Shapes are the basis of most images and designs, but for a long time they weren’t something I put a lot of thought into. What eventually changed my mind was a character analysis on a Pokemon character named N.
The first part of the analysis focused on breaking the character down into basic shapes—triangle, squares, and circles. From that, they made several deductions about his character, such as predicting his anti-villain status and his resolution to achieve his goals. These predictions turned out to be completely right when the game came out. Needless to say, this made me think about their importance a little more.
Different shapes can evoke different meanings. According to Siddanth Pillai, the most common shapes—rectangles, circles, triangles, rhombuses, and hexagons—can be broken down into something like this:
Combining these shapes in different ways can create entirely new meanings. For example, creating something out of rectangles and triangles could emphasize a call to return to tradition.
But maybe you don’t want to do something complex; maybe you’d just like to use shapes here and there to give your site or product a little extra vitality, something that makes it stand out and look more professional. If so, geometric patterns might be for you.
As the name implies, geometric patterns are a collection of shapes, repeating or altered to create a cohesive design. While you have the shape meanings down, you might not know where to start. Here we’ve listed 40 great examples to help jumpstart your design ideas, with tips on how to apply them.
Simple shapes, on their own, can be appealing; using a variety of shapes to create a whole image, however, can work even better. Liam Brazer’s Landshape illustrates this well, using various shapes to create a vibrant landscape. Keep in mind what kind of shapes will work well for your subject, and you can create something spectacular.
Not all geometric patterns have to be symmetrical; sometimes creating something where shapes and lines differ across the board can create a striking effect. This poster illustrates the concept well, including mismatched overlays and triangles across both sides to create something more unique.
Geometric patterns can be a great, creative way to spice up ordinary photos. For example, Sorry Colour takes a variety of photos and pastes them into shapes. The collage ultimately offers an entirely different, unique experience, giving the images more personality than if they were displayed alone.
Shadows and highlights can be used to enhance shapes—and sometimes create them, as shown by Seth Nickerson. Test what you can do with shadows in your own patterns, from making an almost 3D shape, to drawing attention to certain parts of the image.
We’ve already explored how shapes can create images; exploring how those shapes connect can create new and interesting effects. For example, Work Hard uses a variety of geometric shapes, and creates a flowing image by connecting them in different ways—for example, connecting the edges of the title and the shape for the individual’s head.
Try making a collage out of different shapes—something that guides viewers and makes your pattern easier on the eyes. Neo Lab, for example, uses diamonds of varying sizes, connected by their sides.
Diagonals create a clear path for the eye to follow, offering the bonus of a cohesive design. Finnish Summer is a wonderful example, using diagonal patterns to create a beautiful juxtaposition of images and colors.
Isometric patterns—or patterns that appear to be three dimensional—can really make an image pop, if used correctly. Isometric Exhibition offers a great example, using hard colors to create the illusion that the shapes pop off the page. Used sparingly and creatively, this can draw attention to specific items or words.
If you want to really stretch your creativity, try using the typeface itself to create your patterns. Next Level, for example, uses a variety of triangles and hard lines to create a jagged, edgy effect. Creating patterns this way can help with whatever tone you might like for your site or product.
While asymmetry creates a more free-flowing, fun look, symmetry can be used in geometric patterns to create something more elegant. ICP showcases this perfectly, especially on the cover, where the top half of the image perfectly mirrors the bottom.
If you want something more complex, including geometric patterns within already existing shapes can be the way to go. The top left and bottom right example on this page are great examples, one using squares to house patterns, the other using circles.
Conversely, not everything has to be complex—simple shapes can be just as appealing. Astrobrights Thank You Cards are great examples, using only a few shapes and lines to create appealing images.
Lines are the most basic elements of any shape; using them creatively can help create new effects, and can create a nice flow between images and information.
Europa is one great example, using simple lines to create a candle—including the melting wax! Planetary Folklore is another, creating a circle within the lines. Experiment with simple lines, and see what you might be able to create.
Patterns on their own are great; patterns used to connect images are even better, especially when those patterns all relate to one another.
Take ADMCi, for example; the images all have a connection through similar colors and patterns that line their borders. Choosing a pattern, and applying it appropriately, can make formerly disparate subjects connected, and can identify products as “yours.”
Everyone loves a good color scheme; geometric gradients can enhance that, making a gradient background or image pop.
Carnival, for example, uses simple gradients between shapes, in some cases making the shapes almost blend together, and in others making them stand out even more.
If geometric patterns can create images, then why not take it a step further and actually create a character with them?
Cubist Superheroes uses patterns to form already-familiar individuals, but you’re not required to stick to existing characters. Why not try making a mascot from simple geometric shapes, and creating a simple guide from them, and see where it takes you?
