surface pattern design and illustration


How an engineering tool can help you create more ideas for your art

Using a Morphological Chart for Artists

Do you struggle to come with ideas when you are drawing, painting or other artistic endeavors? I know sometimes it seems like I’m drawing the same three flowers, or even just staring at a blank page while feeling like I have no ideas.

Well if you want more helpful advice then, “why don’t you just brainstorm something”, I’m sharing a tool I learned as an engineer that can actually help you quickly and easily generate a ton of ideas. It’s called a morphological chart and it might be used by engineers, but no math is required, I promise.

A morphological chart is a tool that can be used to generate ideas and solutions for complex problems. It is a table that generates different possible solutions to a problem by breaking it down into smaller components. It is also easily repurposed for use by creatives, including artists and illustrators, to quickly generate more ideas for their art.

The tool works by breaking down a subject or concept into smaller parts, and then coming up with options for each of the smaller parts. The options for the smaller parts can then be recombined into different variations of the original subject.

The video below shows an example of me using a morphological chart, to come up with a unique bug. So, in the example the subject is a bug, and the smaller parts  are the physical  aspects that make up the bug: antenna, body, wings, legs, pinchers, eyes, and markings. I created multiple options for each of the parts and drew them in the chart.

Once you have all the individual options written down, the final step is to pick an option for each part and then combine the parts into a whole. It’s similar to how the build-a-bear worked (does that still exist?) I used this exact process to make the bug shown in the picture. The chart I made for bugs has over 600,000 unique combinations. That is a lot of bugs. You can watch the video to see it in action.

If you want to learn how to create your own morphological charts to use in your art practice, check out the link to my free guide on the process.