Graphic standards in graphic heritage: Scope, scale, and unity through multiplicity in Islamic design

The concept of graphic standards is well-known across several disciplines. In design, it is most substantively understood in architecture, but its American origins present a limited aesthetic scope that favours classical architectural norms that overlook non-Western architectural traditions. This paper explores their relevance concerning urban heritage and the emerging concept of graphic heritage and explores how the concept may be used to understand the value of repetition and frequency in Islamic art, architecture, and design.

The research follows an exploratory hypothesis that seeks to describe and redefine some related concepts that will benefit a cross-disciplinary appreciation of cultural heritage and the underpinning role of graphic standards across an expanded multicultural context from which they emerged in the early twentieth century. Several disciplinary perspectives inform the study, from architectural heritage expression, urban heritage, architectural graphic standards, classical architectural elements, Islamic motifs, geometry, and graphic design. These shape the discussion to substantiate and expand the semantic link between the graphic in graphic standards and graphic heritage for the future benefit of design research and heritage theory and practice.

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Masonry patterns. Graphic standard (above) as graphic heritage (below) manifested in English masonry pattern as seen on the external brickwork of the refurbished Battersea Power Station. Source: © Robert Harland 2023


The central role of the circle in Islamic art, architecture and design. Two variations of circles combining to create the three basic polygons used in Islamic art, architecture, and design that tesselate to convey the principle of unity through multiplicity. Above: The circle when repeated as three, four or six overlapping a central circle. Below: Six circles arranged around a seventh that touch the edge.


Islamic architectural details. Plaster (top), wood (middle), and ceramics (bottom) each depicting geometric, calligraphic, and vegetal detailed pattern-making in Islamic design at Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain.­­­­­­ Source: © Robert Harland 2023


Link to full paper coming soon.


Acknowledgement: Zelal Basodan for inspiring this study.