Over the years I have had many emerging designers ask me about this issue, and as part of the Pattern Observer team have also seen lots of students trying to find answers. Let me share with you feedback from my clients and the conclusions that I came to a few years back.
Do clients expect our textile designs to be in full technical repeat before purchase?
There is no black and white answer here but for the majority of clients, this is a no and I will tell you why. Lets take a wallpaper manufacturer as an example. Wallpaper is the hardest product to design for as the pattern needs to look pleasing to the eye when it is repeated over a flat wall at a large scale, and flat walls are not forgiving!. The end user has to live with this pattern everyday and not become tired of it. This means that many free flowing type wallpaper designs must be put in to a half drop repeat. Most of my home decor clients are interested in looking at original artwork on paper, or scanned in and printed on larger sheets at a relevant scale. At this stage they are looking at the beauty of the design and can imagine themselves how it could be translated in to a repeat pattern. They either rely on their own specialist experience to do the repeats themselves or they have a technical department that can do this for them, in other words it is a specialist skill. Taking a beautiful watercolour painting, scanning it in and cutting it up to produce a straight match repeat that would look too repetitive over a large space is a mistake that I have made in the past, and can actually put a client off!. Abstracts need particular care as a straight match would certainly not enhance the beauty of the design.
However, there will no doubt be clients that will ask for your designs in repeat, there are always exceptions. They may be smaller brands that don’t have the means to do this themselves, or the products may be smaller items where the repeat doesn’t matter so much. I’ve had an agent who would only accept repeat patterns, but I’ve also spoken to agents that will only accept original artwork, so it really is a matter of what the designer is prepared to do. When dealing with clients directly, I would make an allowance for this within your pricing & explain what is included, or charge this as an extra service (it is valuable skill that takes time to master after all).
Another exception is when you have to produce the repeat to create the pattern, or it would just look like a mess! geometrics being a prime example.
I hope this helps any fledgling designers out there! Having got totally obsessed with repeats early on in my career, I now realise it is so much more important that you concentrate on your technique and creating beautiful designs that are commercial in your chosen market rather than worrying about technicalities. In other words don’t sweat the small stuff!