Pattern-lovers, you’ll want to gobble this up. Gestalten Verlag’s new Designing Patterns by Lotta Kühlhorn gives a smart, candid, rollicking tour through one illustrator’s life-long fascination with everything pattern-related. The book skips effortlessly between pragmatic tips on pattern-making and pattern design to a personal imaginarium of sorts, in which Kühlhorn reveals how thinking in patterns permeates all her work—indeed, her daily observations at almost every level. A veteran designer of book covers, magazine illustrations, and textiles for clients like IKEA, Kühlhorn answered a few questions via email from her home in Stockholm.
Print: Designing Patterns is full of intimate observations: patterns from your childhood, feelings patterns evoke for you. Why was it important to you to write the book from a personal perspective?
Kühlhorn: I did not know any other way. I am not an expert in how to educate people to make patterns, but I know how I do, what inspires me and so on. I thought that could be an opening for others too.
Print: I was intrigued by Manifesto 1 and 2, patterns you designed to describe your high blood pressure (and your exercise regimen to bring it under control). Do you plan on doing more pattern-making based on data?
Kühlhorn: Actually, writing this book started lots of new paths of ideas for me. So I did the blood pressure pattern just for the book. This fall I made a pattern which is a bit like a diary. I made pictures of things, places and occurrences which were all from last summer/fall and made a pattern of that. My aim is to do more patterns like that, so when seen together they can be read like a story. (Maybe my next book?)
Print: What qualities make a truly great pattern, in your opinion?
Kühlhorn: I think your eye can decide that the second you see it. I fall very easily in love with certain patterns. It’s like with people, I cannot tell beforehand which qualities I’m falling for. It just happens!
Print: Similarly, what are the biggest sins you can commit in pattern-making and pattern design?
Kühlhorn: The biggest sin would be to make a boring pattern. But again, it’s hard to say what’s boring, but it lacks love!
Print: People often worry about mixing two different patterns, that it’ll clash or look like a clown. What’s your advice to navigate this successfully?
Kühlhorn: Oh, that must be very personal. But in my opinion, you can always mix great patterns. I do that kind of game on my own body almost everyday. If I take this sweater, that bracelet, that trousers and combine with this coat, what happens? I often get very inspired from experimenting with the clothes I wear.
Print: What’s the most gorgeous pattern design you’ve ever seen?
Kühlhorn: There are too many! I once visited the Alhambra—those patterns there are fantastic. The Marimekko-patterns are also so beautiful. I have old books with wallpapers which are totally FANTASTIC. Whenever they were made, patterns tell about our lust for decorating; they were made to improve the life. It’s also lovely that you can see different movements from the time they were made in them.
Print: Similarly, do you have any pattern you’ve dreamed of creating but haven’t yet realized?
Kühlhorn: Too many. I have lots and lots of drafts of ideas but so little time to realize them.