Aside from the number of colours involved in the design, the first element I record is the shape itself. This can be any design that isn’t a line, like eyes, flowers, spirals, stars, fish, birds, etc.
The simplest shape is a dot. You can also get a dot with a circle around it, a dot with multiple circles around it, or a dot that looks like a rayed sun. Sometimes these are laid out in a pattern, sometimes they aren’t. There are also simple rectangles or squares, rectangles with another rectangle around it (also called a framed rectangle), or a rectangle with multiple rectangles around it. You can also get rectangles that look like rayed suns, just rectangular.
When talking about the shape of the design, try to describe the design in as much detail as you can. “Blue-ish purple bead with yellow dots” only says so much. “Yellow dots circling the bead and repeating at regular intervals” says a lot more.
Does the design repeat? Does it repeat with some sort of pattern? If so, what pattern? Are there several rows of the design or just one? Which direction is the design oriented – parallel to the perforation, perpendicular to it, or at an angle? Which colours are used for each part of the design? The more questions you can answer in your description, the better another person will be able to visualise your bead.
If there are multiple different designs, then simply describe all the designs that are present. Just remember that shape doesn’t cover any of the lines on the bead – I separate those into a difference category. Spirals are actually linear designs, as are wavy lines, or even just squiggles. Lines and shapes occur together on beads so often that it makes sense to separate them.
Bird bead: Lankton, J., L. Dussubieux, and T. Rehren. 2009. “A Study of Mid-first Millennium CE Southeast Asian Specialized Glass Beadmaking Traditions.” Interpreting Southeast Asia’s Past, Monument, Image, and Text: 335-356, eds. EA Bacus, IC Glover, and PD Sharrock. Singapore: National University of Singapore Press.
Face Bead: Liu, Robert K. 2003. “Horace C. Beck and His Influence on Non-Academic Bead Research and Collecting.” Ornaments from the Past, Bead Studies After Beck: a Book on Glass and Semiprecious Stone Beads in History and Archaeology for Archaeologists, Jewellery Historians and Collections.