Searching for Patterns in Morocco

I’d been dreaming of visiting Morocco for the past few years, so when my husband and I were planning our next travel adventure I knew where I wanted to go.

Searching for Patterns in Morocco and Finding So Much More | shannonmcnab.com

It’s probably no surprise that my main motivation for traveling to Morocco was to get inspired by all the patterns it has to offer. And it DEFINITELY didn’t disappoint!

There were even instances where I was so overwhelmed by the color and artistry we saw that I completely forgot to take photos. Luckily, I still remembered to pull out my camera often enough to capture a few magnificent shots.

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

What I did not expect was to completely fall in love with the country and it’s culture.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to a lot of amazing places, but I can say without a doubt that Morocco is the single greatest country I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting.


It’s hard to articulate what made Morocco so special, but I’ll do my best. First off, this was a trip of firsts for me: first time in Africa and outside the Western world.

Also, I found the Moroccan people to be among the most welcoming I’ve ever met. Nearly everyone we interacted with from our tour director (who was the BEST I had ever seen) to the shop keepers to the children playing soccer in the streets, were warm and friendly.

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Prior to our trip, we did have some friends and family who voiced their apprehension about us travelling to a developing nation that was predominantly Muslim (99% of Moroccans follow Islam). And while I appreciated their concerns, I found their worries completely misplaced.

Of course, some of the street vendors can be VERY pushy which takes some getting used to, but there was never a moment in Morocco where I felt unwelcome or unsafe. On the contrary, nearly everyone we encountered seemed genuinely happy to greet us, even the camels.

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Some of my favorite memories from the trip were moments not originally planned on our itinerary. One in particular that made a deep impression on me was visiting a family’s home in a Ksar near Erfoud (just west of the Sahara desert).

In America, there’s a lot of focus on buying new gadgets to make life “easier” and working long hours to make a living, yet we often feel lonely and disconnected. But in Morocco, there’s a much larger emphasis on the importance of community.

This contrast was never more apparent to me than while standing on this family’s rooftop and literally seeing their entire community built around them (ironically snapping photos of it with my multiple gadgets: a dSLR and iPhone).

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Then there were the quintessential Moroccan experiences that made the trip exceptional. Like our 90 minute camel ride to a desert camp where we spent the night in the middle of the Sahara desert.

It was an otherworldly experience riding along the dunes where as far as you can see there’s nothing but golden sand.

Then all of a sudden, a little oasis comes into view.

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Morocco felt familiar and foreign all at the same time and to me, it’s that clash that made it so unique to my past travels. I was also in awe of the ever changing landscapes (did you know Morocco has forests and even a winter ski town? I didn’t, I stupidly thought it was all sand).

Oh and I haven’t even mentioned the food yet! The food all throughout Morocco was incredibly healthy and delicious. Each meal was usually accompanied by cooked salads and olives, and ended with mint tea (which was divine). Just writing about it is making my mouth water!

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

Also on previous trips, when it was nearing the end of vacation, I felt exhausted and ready to return home. But not in Morocco. Although I was exhausted from the all the travel, I wasn’t ready to leave.

I could have easily stayed for several more weeks … or months.


By now, I think you get the idea that Morocco now has a special place in my heart. And if it’s a place that is on your must-see list (as I really think it SHOULD be), I heartily suggest you make it your next destination. And not only for its beautiful patterns, but also for its beautiful culture and people!

Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com
Searching for Patterns in Morocco | shannonmcnab.com

3 Reasons Why You Should Have Coordinate Patterns in Your Portfolio

Maybe it's because of my previous experience as a scrapbook product designer, but I've always had a soft spot for designing coordinate patterns. They play such an important role in the world of scrapbooking; customers constantly look for simple patterns to complement more complicated ones on their pages.

3 Reasons Why You Should Have Coordinate Patterns in Your Portfolio | shannonmcnab.com

That's why nearly all scrapbook collections out there feature double-sided papers; the A-side is reserved for unique and/or busy patterns while the B-side is the place for simpler, complementing ones. You see something similar in bolt fabric lines; a few stunning hero patterns sitting next to several other simpler designs to help round out the collection.

Both the scrapbooking and bolt fabric markets are unique in how much they focus on patterns when compared to other parts of the surface design industry. However, even as I've personally shifted towards more illustrative work, I still find a lot of value from including coordinates alongside hero patterns and illustrations in my portfolio.

Actually, I feel it's such an important part of a well rounded portfolio, that I'm sharing 3 reasons why you should consider including them in your portfolio too!

#1: Adds Value to Your Designs

You probably already know how competitive the surface design industry is, so you should always try and package your designs to be as attractive to buyers as possible, especially because art directors want to get the most out of their budget as possible.

So when an art director is looking for new art and asking you to send them designs, think about which scenario provides a better outcome:

  • Scenario A: You have single holiday pattern with lots of detail.
  • Scenario B: You have that same detailed pattern sitting with 2 additional patterns that complement it.

If you were the art director, which would you choose? All things being equal, you'd probably choose the option that gave you the most to work with.

