Sensing a Pattern with the Designer Who Finds Them Everywhere
A cut-out screen block wall in San Francisco's East Bay.
Trained as an architect, Molly McGrath sees city blocks and skyscrapers through more finely honed eyes than those of us without CAD training. But, thing is, the Bay Area-based designer applies her insights beyond just buildings, collecting and scanning images of everything from clothing to construction sites to create the linear grids, repeating curlicues, and overlapping geometries that she embosses onto leather pouches and laser-cuts into art prints. Here, she shares her favorite resources for finding ideas everywhere—giving us a blueprint, if you will.
ARCHITECTS AND INTERIOR DESIGNERS
Razor-sharp window designs in San Francisco by architect Stanley Saitowitz.
“I did both my undergraduate and graduate degree in architecture and then practiced for seven years. I’ve been especially drawn to brutalist architecture from the sixties and seventies, where the patterns are in the buildings themselves. Paul Rudolph is a big influence, along with Mies van der Rohe, Carlos Scarpa, and Corbusier. In terms of architecture books, I turn to Reproducing Scholten & Baijings by Louise Schouwenberg, Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses by Joseph King and Christopher Domin, Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig by Steven Heller and Elaine Lustig Cohen, and Patterns: Divided, Mirrored, Repeated by Gerhardt Richter. Instagram accounts I like in this vein are @brutal_architecture, @maharamstudio, and @patricia_urquiola.”
CITIES AND CONSTRUCTION SITES
Colorful California construction scaffolding.
“I studied architecture at Berkeley in this building, Wurster, designed by William Wurster. It was this big concrete behemoth, and the joke on campus was that it was kind of ugly but was the architecture building. But I think it kind of crept into my brain, and I spend a lot of time just staring up and taking pictures wherever I am. I always have an eye out when I travel. I took a big trip to Morocco one year, and the local patterns of Scotland, South America, and Peru have also crept into my work. Just walking around San Francisco, there’s a lot of cast-iron work and decorative gates, so I’ll take a picture of those, scan the image in AutoCAD, and trace over it get the outline of a design.”
FASHION AND FABRICS
Needlepoint—done by Molly's own grandma!
“I had twin girls last year, so I’m traveling less and finding a lot more inspiration through Instagram, fashion, and textiles. For great visuals in that world, @ladoublej, @aleishallgirardmaxon, @vliscofashion, @zuzunagastudio, and @juliaturnerstudio always have lots of interesting colors and fabrics. I’ve also been more focused on specific products instead of the broader themes, figuring out how individual things like a pouch or baby bootie look when you’re scaling leather and cloth patterns in different ways and then cutting them out. As far as books go, Design as Art by Bruno Munari, Maija Isola: Art, Fabric, Marimekko by Eri Shimatsuka and Maija Isola, and Bridget Riley: Complete Prints 1962-2012 by Bridget Riley are fantastic.”