Geometry is everywhere—in our architecture, household items, clothes, websites, and apps. It is one of the fundamental scientific building blocks that let us study and interpret our universe, so it only makes sense that we'd see it in our art, technology, and everyday items.
Because shapes are such a fundamental part of life, they have the power to communicate particular messages and create beautiful designs in the form of geometric patterns.
In this article, we'll look at the many ways in which geometric patterns can be used in graphic design, as well as the different types of geometric patterns we can create.
A short history lesson on geometry
The word "geometry" is rooted in the Greek language and comes from the root words "geo," meaning "earth," and "metry," meaning measurement.
Geometry surrounds us in nature, our buildings, and everyday life. Many cultures even see geometry and geometric patterns as sacred because of the fundamental correlation with life and creation itself.
Let's take a trip way back to the ancient city of Alexandria, around 300 BC, where a Greek philosopher and mathematician named Euclid was hard at work.
Euclid is often referred to as the "father of geometry" because he wrote a book called Elements, which is one of the most influential works in the history of mathematics. In Elements, a 13-volume textbook, Euclid essentially put geometry into theory; setting in motion the study of this subject becoming normalized.
Euclid famously said, "the laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God." This basically means that math, including geometry, underpins all the laws of nature.
Everything in and around our world can be deduced and understood through mathematics, which is precisely why many cultures recognize geometry as sacred.
Because it's so fundamental to our existence, geometry has been used and understood intuitively by humans since the beginning of time, long before guys like Euclid and Pythagoras put it into theory.
So, it's no wonder that geometric shapes and patterns have been influential in art and design. From Islamic art to the Bauhaus movement, cubism, art deco, and beyond, geometric patterns always have and will continue to play a pivotal role in design.
What are geometric patterns?
Geometric patterns are rooted in geometry, which is the study of shapes and the relationships between lines and surfaces in mathematics. A pattern is defined as a "repeated decorative design."
In graphic design, geometric patterns use shapes and lines repeatedly to create eye-catching, original designs. You can use anything from a basic shape to a complex digital pattern to create impactful visual content.
Geometric patterns are fantastic to use in design because, by nature, the human eye is naturally drawn to them. By pairing geometric patterns with an exciting color scheme, we can create engaging visual content that makes use of shape psychology and artistry.
We all know that psychology is an integral part of marketing and design, from the wording we use to the colors and the images. These all play a role in how we influence consumers. If you studied design, you might have heard of shape psychology, and if not, here's the basic lowdown:
Shape psychology refers to the influence specific shapes have on people. As we have already established, geometric patterns are made up of different shapes.
Using shape psychology, graphic designers can consciously choose the shapes they wish to build a pattern around to send a particular message. Designers can create friendly user interfaces and successful brand identities by understanding and using shape psychology.
Knowing the psychological association and general meaning behind each primary shape is vital if you want to use geometry in graphic design successfully. You can further research each shape’s meaning, but here are the basic associations with each primary shape.
Squares and rectangles
These represent reliability, stability, structure, and order. They are often associated with buildings, therefore representing authority, strength, and security.
Rounded and curved shapes are gentler and represent completion, wholeness, harmony, creativity, community, and femininity.
Triangles give a sense of movement. They are associated with direction, power, movement, and action.
How do you create geometric patterns?
There is an infinite variety of geometric patterns you can create. You can create a simple pattern or complicated patterns, and you can create them yourself using graphic design software, or you can use generative programs to create a digital pattern. You might choose to use basic shapes on their own for your design or combine a variety of shapes to build a geometric image.
Geometric shapes and patterns in graphic design
You can use geometric design for absolutely anything from brand identities to products, clothing, websites, app design, and more! Below we'll look at some examples of geometric pattern being used in different contexts of design so you can learn and get some ideas.
Geometric patterns work well on stationery products, clothing, and household items. The journal design below combines triangles and a vibrant color scheme to create a bold pattern.
