Repetition is a very deliberate choice in design, whether fashion, graphic or interior design. It creates a mindset and a visual image, a visual impact. Repetition is the use of the same element more than once throughout a space. It is the art of creating a pattern either with the objects in a space or with the physical patterns of fabric and decorative items in a space.
Repetition can include the repeated use of shape, color, or other art element; a repeated shape or color helps unify different parts into a whole. Don’t think walls and walls of color or shapes have to be employed to be considered repetition – it can be limited to only an instance or two: not necessarily enough to create a pattern or rhythm but enough to cause a visual echo and reinforce aspects of the work.
A visual echo is a reverberation of something that all looks similar, whether Cristo’s umbrellas or concentric circles in a puddle of water. When motifs or elements are repeated, alternated, or otherwise arranged, the intervals between them or how they overlap can create rhythm and a sense of movement.
Repetition can bring harmony and create a theme to design. Think how pleasing it is to stare into a painting that has repeated elements and colors, in a set pattern that is easy to discern. It’s visually relaxing, doesn’t take up much mental space.
One pattern found in nature are the famous moai monolithic human figures carved from rock on Easter Island. The tallest moai is 33 feet tall. At one point – hundreds of years ago, there were 887 statutes that surround the island’s perimeter. 887! It’s hard to imagine the visual impact these made but it must have been astounding, bewildering and intimidating.
While repetition is often a design choice, it occurs frequently in nature too. Sometimes it’s obvious – think the stripes on a zebra. The stripes are a bold pattern but are not exactly symmetrical. Other times, it’s much more subtle but once you notice it, it’s clearly evident – like a lizard’s skin.
Repetition can be used to create a pattern, create rhythm, create harmony, create emphasis. It’s finding these repetitions and using them mindfully that creates inspiring design. This is all a reverberation back to design 101.
This month’s design inspiration is brought to you by Frances Karsh. Her design experience ranges from the very formal traditional to the minimalist modern and everything in between. She started her career as a kitchen and bath designer and now likes to be involved in the entire project from conception to installation. Frances has been designing since 2000.