Wood chip carving patterns come in two basic categories: geometric and non-geometric. Geometric patterns can draw from many long traditions of geometric artwork and are abstract. Non-geometric work is often something found in nature, such as a floral pattern, but can be anything the craftsman has the skill to design and execute.
The main limiting factor in designs for wood chip carving patterns comes from the process used in transfer the pattern on to the wood. Wood chip carving involves making precise, angled cuts into the wood to remove chips at a time. This means that all designs are made up of geometric shapes such as triangles and rectangles, which helps explains the popularity of fully geometric designs.
While it is technically possible to create any picture out of existing geometric shapes, more complex things such as animals or people might require the use of many very small chip removals. This can be tedious and dangerous when working with a medium where correcting mistakes is often impossible. Geometric designs are usually a repetition of a small pattern across the surface, meaning that the craftsman is making the same sorts of cuts over and over, reducing the chance of making a mistake during the project.