This Art Deco-inspired geometric pattern below was used on multiple products, including a cushion cover, a journal, wrapping paper, a gift bag, and a mug. Patterns are a great way to repurpose one design for multiple products!
Graphic designer Atul Charde's design for a coach bus shows just how attention-grabbing geometric patterns can be, especially at scale. Charde has combined a yellow, orange, navy, and white color scheme to create a busy pattern that brings this everyday object to life.
Geometric design works well for labels and packaging. There are some beautiful designs by graphic designers using simple shapes and complex patterns to package products with pizazz.
These candle labels and boxes become ultra-desirable by combining a simple geometric pattern with vibrant colors. Psst, if you’re interested in learning more about how to design your own candle label, check out this article.
This wine label uses simple lines to create an interesting geometric image. This is a basic design, but by cleverly incorporating color to fill in the geometric shape, a complex pattern is made from a simple design.
Google's branding is very much based on primary colors and shapes. Check out this Google Pixel feature drop video:
Geometric patterns have been used as a through-line in this campaign, and they work beautifully to carry the story in this advertisement. If you look at the full case study, you'll see the shape exploration that was used. These shapes manifest in typography, icons, and images.
Creating a brand identity based on geometric patterns and shapes is an excellent solution for hitting the intersection of consistency, appeal, and messaging needed to create engaging visual identities.
With geometric patterns, you can establish specific patterns and shapes that will manifest in icons, packaging design, and web design. You can use shape psychology to communicate a certain message you intend for the brand to send.
For example, you might generate the identity around squares and rectangles if you want to convey strength and reliability or shape the identity around circles if you’re going to create an atmosphere of community.
This brand identity created for Baglioni Hotels is built on basic lines and circles in a mixture of vibrant colors, which creates the perfect combination of class and cool.
Using geometry in logo design is a fantastic way to create striking yet simple logos that make an impact. Designers use geometry in logo design to create images, simple abstract symbols, or lettering.
The key to logo design is simplicity with impact, and nothing is simpler than geometric shapes. The most famous logos of the world’s most successful companies are made up of basic geometric patterns.
Graphic designers are always looking for innovative typography solutions. People are used to seeing the same fonts over and over again, so creating typography that's totally unique is guaranteed to grab attention and communicate a visual story authentically.
There are tons of exciting ways to bring geometry into typography.
Because of their aesthetic appeal, geometric patterns make great posters. You can create your own posters as a graphic designer to sell on your website or a platform like Etsy, or you can up-sell unique geometric poster designs to brands. Posters created from geometric pattern design are a great decor solution for bringing vibrance into a space.
Murals are a fantastic opportunity for designers and illustrators to showcase their skills and contribute their art to public spaces on a large scale. Whether it's a simple pattern or a bold pattern, geometric designs work beautifully for creating eye-catching murals.
Companies are commissioning designers more and more to create murals, as public art is becoming increasingly appreciated and companies are making a greater effort to create vibrant workspaces.
For Instance, Facebook commissioned visual artist and designer Paul Bokslag to create colorful, geometric murals inside their Dublin offices, as seen above.
This Creative Cell mural seen below comprises several geometric patterns and uses rainbow colors to create something exceptionally striking and unmissable.
Geometric shapes and patterns make for fantastic UX/UI design, and are super popular in app design at the moment. This mobile banking system designed by Raiyaan Md uses basic geometric patterns to transform a simple design into something dynamic.
Pairing geometric patterns with white space and simple design elements creates balance and allows for a clean design while still incorporating playfulness.
You can create entire illustrations based on geometric shapes and patterns. This is a terrific way to create some unique illustrations and even develop an authentic illustration style.
The illustration by Alex S. Mostove below makes use of geometric shapes to create an underwater scene.
The illustration by Erik Abel below uses a variety of shapes and patterns to create a textured, stylized image of a bear.
Similarly to illustration, we can use intricate patterns with geometry to design characters. The figures below are created from a combination of simple shapes. They are unique, memorable, and visually pleasing.
