Posts Tagged ‘Color’

When Colors Collide

Monday, November 25th, 2013
Epcot gift bag, early 1980s

Epcot gift bag, early 1980s

When EPCOT opened in 1982, the concept was innovation and globalism. Wait isn’t that what every conference today is about? The park was and is divided into two sections, Future World and World Showcase. Future World was where corporations like Exxon could prove how good strip mining was. World Showcase would bring cultures from around the globe to the American tourist. The visual theme of Future World was the same as the 1990s Star Trek: TNG, mid-level hotel or medical offices in non-threatening tones. The large spaces had lots of carpeting, an abundance of rounded corners, and odd geometric benches.

In my head, I’ve always pictured 1980s EPCOT as a unified and sleek place. The color palette was silver, blue, and white. The materials were aluminum and fiberglass. But, I was wrong. While researching the color palettes I found some truly hideous combinations. Now, I’ve always said no two colors dislike each other. Again, I was wrong. Some of the combinations are terrifying. It would never occur to me to combine pink, teal, plum, and orange. I’m still semi-sane. So what happened? Why the hard left away from the silver and blue? I don’t know. I do know, however, that these combinations do not exist naturally, and no software product will ever provide a palette like these.

Bag palette

Bag palette

EPCOT 1982

EPCOT 1982

 

Epcot map, 1983

Epcot map, 1983

 

Map Palette

Map Palette

 

Epcot mug

Epcot mug

 

Mug Palette

Mug Palette

 

pin

Button Palette

Button Palette

 

Gateway Gifts sign, Epcot, 1982

Gateway Gifts sign, Epcot, 1982

 

Gateway Gifts palette

Gateway Gifts palette

 

Epcotmap2

Guidebook paltette

Guidebook paltette

 

An Encyclopedic Photographic Memory of Ephemera

Friday, December 21st, 2012

New York World's Fair book illustration, 1964

I enjoy accusing others of illiteracy. “Don’t you people read?” I ask my students. “If you’d read the copy, you’d understand why the image works,” I say to clients, but in a nicer way. “For the love of God put down that iPhone and get a book,” I tell my niece and nephews. Then I find I am as guilty of the same sin.

I have a book about the 1964 World’s Fair. I’ve never read it. I do, however, know each and every illustration, color palette, and photograph in the book. Who knows what it is about? I’m too distracted by the tiny drawings on divider pages. To make matters worse, I deconstruct the meaning of the imagery. And I make odd connections that require an encyclopedic photographic memory of ephemera. Fortunately, I have this. For example, the overview of the Fair is surprisingly similar to the layout of Epcot, which is a sort of permanent world’s fair (or beer walk, depending on your interest.) Finally, the color palette for the fair preview images is exactly the same as the preview book for Walt Disney World, published a few years later. Coincidence? You be the judge.

New York World's Fair book map illustration, 1964

 

New York World's Fair book, illustration, 1964

 

New York World's Fair book, illustration, 1964

 

New York World's Fair book, illustration, 1964

 

New York World's Fair book, illustration, 1964

 

New York World's Fair book, illustration, 1964

 

New York World's Fair overview 1964

 

Epcot, from above, via Google Earth

 

New York World's Fair book, illustration, 1964

 

Walt Disney World Preview Book, 1970

Unsinkable Brown

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

unknown, Buffalo Bill's Wild West

Recently, a client asked for brown as a color option on a project. A couple of years ago, I would have resisted. But, brown has slowly been creeping into my mind. First, I found myself admiring the brown tile at the Honolulu Airport. Then, I decided I should move away from my earthquake safe Melmac dinnerware. So, I bought several settings of Heath Ceramics dinnerware.

The Heath colors are subtle, subtle and subtle. Seeing one brown combined with cream or tan plate convinced me that brown could be alright. Some of my favorite design solutions are brown. Does this mean I’m mellowing, or developing, God forbid, good taste? I still resist any attempt to put brown in bathrooms. Brown wall, tiles, fixtures, or accessories should never be used there. I won’t go into details, but how do you know if someone previously had an “episode” in the bathroom if everything isn’t bright white?

Heath Ceramics dinnerware

 

Heath Ceramics, plate colors

 

tile, Honolulu Airport

 

Reid Miles, Blowin' Country

 

Tomoko Miho, Nieman Marcus packaging, 1960s

 

Paul Rand, Idea magazine, 1955

 

Josef Muller-Brockmann, concert poster, 1955

 

Saul Bass, Bonjour Tristesse poster, 1959

 

Will Burtin, Scope magazine, 1951

 

A bad brown bathroom, 1977

 

Defense of Garish Acts

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Alois Carigiet, 1935

A few weeks ago I attempted to repaint my living room in sophisticated silver grey. This was a mistake. What looked beautiful in the Restoration Hardware catalogue looked like a prison cell in my living room. If I wanted to interrogate visitors, or slam them up against a wall with a shiv this would be perfect. I called my trusty painter Jeirro and he repainted it back to aqua and watermelon pink. Clearly I am doomed to what others refer to as bad taste or garish color.

In defense of garish color I point to some of our finest designers, Paul RandArt PaulTadanori Yokoo, and Paul Bruno. We think of these people as refined craftsmen. But did they shy away from magenta and orange, purple and lime green? No. They embraced it and ignored the calls from the sophisticated elite, “More beige, please.”

I’ve often used the baby mobile argument. If beige mobile and a brightly colored mobile are presented to a toddler, he or she will always gravitate toward the bright one. The bad things in life, rotten meat, deadly deep water, and coffins are dull and grey. The good things, non-poisonous berries, swimming pools, and pink Cadillacs are bright and cheerful. This is why clients react badly when presented a baby shit green poster, and cheer for the bright yellow and happy pink one.

Paul Bruno, 1903

Paul Rand, 1964

Paul Rand, 1964

Henry Williams, 1968

Tony Roboiro, 1968

Tadanori Yokoo, 1969

Art Paul, 1967

AdamsMorioka, Mexico website, 2009

The Colors of the Sea

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Here’s a trick when choosing colors: the in-between colors are always more compelling. For example, seafoam isn’t blue or green. The viewer needs to do a little work and this creates a more dynamic response. The same holds true for all other colors. I like red with a little orange. I hate flat purple, but love something a little bluer like the dense color of a blueprint. The default color swatches in Adobe Illustrator are there as a starting point. Like the circle tool, they’re boring until you do something interesting with them.

Whenever I decide to paint a room, I pull out the paint swatch book and tape different swatches to the wall. Unfortunately, they are all slightly different shades of seafoam. To my eye, they are radically different, but at the paint store they look at me like I’m crazy. The kitchen is a light seafoam, the bathrooms are all a slightly greener version, the laundry room is slightly bluer, and the living room is a tiny bit more intense. In all honesty, I’ll admit they all look like the same color on the wall. So my attention to color detail is lost on any guest.

Seafoam is one of those colors that people respond to in extremes. They either love it, or hate it and want to hurt someone. Someone once asked me at a speaking engagement what my favorite Pantone color was. I answered, “I love seafoam, PMS 318.” Years later, I found a blog written by someone in the audience who insisted PMS 318 was not seafoam, but turquoise, and I didn’t know what I was talking about. My advice is to call it whatever makes the other party happy: seafoam, turquoise, blue-green, Mount Vernon Prussian blue, swimming pool blue, or aqua.