Illustration Teardowns: Rhythm & Motif
Let’s explore the design principle of rhythm and repetition, or motif, applied to illustration…
Warning: This article contains many emojis 😛😛😛
In the spirit of UX Teardowns, I’ll be looking at illustrators that catch my eye, and try to analyze what makes their work so compelling. Please note that all illustrations hereinafter, unless stated otherwise, are the express work of the artist I’m reviewing; I do not take any credit for their works! Also, I will try to be careful to post links back to the artist’s site — so if you click their image it will link through.
Illustrations can range from very organic to very graphical to a combinations of both. All are valid, and it’s really up to you, your customer, and your product or company’s brand identity, etc., what ratio of organic-to-graphical to incorporate into an illustration. Further, if you have a particularly strong sense of style that favors one over the other, you may of course choose to remain bullish in that stylistic choice. All fine ಠ‿ಠ. But, if you find yourself doing illustrations for both your muse, and clients (or creative directors, AD’s, etc.), you may find it helpful to have the ability to incorporate design principles in your illustration as needed.
What are Rhythm & Motif?
Alongside the discussion of the design principles of motif (repetitive use of a design element), rhythm, and repetition, you will also often see, movement (shapes, forms, or lines that provide a sense of, well, movement), and patterns (2 or more shapes, forms, or lines that are arranged in a certain way, and then repeated regularly).
Rhythm is like pattern, in that the same elements (i.e.shape, line) are repeated; however, with rhythm there are slight variations in the pattern.
Types of Rhythm
Here’s another good article on rhythm that describes the following 5 types:
Wow, 5 types of rhythm…really?! Thankfully, the words themselves describe the type quite intuitively:
- Regular is closest to being like a pattern
- Flowing think of a river or wave or an S-curve
- Progressive think of cards or a staircase that fans out, or a set of telephone polls getting smaller into the distance
- Alternating might be two opposing lines with arrows on the ends in different directions, or The Dance by Henri Matisse
- Random can be thought of as unplanned and without order. I suppose Jackson Pollock is an ideal example of random rhythm. Also related to random rhythm is the notion of mosaic balance.
Let’s start looking at illustrations that exemplify these rhythmic principles…
So why should you introduce rhythm in to your illustrations? Well, it’s up to you really. Perhaps you’re going all representational or organic and feel like worrying about rhythm might make your piece somehow artificial. But, if you look at a lot of successful illustration and even fine art, you’ll see that it was definitely taken in to consideration in the compositional planning stages. I’ll challenge you to go look at your favorites and see if/where that’s true ◕‿↼