Try Something: Cover the 2 coordinates on the piece below and view the hero pattern on its own. Now remove your hand. Doesn't it look more enticing seeing it all packaged up like this?

Cozy Cabins design collection | ©2018 Shannon McNab

#2: Shows You Understand Pattern Mixing

There are many instances in surface design where a product features multiple images or patterns together, so it's important to show buyers that you've thought about how different patterns can work together harmoniously.

Now not every designer will have to understand pattern mixing (like an artist who focuses on editorial illustration for example), but if you're looking to get into a market where larger pattern collections are more common OR you're interested in taking on commissioned work from art directors that involves multiple patterns, confident pattern mixing is an important skill to develop and will make you all the more attractive to work with.
 

#3: Attracts Buyers Looking for Simple Designs

This may be a much less obvious reason, but it's one I was surprised and ecstatic to discover. It wasn't until I was reviewing my notes from Surtex last year that I realized how much impact a single coordinate pattern could have.

Sometimes art directors or buyers want something different, something understated, which is the perfect opportunity for simple coordinates! I had no less than half a dozen people at Surtex giving my coordinates more attention than their main pattern counterparts.

Crazy right?!? I had no idea that would happen, but I'm happy I had so many designs that included coordinates. The #1 favorite coordinate of the show: the fun polka dot you see in my holiday design below.

Christmas Baubles pattern collection | ©2018 Shannon McNab

This is just another reason it's important to be able to give your client options. If I hadn't included some of my quirky coordinates alongside hero patterns on my booth banners and in my portfolio, some people I talked to at the show may have just passed my booth by. Think about those potential missed opportunities??


I hope I've convinced you how important and helpful it is to have interesting coordinate patterns in your portfolio. And I hope as you create new work, you'll consider adding some to your designs.

However, I also know lots of designers struggle with creating quick, yet interesting coordinate designs to enhance their portfolios.

That's why when deciding what my first Skillshare class would be, I realized this was the most helpful topic I could start with. My new class, How to Create Strong Coordinate Patterns, is just 15 minutes long so you can gain valuable insights fast and then immediately apply what you've learned to your portfolio.

My class has only been online for two weeks and I'm already so overwhelmed by the positive response it's gotten! I'm elated to hear just how many designers find my insights helpful for their own creative careers. You can read all the amazing reviews of the class here.

And I'm happy to say I'm already busy planning my 2nd Skillshare class! If you'd like to hear when my next class goes live you can follow me on Skillshare OR sign up for my newsletter.


When Two Obsessions Collide: Patterns & Disney

When I first started blogging (at my old site scottygirldesign.com), my husband and I were living in San Diego and we had annual passports at Disneyland. 

Visiting the parks was a frequent topic on my blog, but I didn't want to just do trip reports like everyone else on the internet at the time. When you're a local and can go to Disneyland several times each month, rehashing the same attraction or character photos each week just didn't sound like fun to me.

When Two Obsessions Collide: My Disney Pattern Project | shannonmcnab.com

I wanted to focus on writing something different, something utilizing my unique perspective as a designer. In my own words from an August 2009 blogpost:

I have long since wanted to do a project dedicated to Disneyland. Maybe I could take closeup photographs of small details that most people don't notice. Oh wait, Andy Castro already does that! Instead, I'm going to combine my love of Disney with another love: patterns.

So I've decided I would start cataloging all the patterns that Disneyland has. I know it is a big task, but I love uncovering all the little details of Disney that most people take for granted and pass by without a second glance.

For the next few months, anytime I went to Disneyland, I kept my eye out for and snapped pictures of all the patterns I found around me at the parks. I posted my favorites to the blog and called the series the Disneyland Pattern Project. Here's just a few patterns I was able to collect:

Patterns found at the Emporium on Main Street U.S.A in Disneyland

Patterns found at the Emporium on Main Street U.S.A in Disneyland

Patterns found at the China Closet on Main Street U.S.A in Disneyland

Patterns found at the China Closet on Main Street U.S.A in Disneyland

Patterns found at the Muppets 3D Theater in Disney's California Adventure

Patterns found at the Muppets 3D Theater in Disney's California Adventure

The only problem?? We ended up moving to San Francisco in January 2010. Having an 8+ hour drive to get to Disneyland meant I was no longer able to continue the series. And that's a shame because it would be an incredibly cool project to continue especially as it's something that would never be complete as the parks continually change over the years.
 

Revisiting my Disney Pattern Project

My husband and I leave for a long-awaited vacation to Walt Disney World in a few weeks and I have been looking forward to this trip all year long! Not only because I'm a huge Disney parks fan and am looking forward to the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot, but because I've been dreaming about revisiting this old series during our vacation.

We are going to take it really easy during our trip (no crazy schedule planning for us), so I know I'll have plenty of time to slow down and search for all the fun patterns Disney World has to offer. I'm planning on posting some of the patterns I find during our trip on Instagram. If you'd like to see them too, be sure to follow me or simply search for the hashtag #disneyworldpatterns.