Understanding the geometry of design

Aziza Iqbal is a visual artist, surface design and pattern specialist currently based in Doha, Qatar. A quintessential maths nerd and pattern junkie, she thrives on details, grids and symmetry, and believes in communicating with shapes and colours rather than words and pictures.

25 Apr 2018 | By PrintWeek India

Geometry in design 
Geometry is the foundation of life itself. It’s the foundation of nature. It’s all around us. It’s a sign of proportion, harmony. For example, in typography, you may not consider geometry consciously, but if you look at fonts, you basically look at proportions. These are based on the rules of geometry. 
Pattern in design
I see pattern as a language in itself, not as a filler or decorative piece of work. Patterns too can communicate. Generally, patterns are abstract; it has symmetry in repetition. Beyond this, it serves other purposes. Take for example, the architecture at Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi. It features ‘jhali’s with beautiful patterns on it. These have their functions, privacy and to transmute light. But if the designers of the monument went only for utility, they could have placed a mesh and it would have done the job. But the arabesque patterns on these ‘jhali’s adds to the beauty, and elevates the structure into an art form. It’s a combination of function and art.
I believe patterns do something. They have a voice. I believe you can relate a story with patterns without saying anything. 
Defining pattern
I have always been into patterns, into repeated things. I look at their rhythm, shapes, lines, and repeat units. Sometimes, I look at a pattern and analyse its symmetry and axis. Sometimes, I just observe the symmetry. 
In simple terms, a pattern is an arrangement that repeats itself. The key is it has to repeat in some way, like polka dots, like Archimedean geometry and Islamic geometry. Pattern is defined by repetition. Even mandala, which a lot of people do these days, is a repeat unit in a redial unit.  This repetition doesn’t have to be regular. 
Pattern is terrestrial repetition. It cancels space. This makes it so useful in architecture and design. It is a multipurpose tool and it has its own depth. 
Repeating a pattern 
To understand pattern, you must begin with grids. You can repeat a pattern on different types of grids. In Archimedean geometry, there are three perfect space-filling shapes — square, equilateral triangle and hexagon. This means, repetition of these shapes can touch each other perfectly and fill the space. Other shapes, like a pentagon, cannot fill the space by themselves, they need another shape. You can take a combination of these shapes and create many different patterns. The parameters are in the grid. It’s the underlying order behind which everything repeats.  
Why pattern?
People are the creatures of habit. That’s where patterns come in. It gives people comfort. If you try to break a pattern, then this act of breaking a pattern is itself a pattern. The point is, like nature, a pattern is not monotonous, but represents harmony.

These interviews appeared on Audiogyan, an Indian podcast hosted by Kedar Nimkar. So far, the podcast has 64 posts and more than 65,000 listens. You can listen to the full version of the podcast at audiogyan.com