The ornamental design comeback

Despite often being dismissed as "old-fashioned" or "overly girly," pattern art is on the rise again

Topics: Imprint, Design,

The ornamental design comeback (Credit: Ela Cindoruk)


Deep Surface

Imprint Ornament and pattern design — love it or hate it, the style debate rages on. Whether you dig decorative flourishes or vote anti-adornment on all things design, one thing is clear — the fanciful aesthetic has developed a bad rep. Name-called everything from “fussy distractions” to “overly girly” to “old-fashioned,” more than a few nerdy design brawls have broken out over the subject. Well, whichever side of the frilly fence you sit on, lately (as in the last 15 years) the expressive art has been making a comeback. And Denise Gonzales Crisp and Susan Yelavich, co-curators of CAM Raleigh’s upcoming exhibit Deep Surface: Contemporary Ornament and Pattern, have taken note of the reemergence.



Ela Cindoruk, Doily News, Image Courtesy Ela Cindoruk

Opening Sept. 24, the exhibition (in conjunction with North Carolina State University’s College of Design) explores how ornament and pattern have resurfaced with a decidedly modern twist — and as more than just a pretty-making facade. Celebrating the expressive style as a relevant means of communication and storytelling, expect wow-worthy works spanning all fields of design including a slew of top-notch graphic and type designers such as 2×4, Marian Bantjes, Rudy Vanderlans and Zuzana Licko, Jeffery Keedy and Hansje van Halem.

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The exhibit is organized around six themes: Amplification, Everyday, Kit-of-Parts, Inheritances, Elaboration, and Fantasy — each revealing a different purpose behind patterns and ornaments. From the constructing of everyday objects like chain-link fences to creating new meaning in the everyday, to evoking past traditions through patterned furnishings or the future through endless digital variations, the exhibit delves into “the many ways that ornament and pattern engage both the eye and the mind,” says Yelavich.


Andrea Tinnes, Type Jockey poster. Image courtesy Andrea Tinnes

Andrea Tinnes, Type Jockey poster. Image courtesy Andrea Tinnes


Historia: A Type Specimen

Historia: A Type Specimen, Designed by Rudy VanderLans (Emigre), 2010


FAT Architecture, Exterior of The Villa

FAT Architecture, Exterior of The Villa, town of Hoogvliet, Netherlands. Image credit Maarten Laupman


 Hansje van Halem, Doily Type, 2009

Hansje van Halem, Doily Type, 2009 (sample), Fineliner drawing


Walker Art Center Identity

Walker Art Center Identity, by Andrew Blauvelt and Chad Kloepfer, US



I Wonder” book cover by Marian Bantjes


Ricami Stool by Arktura

Ricami Stool by Arktura, Designed by Elena Manderdini

The exhibit runs through Jan. 2, 2012, so whichever “less is more,” “form follows function,” side you take — you still have plenty of time to snag a view at this awe-inspiring show.

Copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.

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