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What is the pattern black and white called?

What is the pattern black and white called?

What is the pattern black and white called?

The pattern of alternating black and white shapes or colors is most commonly referred to as a checkerboard pattern. This distinctive design has been used in various contexts throughout history, often symbolizing opposites coming together in harmony.

Origins of the Checkerboard Pattern

The checkerboard pattern has its origins in ancient board games that utilized a checkered game board. Games like chess, checkers, and draughts have boards with alternating light and dark squares dating back thousands of years. This design allowed the oppositional nature of two players and their pieces to be represented visually.

Over time, the checkerboard motif moved beyond game boards to become an iconic design element found in architecture, textiles, and more. The striking high contrast and geometric regularity of the pattern allows it to be both visually appealing and attention-grabbing.

Use in Architecture and Design

Checkerboard floors and walls can be found gracing palaces, churches, temples, and other buildings dating back to ancient times. The black and white marble checkerboard pavement of the Cathedral of Siena in Italy is a stunning example from the 14th century.

This eye-catching floor pattern creates a sense of order and perfection through its precise symmetry and repetitions. The contrast between the light and dark square represents concepts like good vs evil, life vs death, and light vs darkness.

Beyond architecture, checkerboard designs have been incorporated into fabrics, quilts, clothing, and murals throughout history. The pattern ranges from simple to elaborate, with alternating squares sometimes morphed into zigzags, diamonds, or other geometric shapes.

Symbolism of Black and White

The strong visual contrast between black and white makes the checkerboard pattern instantly recognizable, even from a distance. This striking color dichotomy imbues the motif with symbolic meaning across cultures.

In Western cultures, white often represents purity, innocence, and goodness, while black signifies mystery, elegance, and evil. The interplay between these opposites comes to life in the checkerboard. Some view it as representing the complexities of life and human nature.

In Asian cultures, the pattern can symbolize the balance of yin and yang. The black and white complement and complete each other to create wholeness and harmony. This spiritual concept is sometimes represented in art with black and white shapes intertwined.

Use in Popular Culture

The bold checkerboard design remains popular in modern culture, lending its visual dynamism to everything from fashion and furniture to album covers and advertisements. Some iconic uses of the black and white pattern include:

– The red and white checkerboard floor of diners and fast food chains like A&W. This nostalgic design harkens back to 1950s Americana.

– Vans shoes are known for their checkerboard slip-on style, first released in 1977. This simple canvas sneaker is now deeply associated with skater culture.

– Movie posters for crime thrillers often incorporate a partially obscured checkerboard pattern overlaid with photos or titles. This hints at mystery and danger.

– Racing flags, worn by professional racers and fans alike, frequently feature a bold checkerboard pattern thanks to associations with risky speed and competition.

Notable Checkerboard Locations

Some of the most famous real-world checkerboard designs can be seen on streets, walls, towers, and steps across the globe. Here are a few standout examples:

Location Description
Spanish Steps, Rome 138 travertine steps climbing a steep hill, decorated with a simple black and white checkerboard pattern on the risers.
Burj Al Arab, Dubai This iconic luxury hotel features a two-toned checkerboard pattern on its helipad cantilevered 210 meters above ground.
San Francisco Streets Many hilly streets in SF have crosswalks painted in a brightly-colored checkerboard pattern for increased visibility.
Grand Central Terminal, New York The iconic landmark contains a massive 60-foot checkerboard ceiling mural of constellations in the main concourse.

Use in Games and Puzzles

Checkerboard designs originated with ancient strategy games, and they continue to feature heavily in modern games, puzzles, and brain teasers. Some examples include:

– Chess and checkers boards with alternating black and white squares

– Crossword puzzles and word searches in black & white squares

– Optical illusions and autostereograms using checkerboard patterns that appear 3D

– Tiling puzzles like dominoes or mahjong solitaire on checkered boards

– Peg solitaire games with holes arranged in a checkerboard grid

– Sudoku and other logic puzzles using checkerboard layouts

The orderly checkerboard creates a defined space for mental competition and visual stimulation. The striking color contrast focuses players’ attention and mental energy.

Variations of the Classic Checkerboard

While the traditional checkerboard contains squares of pure black and stark white, many creative variations exist on this classic motif:

– Using different color combinations like red & white, blue & yellow, or green & purple

– Alternating between more than 2 colors for greater complexity

– Changing the shapes from squares to triangles, hexagons, or other polygons

– Using gradients or patterns within the squares instead of flat colors

– Distorting the grid so squares are no longer uniform in size and shape

– Rotating some squares to create a less orderly appearance

– Partial checkerboards confined to borders, corners, or other areas of an object

These variations maintain the spirit of the checkerboard while exploring new color schemes and geometric possibilities. The orderly pattern can be made surprisingly complex through distortion and customization.

How to Create a Checkerboard Pattern

Recreating the iconic checkerboard motif is simple with the right materials and techniques:

**With paint:**
– Measure out evenly spaced horizontal and vertical lines on a surface with pencil and ruler. Use a level to ensure straight lines.
– Fill in the squares with black and white paint, using painter’s tape for sharp edges between colors.
– Consider using acrylic craft paint on wood or canvas for easy checkerboarding.

**With adhesive paper or vinyl:**
– Print out a checkerboard design in black and white with squares sized to your project.
– Carefully cut out each square or use a Cricut machine for precision.
– Affix the adhesive squares in a grid pattern to any smooth surface like walls, floors, or tabletops.

**In graphic design programs:**
– Open a new canvas and set dimensions for square pixels.
– Use the rectangle shape tool to quickly generate pixel-perfect squares.
– Fill alternating squares with black/white or desired colors.
– Export pattern as a printable PDF, image file, etc.

With simple tools and a steady hand, anyone can easily produce clean and eye-catching checkerboard designs for decor projects or crafts. Bold colors and high contrast make this timeless motif pop!


The checkerboard pattern of alternating black and white squares has an ancient pedigree extending back thousands of years. This striking design originated from game boards but evolved to take on symbolic meaning and become a versatile motif used in architecture, fashion, marketing, and more.

While the classic black and white checkerboard remains iconic, many creative variations on the theme exist. Contemporary artists and designers continue to find fresh ways to incorporate this visually stimulating pattern. The ordered symmetry evokes a sense of opposites coming together in harmony, making the humble checkerboard pattern both functional and philosophically engaging.