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From idea to pattern

A backstage view on creation

Because creation is at the heart of our passions (and vice versa), La vie est design connects you to those who design. Today, we give the floor to Marjolaine et Floriane, Habitat screative studio talented designers


What's your role in the design studio?


M- We're both graphic designers. In addition to my role in branding and product packaging, I help design patterns and graphic images for a range of items in each season's collection. I'm involved in the whole process - from making sketches to sending the technical files the manufacturer. We base our designs on the collection's theme, which is chosen by our creative directive, Pierre Favresse, twice a year. This is our jumping-off point in terms of creativity and development.


What's your background?


Marjolaine - After high school, I studied applied arts and then for almost 4 years I worked in a design and  advertising agency in Paris before joining the Habitat design team.


Floriane - After completing a diploma in applied arts, which helped me get into fashion, architecture, design and graphics, I went on to do a higher diploma in visual communication and then a post-graduate diploma in typography and publishing. As part of my studies, I did an internship at the Habitat Design Studio working on patterns and illustration and I stayed on! 

F- I design patterns and illustrations, which are then applied to various items —textiles, table art and accessories. Habitat operates like a fashion house in that it creates collections - Spring-Summer and Autumn-Winter. As Marjolaine said, each collection has a theme chosen by Pierre and this informs our choice of colours, materials and designs. We begin with a research phase and then start sketching either by hand or on the computer - cutting, scanning, etc. Finally, we take the most promising designs selected by the computer and adapt them to various supports in relation to the atmosphere we want to create for the collection.

How do you take a traditional pattern and modernise it?


M- Modernising any traditional pattern is highly subjective. For example, you could modernise a Toile de Jouy fabric by introducing fluorescent colours while the traditional printing technique (engraving) ensures that the fabric retains its old-time charm. I like to update patterns by simplifying them and reinterpreting them on the computer - I believe the modern nature of the tool (i.e. the computer) helps us modernise the pattern.


F- It depends on my source of inspiration. I could update a pattern by changing its colours, paring it down, making it more complex or even by introducing more contemporary graphic elements.


What were this season's sources of inspiration?


M- This season it's all about Japan. We researched traditional textile techniques such as printing and stamping as well as popular patterns that we could adapt or update.


F- For this collection, we wanted to work with traditional Japanese patterns as well as showcasing traditional Asian skills and crafts.

One of our melamine pieces features the traditional Japanese 'wave' pattern but re-interpreted with bolder brighter colours to give it a more contemporary feel. Our other melamine design is inspired by the Japanese art of paper folding - origami. It's a little like the Tokyo - Kyoto relationship i.e. modernity vs. tradition.

Are there any rules when creating a pattern?


M- There aren't any rules so to speak unless you're creating a pattern for a very specific purpose. For example, if you are designing a duvet cover or wallpaper, you must make sure that the pattern can be aligned so you that it can be repeated ad infinitum on either side. This can be tricky and must be taken into consideration in the initial design phases.


F- I prefer to talk about constraints rather than rules. For example, the printing technique or the item the pattern will be applied to. And of course with repeated patterns you must be able to match up the pattern. These are just some of the things you have to consider before the real creative work begins.


However, the design process does differ for small items such as cushions and duvet covers. How does the receiving surface influence the pattern?


M- First and foremost its a question of scale, which is determined by what we want to show of the pattern and the print surface. The material is also a key factor e.g. we wouldn't apply a highly intricate pattern to a very heavy cotton fabric as the details would get lost.


F- The scale and viewing distance are also key factors. So, you can add more intricate details to a plate that you see close up than to a duvet cover or rug that see from a greater distance. Small items can take fine delicate patters while larger items work better with bolder less complex ones. However, this isn't a hard and fast rule and it can be fun to play around with these design codes



How do patterns vary depending on what they are applied to?


M- Depending on the item, you could simplify the pattern or break it down to extract a single design element or you could do the opposite and make the pattern more complex. You can also use different colours. There aren't any rules really except that the more intricate the pattern, the more possibilities you have to play around with it.


F- If a pattern is complex, you can extract certain elements and place them on other items, all the time referencing the original more sophisticated pattern. You could extract an element from an 'all over' pattern on a cushion and isolate it on a plate for example.


In home decoration, how can we successfully mix and play around with patterns? What pitfalls should we avoid? Can you give us any tips?


M- I really like mixing things up! There's no reason why you can't mix patterns and colours - be bold but know when to stop! You can add lots of differently patterned cushions as long as your sofa is plain or simply styled and as long as the room is fairly simple too. In the same way, you can hang twenty different paintings on a plain wall or use assorted dinnerware if your table linen is plain - no fancy embroidery and oversize flowers! For me, it's a question of balance.


F- The possibilities are endless! A simple colour in common means you can match two completely different prints and make them look like they were made for each other! At home, I've played around with cushions on my bed: the patterns are all black - woven or printed - only the background colours of the cushions change. To make sure you're on the right track, start by playing around with black and white patterns. This always works well regardless of the type of pattern, size and printing method. You can also shake things up by adding a completely plain cushion. In our living room at home, we have two multi-coloured and highly patterned prints and a few plain cushions that reflect the colours used in the prints. Everyone can have a go at playing around with patterns. It couldn't be easier, simply add a cushion here and remove one there until you're happy with the result and then stop! And when you're bored, you can start all over again! Cushions are affordable and easy to replace and can totally change and refresh your decor.


Fauteuil Daborn, Habitat

And a last word about this season's collection?


M- Fresh!

F- Japanese!

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