Surface Pattern Design books on a table with the blog title "Surface Pattern Design Books for Inspiration"

 Surface Pattern Design Books for Inspiration

Today I will share with you my collection of inspiring Surface Pattern Design books. Their pages hold a huge variety of illustration styles, colour combinations, designs and patterns. I love to delve into these books when creating something new for my portfolio or for a client. Inspiration abounds!

But first, a quick chat about inspiration…


‘ woHow to Use the Inspiration You Find.


I define finding inspiration as seeking the spark of an idea that comes from the appreciation of other’s work. It is an essential part of the design process. As a designer I always remember to use the inspiration I get in my own way. I create in my style so you can proudly say, “I made that.” Copying is never ok!

Inspiration is the spark of an idea that comes from the appreciation of others’ work.

Thanks to technology we have access now to more resources than ever before.

Pinterest provides an almost endless stream of ideas and images that come from just a simple search. Social media and general image searches also yield vast inspirational resources.

I love to go to the internet to seek inspiration BUT I do find it can easily become overwhelming and distracting. It can even lead to creative blocks because we compare what we create to other artists work. Thanks ‘comparison-itis’.

Enter books…


Inspiring Surface Pattern Design Books

There is something about turning pages in a physical book that I find grounding. Illustrations and patterns are presented at the rate that you turn the pages and you can linger as long as you like!

I have included a link to each of the titles –  there are no affiliate links here.

Print and Pattern Geometric and Print and Pattern Nature – Bowie Style

Bowie Style collates many designer submissions to create books that are full of inspiration. The designs are fresh and appealing, often sparking new ideas. Each of the books I own hold a wealth of design styles in two of my favourite pattern subjects, nature and geometrics. The work in this book is not limited to patterns and also features many placement print, illustrations and lettering work. I find these books to hold wonderful collections of  work from contemporary designers  

The name? It’s the pseudonym for Marie Perkins, UK designer, author and blogger. Other titles in the series include the original Print and Pattern, Print and Pattern 2 and Print and Pattern Kids.

Print and Pattern Geometric by Bowie Style

Print and Pattern Nature by Bowie Style

Colour + Pattern – Khirsten A. Howell

This is a lovely introduction to the world of Surface Pattern Design and one of the first Surface Pattern Design books I owned. Howell covers the design process from gathering inspiration and creating motifs, to designing patterns and collating collections. She does this through practical exercises and also features profiles of several designers with a good range of styles.

Colour + Pattern by Khirsten A. Howell


The Complete Pattern Directory – Elizabeth Wilhide

This is one of my favourites. Wilhide has clearly worked tirelessly to bring together a surface design collection of such depth and breadth.  This huge book contains 1500 designs from all Ages and cultures. It is my go-to book when I want to just spend time looking at gorgeous designs.

The chapters are organised by design subject and then broken down into subcategories. As an example Chapter on Flora contains the subcategories including (but not limited to) garden flowers, wildflowers, stylized, abstract motifs, leaves, paisleys and fruits. Phew! Included in each chapter are also several designer profiles and one or two style profiles which are very interesting and inspiring. 

The Complete Pattern Directory by Elisabeth Wilhide

The Grammar of Ornament – Owen Jones

Originally written in 1856 The Grammar of Ornament was the work of a key figure in British design history. Owen played a role in creating  an exhibition of decorative arts at the “Museum of Manufacturers” which would later become the Victoria and Albert Museum. 

It is a hugely influential book and was accepted as the definitive sourcebook for ornamental motifs. The designs gathered include architectural  as well as decorative designs from all over the world. It was even used by William Morris. It covers a huge range of historical design styles including Egyptian, Greek, Byzantine, Arabian, Chinese, Indian, Medieval and Elizabethan just to name a few.

But please note, there is much sad history in these pages. Much of the art featured was taken (stolen), traded or bought from places around the world under British control. The language used within the book is the original English and so reflects the cultural biases prominent 170 years ago. Contemporary commentaries do add some context.

Rather than dismiss this book as culturally insensitive and full of ill-gotten gains, I see it as a glimpse into British colonial history, and a catalogue of the amazing decorative arts that exist around the world. It has encouraged me to look further into different cultures and given names to pattern styles I have long been interested in. 

The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones

Indian Cotton Textiles – John Guy and Karun Thakar

This is my most recent addition to my ‘library’ of pattern design books. It features intricate and amazing textiles from India based on the private collection of Thakar. What fascinates and inspires me most about the book is the variety and beauty of Indian textile designs which often have a limited colour palette. The rich history of textiles in India is explored and offers endless inspiration for motifs, textures, patterns and layers.

Indian Cotton Textiles by John Guy and Karun Thakar

Books hold inspiration; inspiration breeds new ideas. 

There are so many books out there that can offer inspiration to artists and designers. These are just the ones I currently have and I am sure my collection will continue to grow over time. 

If you’re a designer yourself, I’d love to know which is your favourite or a title you think I need to add to my collection. 

Also, if you would like to learn more about Surface Pattern Design jump over to my blog post The Who and What of Surface Pattern Design.

X Shelley

Are you ready to talk to a designer about your next product?

Get your idea out of you head and into a 'Designer Ready Vision' to share with your Surface Pattern Designer and your team!

error: Content is protected !!

Pin It on Pinterest