The human form can easily be broken down into basic primary shapes, so designing characters with this technique is fun and easy.
We can also transfer geometric patterns into interesting 3D designs. Check out how this 2D design translates into 3D.
Geometric elements and patterns can be used to create engaging website designs. There are tons of award-winning websites out there that use this technique. UK-based branding agency Built By Buffalo uses hexagons to creatively display clients on their landing page.
Types of geometric patterns
Now that you've looked at some examples of how geometric patterns can be applied in the context of graphic design, let's explore the types of geometric patterns you can experiment with.
While you can create anything with geometric shapes and come up with your own unique style and application, it helps to get inspired by different techniques.
A gradient is a gradual blending from one color to another. Geometric gradients combine gradient color schemes with geometric shapes to create interesting patterns that can be used as backgrounds or other design elements.
You could also apply the idea of a gradient to the shapes themselves, making one shape slowly transition away or into another, just as a color might.
Spirals are powerful design elements packed with symbolism and allure. Spirals immediately draw the eye in.
There are tons of ways you can apply a spiral pattern to graphic design and illustration. You could use it to create an optical illusion, which might be something interesting to include in a user experience design or social media post. You could also base a photography project around a spiral pattern.
Geometry is seen as sacred in Islamic culture because of its function as the foundation of the natural world and cosmos. Islamic patterns are based on these sacred geometric forms and central to the Islamic arts.
They adorn many elements of Islamic design, including the surfaces of architecture, household items, ornaments, clothing, and more. These geometric patterns are incredibly intricate and carry a lot of symbolic meaning.
Graphic designers can be inspired by this style by paying careful attention to the symbolism and meaning that can be imbued into a geometric pattern.
But be careful when drawing inspiration from art that is culturally important to people. It's important to do the research beforehand to make sure you understand the art style and that you are being respectful, especially when the art style comes from a culture that is different from your own.
Lines form an essential part of geometry, and a simple line is considered a shape. There are tons of awesome geometric patterns that can be made using clean lines.
Low poly patterns
Low poly patterns have been a trend in the world of graphic design for some time. Basically, it refers to a bunch of shapes meshed together to create one bigger pattern or image. Low poly patterns can be applied in several ways, from making up a simple background to creating entire illustrations.
The two examples given here show both a geometric image made up on low poly, as well as a simple background.
Mandalas originate from Hindu and Buddhist cultures and are essentially a way of representing the universe. Similarly to Islamic culture, these cultures view geometry as sacred.
Mandalas are packed with symbolism and have all kinds of spiritual uses. With the popularization of eastern culture worldwide, mandalas have become more mainstream and are often used in graphic design. They can be used to create coloring books for art therapy, in branding and on social media. They work well in design because of their symmetry.
The variety of patterns you can create with mandalas is endless. They can be vibrant and striking, but they can also create a delicate pattern. Mandalas are also common in tattoo design.
Radial patterns are circular and usually contain features being arranged along the circumference of a circle, such as lines or more circles. This pattern gives the appearance of a circular shape growing outwardly.
Radial patterns can be expressed in a variety of forms, such as in the minimal black pattern above, or the bright and complex pattern below.
Isometric drawing is used by designers to represent 3D objects in a 2D space. It adds depth to images and gives them a sense of appearing 3D. Isometric patterns work well on products and packaging but can be a bit too overwhelming for something like website design.
Eyeballs are made up of basic shapes and make for really cool geometric patterns. When combined with animation, such as in the image below, we see an amazing pattern come to life.
Ready to shape up?
Hopefully, you're inspired by some of the geometric patterns you've explored in this article. Whether you're a designer or illustrator exploring how to bring this technique into your work, or a design noob simply interested in the geometric aesthetic, you might be itching to create your own geometric patterns.
Vector graphics software is the best for creating geometric patterns. Check out Linearity Curve (formerly Vectornator) if you're looking for sophisticated, easy-to-learn graphic design software.
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Lavinia is a contributing writer to the Linearity Blog.