we’ll be collectively turning to those?
Since launching [our studio], we have noticed an exciting increase in the interest in pattern and much more of an appetite to incorporate it into daily life. In our more recent, ongoing research we’ve been noticing a significant shift towards more natural patterns, referencing space and the natural world from the macro to the micro. We live in such an exciting time, where discoveries on both scales are constantly being made. A furthered interest in understanding our place in the world and our and connectivity to everything in it is affecting the patterns we are seeing out and about.
Which patterns do you love most, yet feel are widely underappreciated?
Our interest in pattern goes beyond the surface, so we have an ongoing interest also in the unseen patterns that surround us everywhere we go. We’re currently working on some really exciting projects—one is an exploration of water, and [another is] visualizing sound (cymatics), where we’re digging deeper and working on bringing about a better awareness of the unseen.
Walk us through your process of creating a new pattern. How do you elicit from a client what they want in a pattern? What comes next?
Generally, our pattern application projects begin with a conversation about a product’s history or technique. We work collaboratively with our clients, using the power of pattern to add concept, tell a narrative, or to give a new lease of life to an interesting craft or product. The patterns we work on are always weighted by the ongoing body of research we have at Patternity and our fundamental belief that a shared awareness of pattern has the power to positively connect us to our environment and each other.
Our Shift table was the perfect example of this. Here we worked with marquetry craft specialist Toby Winteringham [who is also Grace Winteringham's father], using our addition of bold geometric patterns shifting from light to dark. This piece referenced the passing of time, acceptance, and change. It’s apt, then, that this project should win us our first Wallpaper* Design Award [in 2011] for our innovative approach to a long-forgotten technique. Bringing a new lease of life to Toby’s practice was the most rewarding aspect of the project.
Your blog is a treasure trove of patterns inspiration. Can you point us to a few of your favorite, more unconventional finds?
A good friend of ours was recently afflicted by a kidney stone, so we started exploring images of the crystals under the microscope for his get-well-soon card. They were the most fascinated jagged landscapes—it’s unsurprising that they are so painful! Another one of our favorite sites for pattern discoveries is the Cloud Appreciation Society. Their manifesto is very much in line with ours, encouraging a furthered appreciation of the everyday. Amazing images from all over the world of one of nature’s most spectacular displays!
In your opinion, are there any “bad” patterns? What would characterize those—and what, by extension, makes a really excellent pattern?
More recently we’ve been looking into the unseen patterns that surround us. This has brought about some very interesting findings into the notion of patterns of the mind. As human beings we can get stuck into very negative ways of thinking. Becoming more aware of these “bad” patterns can help us to work on replacing them with more positive ones. Good patterns of thought and behavior encourage more healthy ways of being in the world—surely the most enduring of excellent patterns to discover! We’re fascinated by this, and it’s a large part of our ongoing research at Patternity.
Carsten Nicolai’s Grid Index is the first comprehensive visual lexicon of patterns and grid systems—and it’s now on sale at MyDesignShop.com.