The Art of Layering

by Kelli Hall a member of the Minted Design Community

I spend so much time sifting through various snippets of design ideas, when I circle back, I realize that its most often an outfit or essential ‘feel’ pulled from a piece of clothing that becomes my jumping off point for a design. I’m a minimalist at heart, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t wish my designs were packed full of perfectly unperfected layers. This being the case, I thought it would be fun to spend a little more time exploring the art of layering in fashion and considering how this idea informs graphic design (or vice versa). For me, my aspirational definition of personal style is an un-matchy and varied unity; and capturing this in graphic design requires the same kind of touch.

History and Collection

Fashion styling that mixes texture, color, print and pattern is essential to achieving a look that is casual, composed and unforced. It also hints at a collected, curated look, suggesting history through acquired pieces.  The art of this style seems to be found in a kind of deliberate incongruence. A perfect mis-matchery with the goal of an effortless look.  Layering different pieces gives the collective whole a sense of history. The same principal applies in graphic design. That kind of “Oh, this? I just threw it together” look that implies an innate understanding of design principles rather than an outright “following of the rules” type of demonstration.

Mark Making

If fashion is all about personal style. The combination of pattern, texture and assembly are styled with touches that act as reminders that a person wears this and a stylist’s hand is at work. The half-tuck loudly professes a playful disregard for over-formalized fashion, and suggests an intentional effort to relax an outfit’s overall feel. Just as the fashion example is slightly unbuttoned in the literal sense, the graphic work below is figuratively unbuttoned. Hand-painted script layered over a photo and natural elements integrated into the framework, emphasizes the artist’s hand as vital to the creative vision, and reminds the viewer that a very human-hand created this work. These layered details and artist’s brushwork effectively relax the work’s overall feel, and encourage a more open connection between the artist and the viewer.

The Magic of Juxtaposition

What makes the layering trend truly fantastic is how the beauty of an outfit reveals itself as the dissimilar parts come together create a unified vision. Take for instance the styling of this outfit. All of these pieces when considered separately could be rather stiff or unremarkable, but when you assemble them, this layered juxtaposition highlights the inherent playful qualities of all individual items. A sheer, pink, polka-dot skirt on its own verges on silly, but paired with a boxy blazer and studded boot, it becomes purposeful and more intriguing (there’s still a little bit of playfulness here, but its elevated). The same transformative idea of layering applies in this design. The type composition on its own would be stiff, masculine and a little sterile, but when playful, dynamic patterns and amped-up color are layered in, the whole becomes something of obvious beauty and clear intent.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

  1. Great article & beyond dreamy imagery!

  2. Great article for the start of the winter season! Nice job, Kelli.

  3. Jack Knoebber

    Ya, this is great! Love it.

  4. Ashley Laurel

    Such a creative post! Love!