Where can I find books / references / inspirations to learn the principles behind these graphic patterns?

It's often seen in luxury or heritage style products, as well as the us dollar sign. What is the art or graphic design style called? I understand that this may be a mix of various styles, but is there an overlapping or overall name for this art style?

Specific examples include Simon Frouw's work as they all seem to fall under this category:



More examples:

Sentinels cards example

Chinese lattice mixed with this style for nike

enter image description here

wine design example

Card example

Looking at them they just look elegant and old-school luxurious with all the intricate details that looks hand crafted. From looking at the various examples I gathered there seems to be elements or art deco geometric patterns, halftone engravings styles, monograms, and heritage crests

I'm probably the most interested in the beautiful decorative geometric & illustrative or graphic design patterns as seen in the background.

What's the principle behind these designs? What's it called and where can I learn to make them?

  • 2
    There's no one style here. You have a mix of hand illustration, engraving (or drawn to look like engraving), hand lettering, type swashes, embossing, etc. You could all lump it under 'hand illustration evocative of late 1800's commercial art' perhaps.
    – DA01
    Commented Mar 9, 2014 at 1:08
  • @DA01 Thanks! looking up late 19th century has definitely helped! There are certain decorative elements that i'd like to learn. specifically the stuff this guy does: howdesign.com/design-creativity/fonts-typography/…. any recommendations for resources on stuff like bifurcated serifs, filigree, etc?
    – SGcoder
    Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 21:14
  • that's pretty much all 'hand lettering'. Historically also a skillset of the sign painter. I'd google for historical books on the subject matter. AS for learning that stuff, I'd say it's 90% practice, practice, practice! :)
    – DA01
    Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 21:22

3 Answers 3


As for the 'style' you see on printed US Currency, that is engraving. It's more of a technique than anything. See the answer here.

That said, the samples show aren't all engraving. A few borrow (namely 'A' monogram) but you have other techniques and styles going on.

The first two are just decorative illustrations. They are evocative of a lot of late 1800's style advertising.

The 3rd we discussed, and is the closest to engraving.

The 4th is emulating hand lettering--specifically gold plated signage. Also something you say a lot of in the late 1800s into the 1900s. It was traditionally done in gold leaf and paint on glass. There's also decorative type swashes included.

The last is physically embossing (raised decoration) and stylistically perhaps best described as 'playing card style'.

I wouldn't call any of the styles shown as 'woodcut'. That's perhaps related, but tends to have a bit of a different aesthetic.


The patterns you're talking about are guilloche :

Guilloché (or guilloche) is a decorative engraving technique in which a very precise intricate repetitive pattern or design is mechanically engraved into an underlying material. Specifically, it involves a technique of engine turning, using a machine of the same name, also called a rose engine lathe. This improved upon the more time-consuming practice of making similar designs by hand and allowed for greater delicacy, precision, and closeness of the line, as well as greater speed.

Historically, in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article:

GUILLOCHE, a French word for an ornament, either painted or carved, which was one of the principal decorative bands employed by the Greeks in their temples or on their vases. Guilloches are single, double or triple; they consist of a series of circles equidistant one from the other and enclosed in a band which winds round them and interlaces. This guilloche is of Asiatic origin and was largely employed in the decoration of the Assyrian palaces, where it was probably copied from Chaldean work, as there is an early example at Erech, which dates from the time of Gudea (2294 B.C.). The ornament as painted by the Greeks has almost entirely disappeared, but traces are found in the temple of Nemesis at Rhamnus; and on the terra-cotta slabs by which the timber roofs of Greek temples were protected, it is painted in colours which are almost as brilliant when first produced, those of the Treasury of Gela at Olympia being of great beauty. These examples are double guilloches, with two rows of circles. In the triple guilloche, the centre row of circles comes half-way between the others, and the enclosing band crosses diagonally both ways, lacing alternately. The best example of the triple guilloche is that which is carved on the torus moulding of the base and on the small convex moulding above the echinus of the capitals of the columns of the Erechtheum at Athens. It was largely employed in Roman work, and the single guilloche is found almost universally as a border in mosaic pavements, not only in Italy but throughout Europe. In the Renaissance in Italy it was also a favourite enrichment for borders and occasionally in France and England.

  • 1
    Some of the samples do use a guilloche as one of the elements in the design. That said, a guilloche is more of an element of design rather than an overall aesthetic style.
    – DA01
    Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 6:53

I believe the style is Art Nouveau


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