Book Review — Islamic Geometric Patterns

Ratings

  • Writing: 3
  • Illustrations: 5
  • Math Level: 3
  • References: 3
  • Overall: 4

(For a detailed explanation of the rating system, see the end of the review.)

Review

Introduction

This week I have another fabulous “how to” book to share.  This one is called Islamic Geometric Patterns and is written by Eric Broug, who is a designer focusing exclusively on Islamic geometrical design in his work. It is a modestly sized book that is jam-packed with illustrations showing how to construct by hand almost 20 different patterns found in actual Islamic buildings throughout the world.

Walkthrough

The non-nonsense approach of this book is reflected by the fact that it only has two “chapters” entitled The Basics and Step-by-Step Construction. The former discusses the basic building blocks of the designs (hexagons, pentagons, and squares) plus a few design tips. The latter, which comprises the majority of the book, offers (as promised) detailed instructions for constructing a number of different patterns.

The patterns are grouped into three difficulty levels (Easy, Intermediate, and Difficult). Each pattern begins with a page offering:

  • the name of the building or artwork in which the pattern is featured
  • the city, country, and date of construction of the building or artwork
  • an illustration showing the full repeating pattern, with one “cell” highlighted (this is what you will be taught how to draw)
  • a paragraph or two describing the history or other interesting features of the building or artwork in question

After this introductory page, the following 2-10 pages (depending on the complexity) show numbered steps, 4 to a page, showing how to build up the design using simple steps.

Highlights

One of the things that makes this book stand out is the simplicity and clarity of the instructional steps, as well as the fact that no mathematical knowledge whatsoever is required to follow the instructions!  At each stage, you are simply identifying existing points or lines you have already drawn and drawing new lines or circular arcs, which then create more points. This is in keeping with a point the author makes in the introduction, which is that the original creators of these designs used nothing more than a straight edge and a fixed-width compass (i.e. circles of a single size), often in the form of a simple rope! It is incredible to contemplate that such complexity was achieved using such basic tools.

Conclusion

Islamic Geometric Patterns is a meticulously presented, non-mathematical introduction to the construction of Islamic geometric patterns. It encourages the reader to grab a pencil, ruler, and compass and create some of these astonishing patterns, deepening one’s understanding through the act of drawing.  Unlike many other books in this genre, there are no photographs and only minimal descriptive text. Instead, this book focuses on the patterns themselves and how to construct them.

If you are interested in understanding these patterns more deeply and understanding how they are derived and designed, I can think of no better source.

Feedback

Please let me know what you think about this review – the rating scales, the format, the content, anything!  I want to make sure these reviews are as useful and informative as possible, and only you can help me do that! Thanks. :-)

Rating Format

To keep things consistent, I have decided to give each book I review a rating from 1-5 stars on each of several scales, pertaining to their usefulness and desirability for the library of someone interested in geometric art. Here are the rating scales I will be using:

  • Clarity of Writing: Is it easy to understand? [1 = Poorly written, 5 = Excellently written]
  • Quality of Illustrations: Is it beautiful to look at? [1 = Few/boring/monochrome illustrations, 5 = Many/beautiful/color illustrations]
  • Math Level: Is a lot of prior math knowledge needed? [1 = Basic/high school level, 5 = Very Advanced/Graduate level]
  • Depth of References: Are there references to other interesting sources? [1 = None, 5 = Many]
  • Overall Rating: How would I rate the book overall? [1 = Skip It, 5 = Must Have]

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About Phil Webster

Phil is the creator of GeometricArts.com. You can reach him on the Contact page.
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