A Great Design Reference Book

Let’s say you need a Greek-looking border design for a menu project and a Chinese floral pattern for a wedding invitation. And you need a Celtic knot design for a tattoo sketch and some Tuscan ornamental motifs for a brochure. Plus you need Egyptian-looking graphics for a scented candle package and some Arabian calligraphy for a book cover design. You’ll find them all in one great book: The Grammer of Ornament by Owen Jones. Published by Dover Books, this classic is an excellent resource for fine artists, illustrators and graphic designers who need copyright-free reference materials of historical ornamental design. This is one of many wonderful Dover Publications containing thousands of beautiful color layouts of authentic design motifs. I use the word authentic to emphasize that these are actual historical designs and not just modern facsimiles of the genres. 

I have lost track of the times I’ve reached for this book for design inspiration. Most recently I needed to design invitations to a 300-person event being held at an estate built to resemble an Italian villa in Tuscany. The Grammer of Ornament was its usual rich resource for the decorative Renaissance art that I used and modified in my invitation design to capture the mood of the event’s venue. When I worked in the Barbie Collectibles division at Mattel I used this book extensively for my package designs for the Dolls of the World collection. I created dozens of these packages over the years incorporating elements from this book that captured the time periods and exotic locales that matched the themes of this series. When I worked for a greeting card company I used decorative elements from this book for calendars, coffee mugs and stationery products.

Of course you can always do a Google search for images you might need, and find things similar to these images, but nothing will compare to the incredible array of content in this book. Now I know a book is so 20th century and this one is no longer in print, but The Grammer of Ornament can be purchased from an online used book retailer such as Amazon. I’ve had my copy for almost 20 years and I’m still finding new gems within its pages.

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Filed under Book Recommendations, Graphic Design, Package Design

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