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Patterns are absolutely everywhere – in our homes, on our clothes, splashed across websites, and livening up social media. You name it and design will probably come into it. Welcome to your design guide to patterns!

I don’t know about you, but I love patterns. Swirls and flowers, dots and spots. I guess we all know some of the more common patterns like polka dots, but what about the rest of them? I know there are names for them all, I’m just never sure what they are.

So, I decided to do a little research and get to know patterns once and for all. It’s been quite an interesting day. Want to get to know some design patterns with me?

Design guide to patterns


Let me introduce you to the chevron, a v-shaped pattern.

It’s often used in military, police or royal symbols and pops up in highway signs. This pattern dates back to 1800 BC when the Greeks used it to decorate their pottery.

Source: Wikipedia

Here’s a newly discovered interesting fact: you also get chevron mustaches. They cover the area between the upper lip and nose, expanding to the edges of the lips. Tom Selleck and Freddie Mercury are some famous chevron wearers, a ‘stache style that was very popular in the 70s and 80s.

Design guide to patterns

Fleur de lis

Fleur de lis is French for ‘flower of the lily’. It’s an arty take on a lily or an iris flower. It has strong ties with French royalty, who also wear tiaras.

In English we pronounce it: fluhr da lee, but the French say the ‘s’ at the end, as in fluhr da lees.

Design guide to patterns


Aaaahhh, the herringbone. This design pattern is made up of rectangles and is popular for indoor floor tiles and outdoor paving stones. It’s also found in mosaics, on wallpaper, in jewelry, and on clothing.

The herringbone got its name because it looks so much like fish bones, such as the bones of a herring. I don’t really see the resemblance myself. Do you?

Design guide to patterns

Honeycomb / beehive

Beehives are not just for bees or 60s dress-ups. No sirree. The honeycomb pattern of a beehive is also popular in design. We are getting back to nature with this one.

It got the name because it looks like honeycomb cells in a beehive (now this resemblance I can see).

Each shape fits neatly into the ones around it in the honeycomb. By the way, those little block shapes are called hexagons because they have 6 sides each.

Design guide to patterns

Polka dots

Polka dots always remind me of a rock ‘n roll skirt I had as a kid. It was white with red dots all over it, and it swished and swayed as I walked.

I said earlier that we probably all know this pattern, but it wouldn’t feel right to leave it out – it’s a fun classic.

The polka dot is full of circles. Traditionally, each dot is about the same size and the circles are spaced apart equally, though modern prints may vary the dots’ sizes and the spaces between spots.

This really is a fun playful pattern that is popular on kids’ clothes, toys and swimwear.

Design guide to patterns


The proper name for this popular Moroccan pattern is quatrefoil. This one really only has one way to say it: kat-ruh-foyl.

Quatrefoil means ‘four leaves’ and is made up of four partially overlapping lobes or leaves. It was extremely popular in the gothic and renaissance eras.

Design guide to patterns

Stripes and pinstripes

This is another popular pattern that you probably know. Stripes are line patterns.

Design guide to patterns

Pinstripes are made up of very thin stripes in one color running down a piece of material. Pinstripes are most popular on formal suits.

Design guide to patterns


Tartan is a checked pattern of horizontal and vertical stripes. The stripes cross over each other to form blocks.

So how do we know if it’s tartan and not plaid? The stripes running vertically, from top to bottom, are exactly the same as the stripes running horizontally, from left to right. New colors can be seen where these lines cross over each other.

Remember what they wore in Braveheart? A lot of it was plaid. I really should watch that movie again…

Design guide to patterns


We often call tartan plaid, but plaid isn’t tartan. See why we need articles like this one?

Plaid is inspired by tartan, but the vertical stripes do not match the horizontal stripes. You will see variety in the width and spacing of the stripes running from top to bottom and across the design.

Where did this one gets its name? It comes from the Scottish Gaelic word ‘plaide’, which means blanket.

Design guide to patterns


Gingham always has a white background with lines that are in one color and all the same width. This is a check pattern, with evenly spaced blocks that form between the lines crossing.

Did you know? The famous French beauty Brigitte Bardot wore a pink gingham dress when she got married. It was so popular after that, that all the shops in France sold out of the fabric!

Design guide to patterns


Paisley, a pattern often seen on the shirts of the Beatles in the late 60s, is made up of teardrop-shaped vegetable motifs. It’s also on my boho bedding set.

It’s name is Persian, from the words boteh or buta. Some call it paisley, others call it Persian pickles or Welsh pears. Who knew!

Design guide to patterns

Chinese scallops

Scallops are saltwater clams. As in these:

Scallop shells

And these were the inspiration for the Chinese scallop design.

The shells are symmetrical and look very much like fans (the type you wave in front of your face to cool down, not the type screaming in a stadium). These fan scallops have been loved since ancient times, and were often used in design, architecture and art.

Design guide to patterns


The original Harlequin pattern, the inspiration for Harley Quinn, has been around since 1944. It all started when designer Adele Simpson boldly placed the diamond design on the suits she made.

Harlequin is made up of elongated squares standing on their tips, making them look like precious diamonds. It’s a repeating pattern that doesn’t change in its design, unlike argyle…

Design guide to patterns


This pattern has elongated square diamonds in it that stand on their tips, like the harlequin design. But there are usually solid diamonds and dotted diamonds here. The diamonds often overlap each other.

The design comes from the Scottish tartan of Clan Campbell of Argyll and from the patterns on the socks worn by Scottish Highlanders.

Argyle socks

I bet you’ve seen some of these socks in your local stores. You didn’t know they were for Highlanders did you? Neither did I.

Design guide to patterns

Greek key

This beautiful, classic Greek pattern is a decorative border. It’s a continuous line that repeats a simple pattern. There’s beauty in simplicity.

The key is popular in Greece, obviously, but also on everyday items across the world, such as bedding.

Design guide to patterns


Houndstooth has two colors in it. It’s essentially made up of equal-sized blocks from the horizontal and vertical stripes (think gingham here), but houndstooth blocks are abstract shapes that repeat.

Did you know that a smale-scale houndstooth is called puppytooth? I guess everyday really is a schoolday.

Design guide to patterns

Imperial trellis

This is a strong geometric pattern, with shapes that are often interconnected with each other.

And that’s it! So many beautiful patterns with such interesting histories. I hope you enjoyed your design guide to patterns.

Where can you add some color and more patterns to your life?