Wornamental, Thornamental

~ 26 October 2006 ~

It’s been well over two years since a few select designers and I authored “That Wicked Worn Look”, a four-part series of techniques and resources for creating that worn, aged, distressed, grunge look.

Back then I was certain the look would have worn out (sorry, couldn’t resist) its welcome by now. Perhaps it has. Yet it seems wornness is still hot as ever.

Add to that a new flavor of grungeness that has since entered our collective vernacular: “thornament”, as coined by Jessica Helfand in her article, “The Propensity for Density”:

Today’s decorative leanings, however, appear to lean less to the geometrical than the overtly botanical. I’ve participated in judging several juried exhibitions this year in which I’ve seen a preponderance of twisted and winding viney things, which I’ve taken to referring to as ‘thornament’.

Whether it’s the thornamental or wornamental look you’re after — or both, as they tend to blend well — the two aesthetics are still showing plenty of leg. Here’s just a handful of sites spotted around the web recently:

Birdy Nam Nam
Boost And1
Bored of Southsea
b*unique recordings
Dimension Boards
JUXT Interactive
Revolution Church

A few bookmarks for going all-out worn and thorn:

Wear yourself out, kiddo.



Veer Veer: Visual Elements for Creatives.
Stock photography, type, and killer tees. Genuinely recommended by Authentic Boredom.

1   Aaron ~ 26 October 2006 at 11:04 AM

That Gaylor fella is somethin’ else, what with all those fancy brushes and such.

2   Shawn Blanc ~ 26 October 2006 at 11:25 AM

I’m a big fan of the worn, torn, thorny look. Thornamental is a new term. Done well I think it has a lot of visual aesthetics.

3   Jared ~ 26 October 2006 at 12:25 PM

I’ve always been a fan of the worn look, but I enjoy creating my own brushes. There’s a lot of fun in rummaging through old flooring, papers, and whatnot to find items to throw in the scanner. Or, making ink splats. But that is time consuming.

Don’t forget Misprinted Type. There are plenty of good fonts and brushes there as well.

4   John ~ 26 October 2006 at 02:01 PM

The ‘worn look’, by default, will never go away. What’s more amazing is how long it took to become so popular.

The look obviously originated from the fact that man-made things will all fall apart at some point in the future. Therefore, since there is an never-ending cylce of creating, there is also a never-ending cycle of wearing. People will tend to think that the worn look is authentic and genuine forever because of this. No matter how old or young a person is, we can all identify with it, because from the second something is made, it begins to wear away.

Cleanliness, however, is not something all of us can identify with :-).

5   Carl Peterson ~ 26 October 2006 at 02:03 PM

Another grungy font is K.O. Dirty from 2Rebels. It’s a pretty messed up font that could also be used for background texture, etc.

6   Amanda Kern ~ 26 October 2006 at 02:42 PM

Once again - very inspiring!

I can tell you for a fact that many of the young designers LOVE this style. I love Jason Gaylor’s brushes but boy am I starting to see a lot of our students using them now that they know about them. So I agree that the worn style probably won’t go away - I’d rather say it’ll likely evolve as we see more and more creativity. So I’d like seeing more uniqueness such as in the examples provided - they are a great example of why worn won’t totally go away because those who are that creative to design these layouts will continue to be a step up on those that are using some of the repetitive worn techniques.

I’ve seen a lot of the common default flourishes lately too.

7   Mark ~ 26 October 2006 at 02:50 PM

Some awesome links there. I’ve stumbled upon a few of them before, and even used some of those photoshop brushes for my weblog design. They can be used in such a variety of ways to achieve such different effects.

The worn type using css is a great tutorial.

8   Somebody Else ~ 26 October 2006 at 03:44 PM

Kay, this is the second post of yours in a row with perfect timing in my world.

Thanks alot (!).

9   Cameron Moll ~ 26 October 2006 at 03:47 PM

Do I spy Worn Ajax in the works?

10   Somebody Else ~ 26 October 2006 at 06:19 PM

Don’t you think it’d be nice compared to some of its current uses?

Thornamental + Wornamental + Latency Reduction + Data Brushing + Magnetism + Responsive Disclosure

This will be the best thing since the introduction of Clockwerk Goblins.

11   karmadude ~ 27 October 2006 at 12:08 AM

Here is one which I find stunning, more like thornamental on steroids: Shinybinary


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CSS Mastery CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standard Solutions A solid round-up of indispensable CSS design techniques by Andy Budd, Simon Collison, and Cameron Moll.

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Letterpress Posters Letterpress Posters The unassuming beauty of a freshly letterpressed print.

Wicked Worn That Wicked Worn Look. Techniques for that worn, aged, distressed look.

Mister Retro Mister Retro Machine Wash Filters Turn the dial to “Instaworn” with these filters.

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