Join Dave Schultze for an in-depth discussion in this video Rhythm and repetition, part of Design Foundation 3D: Shape and Form.
- When we talk about rhythm and repetition in design, the definition is simple. We are describing elements that repeat. Ideally, they are organized to create pleasing rhythms, but they should also make sense within the project's desired goals. Repetition is the easy part. Establishing a rhythm that engages the user is the hard part. In painting, we have this surreal scene by René Magritte called Golconda. It utilizes repetition, as well as perspective, to create an engaging and strange scene.
Magritte excelled in creating accurate paintings of events that could just never happen, just to get your attention. Are the men in bowler hats falling, floating, or going up? Exactly. In the 1960's, Andy Warhol was a major figure in U.S. pop art. This movement challenged fine art by incorporating elements of the current pop culture, including comics and advertising. Warhol used repetition in many of his works, including this example titled, Marilyn Diptych. If you don't recognize this image, then surely you've seen some of this delicious Campbell's Soup work.
Many have criticized Warhol's work for being too derivative, or commercial. And he would be the first to agree with you. Enough about Warhol, except for one more fun fact. You can visit the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It's the largest single-artist museum in North America. In architectural repetition, we have a truly ancient element called the arcade. This is sometimes confused with the similar-sounding colonnade. But here's the trick, an arcade is a series of arches, a colonnade is a series of columns, and not that fruity drink you wish you were having.
A classic example is the Roman Colosseum, finished in year 80. It was designed with three distinct levels of stacked arcades, with slight variations in their detailing. This is an excellent strategy for establishing a rhythm and also avoiding the problem of getting too monotonous or repetitive. Of course, the structure was rounded for its use as an amphitheater. These curved walls really helped out, as they change the angle of light and shadow everywhere you look.
Compare the Colosseum to this image of an aqueduct, with similar stacked arcades. Without the curved walls, you might argue that this type of linear or flat rhythm is not nearly as compelling. In this illustration, we see a series of arches for a building. This alternating between open and closed is a nice way to break the repetition, and yet still keep it going. In the product category, the designers at Jawbone have perfected this idea of rhythmic repetition.
Here we are seeing some of their JAMBOX speaker products. These three-dimensional patterns are exquisitely executed. And when your product is a simple box that need a bunch of holes, too many manufacturers would not make this kind of effort. The work by the Jawbone designers is an excellent blend of form and function. This treatment is now part of their design DNA, as we can also see with this bluetooth headset. Our next example of repetition is the gorgeous Nest 9.
This colorful set of nesting food prep containers is both simple and beautiful. Designed by a company called Joseph Joseph, not two guys, this design delivers on multiple levels, which is quite an accomplishment for a category that is usually so uninspired, bowls. The design gives you punchy colors. Simple, elegant forms, and an ingenious stacking strategy for storing, for when you're done cooking and just showing off. Rhythm and repetition can initially seem easy, but the execution can get boring fast.
The key is to provide moments of relief or variation from the endless repetition. So if you have trouble with repetition, just keep trying.
First, see how the same idea can be applied in a smaller 2D scale—like graphics and print, fine art, and advertising. Dave then blows it up in 3D, and showcases examples from product design, furniture, architecture, and urban planning.
Projects and concepts are presented in an engaging and sometimes irreverent manner with images, videos, and personal and professional stories from Dave. Check out this fast-paced tour as it covers topics ranging from grids and axes to designing with humor.
- Design exploration with sketching
- 3D exploration with organic forms
- Grids and axes
- Defining space
- Color and contrast
- Texture and patterns
- Minimalism. Less is more.
- Retro. It's back!