Using Patterns in Design


If you know me, or if you follow one of the links at the top of this page, you’ll see that I’ve got a thing for patterns. My eyes were naturally drawn to a link offering “An Introduction to Using Patterns in Web Design”: link on the “Mike Industries”:http://www.mikeindustries/ site. Figuring it was a guide to developing patterns like “these”:, I enthusiastically clicked on the link.

It was one of those *the stars must be aligned* kind of moments. What I found was not an article about _patterns_ as in the patterns on a rug, but rather an article about patterns of information. It’s actually a how-to. It offers step by step instruction on breaking down the elements of your design, and re-assembling them in a way that maximizes the value of one thing to another. It sounds complicated, but its beauty is that it is not.

The author, Ryan Singer of “37signals”:http//, directs his article towards the web designer, but his principals apply to all forms of design. One aspect of the article that I don’t get however, is its insistance in dressing up the subject matter with a big work like _pattern_.

In essense, what’s being discussed is the core of any design project:

  1. Understand your client’s message (described in the article by brainstorming and listing the elements).
  2. Interpret that message (prioritize those elements).
  3. Communicate it to the intended audience in the most effective way.

The article is a helpful reminder not to jump to the design stage, but to let the content inform the design. But I’m failing to see what’s so revolutionary here. Creating the hierarchy of messages, be it branding vs copy vs feature A vs feature B, etc is the root of good design. Is it just that this is a systemized approach?

So what’s going on? Am I missing something, or is this a case of putting an important name on something more elemental?

Actually, I just answered my own question. What Ryan discusses is a *method* of communicating the message in the most effective way.