Shapes can be used to combine several different images together—in ways to may both be expected and unexpected.
For example, Jelle Martens combines several different landscapes to create interesting collages. Experiment with what images might work well together—and how they might change the image as a whole—and use different shapes to make it all come together.
Shapes can be incredibly effective if used to resemble certain actions or consequences. For example, Triangle uses a bunch of—you guessed it—triangles to replicate the effect of shattered glass. Using shapes like this can add meaning and vibrancy to images; at the very least, it creates a startling picture.
If you want something a little more subtle, try sticking to a simple geometric background, such as the one found here. These can add a little excitement to a website or presentation, without being too obvious and distracting.
Sometimes, all it takes is a simple trick to create complexity—for example, overlapping two shapes, illustrated with Wanderlust. The image only includes two hexagons, but the overlap makes it look more complex and refined. Experiment with how different shapes overlap, and see what might work for you.
Try to give your pattern a purpose by relating it directly to the subject. For example, La Fete du Citron a Menton uses a leaf pattern to surround a lemon, reflecting the subject matter.
You can create patterns within the letters, if creating patterns with the letters themselves is too busy for you.
For example, including simple lines on the letter’s side. A simple tutorial for use with Adobe Illustrator can be found here.
You can use patterns to alter parts of an already existing image. Geometric Photography, for example, uses shapes to shift around where certain pieces of the image are. Shifting different parts of an image can create a different effect, and can create something quite original.
Whenever using colors with geometric patterns, you’ll want to make sure you have ones that work well together—especially if they happen to be on shapes that border each other.
The second background on this page is a great example, combining deep green and orange for a serious, professional look. Poor color choice can be distracting, so brush up on color theory and test how different colored shapes look against each other.
Find shapes that fit and flow well together, and that create a more seamless whole, rather than something that seems thrown together. Ultra’s a wonderful example, with each shape connecting to one another as you scroll down the page.
You can use a lot of different styles and shapes to create something completely your own. For example, you can use shapes that create the illusion of a reflection, such as in this case. Combining different shapes, lighting, and colors can produce different effects and illusions, and gives you a lot of material to work with.
A border is a good way to enhance an image with shapes, without it being too distracting. Take Zeppe, for example, which uses a geometric pattern to focus on its name.
With technology, we have the benefit of enhancing various geometric patterns for the internet—like, for example, adding simple, alternating animation between two geometric patterns.
Noir is a great example, as it uses a simple GIF to switch between one set of lines and another, creating the illusion of motion.
Not everything has to be obvious; subtle shapes can be just as effective, as illustrated by Itaú Internacional, which has shapes that nearly blend into the background. This flow makes for a more professional look, while still adding some creativity.
Patterns are a great way to separate and categorize information, making it easier for viewers to find.
Traditional art appeals to nostalgia, and allows you to create something a bit more personal, such as with these black-and-white vectors.
Patterns and lines are quite effective at drawing the eye to certain elements. Oli Lisher, for example, uses lines to draw attention to the word “portfolio” and then boxes in word examples. Think about what elements in your work you’d like to highlight, and use shapes to lead the eye to them.
You don’t have to stick to one pattern—using multiple makes the image more engaging. Showreel is a great example, using a variety of circles, splatters, and other shapes throughout their site.
No one says you have to stick to the standard circles, squares, and triangles; in fact, a design might work better using less traditional shapes.
Fenix Music, for example, uses speech bubbles and lightning bolts to highlight certain elements, a design which works better due to the connection to the subject matter.
Lines are great at drawing the eye to elements; why not use them to create a web between different subjects, like Kikk Festival does? Use it to make connections between several subjects, make a more appealing design, or something else entirely.
Complex patterns are great, but too many can be overwhelming. Fiore provides an interesting example: They use highly-detailed plants as their pattern, with some of the more appealing designs being limited to small spaces. Know how and where to use your pattern, and you’ll be more likely to keep your viewers’ attention.
Not every pattern needs color; keeping it black and white can be just as appealing, and can make a pattern more widely applicable. Look at Helvetimart—the pattern looks great without color, making the latter unnecessary.
If you want something that screams “personal,” try including geometric patterns that you see in your everyday workplace. Take Yamaha, for example; the pattern on their website matches the pattern on their building.
You don’t have to leave the pattern on certain subjects—you can branch across various products, like Amie Bakery does, to make the pattern more recognizable.
Probably the simplest tip, but one of the easiest to forget: less is more. Geometric patterns don’t need to be plastered all over your page.
The Tea Factory is a great example of geometric patterns done well, keeping them limited to their header. Limit use to avoid overwhelming a viewer and to give the patterns more impact.
What are some awesome geometric patterns you’ve seen? Some ideas for your own? Share them with us in the comments below.
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