Thursday, 28 November 2013

In praise of patterns

A sample of fabric we have in our house which I really like
In the summer of 1979 I, along with 30 other students in the same year, was ready to graduate from art college having spent three years grappling with the problems posed by graphic design or Visual Communication as it was known at Bath Academy of Art. In order to pass our degrees we had to be interviewed by an external examiner. All I can remember about him was his first name was Ken (I think), he dressed in black and was a bit intimidating.

Last Saturday's Sudoku which I
solved for once

I'll be the first to admit that my efforts at design were hardly setting the place on fire and it's always possible that by the time Ken reached me he'd run out of things to say or was sick of talking to anxious students. Anyway, the only thing I can remember him saying to me in a rather disparaging tone was 'you work in patterns'. He was unimpressed to say the least and for years afterwards this phrase echoed around my mind as in 'you work in patterns therefore you can't be any good at design.'

So the years rolled by and I discovered, while working in magazine and newspaper design, that I loved solving visual problems. I thrived on looking for the visual patterns in a layout which aren't always obvious but when they work well enable the reader to understand more easily what the author is trying to convey.

I don't remember being given the chance to counter Ken's argument all those years ago but I will now I have 35 years experience to draw on.

Finding patterns and designing patterns has an honourable tradition. Textile design has employed patterns of varying complexity for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I'm sure the code breakers working at Bletchley Park during WWII were seeking patterns in the codes in order to try and beat the Germans. In my small way I enjoy grappling with Sudoku puzzles and finding the patterns to solve them — quite often they defeat me. Since I can't help but look for patterns everywhere I'll continue to celebrate them by producing sketches like the one below which is full of them.
A wet Monday in Marseillan April 2013

4 comments:

Heather James said...

I listened to a programme on BBC Radio 4 on Monday 25 November called The Infinite Monkey Cage. This edition was about Perception and a discussion about finding patterns begins about 14;50 minutes into the programme. http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/timc

jacqui boyd said...

Well, Matisse would have got a big failing mark if he was judged by 'Ken'. That is a really beautiful drawing and I have a feeling Matisse would have appreciated it.
We didn't get interviewed by our external examiner. Myles Murphy was his name and he didn't agreed with the grade the Tutors had given me, so he lowered it. Obviously, it rankled me enough for me to remember as I am hopeless with names LOL.

Heather James said...

Jacqui, thanks for your comments about my drawing. I can laugh about my external assessor now but I feel cross about yours!!

Anonymous said...

Interesting story -- I will probably start seeing more patterns now! But I will never ever ever get into Sudoku! Tried, but cast it aside. Patience is not my strong point!!! :) love, Marta