In Praise of Ochre

Wallpaper, 1966

I was at Louise Sandhaus' AIGA Fellows Award event last week. I've become sort of a shut-in, so it was unusual for me to go out at night. I prefer to stay in the house and peak out the window behind the shades when anyone drives by. But I absolutely love Louise and wouldn't miss this event. I had a good time seeing old friends and watching the amazing Armin Vit and his very difficult quiz show about design. Louise's work was, of course, inspiring and sublime. I left with many ideas that I could steal.

There are certain colors that will drive any but the most adventurous clients running from a room screaming. Unfortunately, these seem to be the colors that graphic designers prefer. I noticed this in Louise's presentation. "Ooh, I love that green," I would think as she showed a slide, and "That is the most perfect warm red." For some reason, designers love avocado and yellow-greens. Baby-shit is what I've heard these tones called by clients. And we love orange-reds, which are usually met with, "I really hate orange." So we use these colors in our own personal work, or when we get a project with unending creative freedom. I try to use ochre on every project. This is usually rejected. For some reason, nobody can see the wonderfulness of ochre, or butterscotch if you need to sell it. It's a wonderful tone, somewhere between yellow, orange, brown, and green. There was a time when the world embraced ochre. Southwest Airlines used it as a primary color. Porsche called it Bahama Yellow. This was, no pun intended, the golden age of ochre.

If only we could convince the word that bisque, almond, plumb, and mauve were very bad, and return to ochre, avocado green, warm red, butter yellow, and sky blue.

Porsche 912, Bahama Yellow

1969 Stan Bitters installation at Duncan Enterprises, Fresno, California

Volkswagen Bus, 1967, Canary Yellow

Main Street, Walt Disney World, 1971

Termo Temp

2001 A Space Odyssey, 1969

Branniff Airlines, Alexander Girard, 1965

Disneyland Monsanto's Plastic Home of the Future, 1967

My bar

Mohawk Show 2, catalogue, AdamsMorioka

The Bus, Honolulu, Hawaii

Southwest Airlines colors

Housing project, Capetown, South Africa

Designers in Black, part 1

Sean Adams and the wonderfully jewelled Madame President, Debbie Millman

Last Thursday, I attended the AIGA Design Legends Gala in New York. I was in Kona the week before, and it was a helluva flight from Hawaii to LA to New York, but the Gala is an evening that reminds me why I’m a designer. Of course, there are inspirational speeches and presentations. Debbie Millman gave an eloquent speech about the current economy and why designers are more important than ever. The Medalists, Carin Goldberg, Doyald Young, and Pablo Ferro were remarkable and seeing their work is exactly the shot in the arm I needed. But, many of you are probably asking, who looked good? Fortunately, I’m shallow and took my camera to find some of the best dressed. Now I admit I’m bad at this job. I started and then had a couple of Gin and Tonics, then the gorgeous Marian Bantjes sat on my lap, then I lost interest in the photography. Nevertheless, for your pleasure, here are some of the highlights I found before forgetting I needed to do this post.

Stefan Sagmeister with snappy tie and Marian Bantjes in a dress of her own fabric design

Petrula Vrontikis unbelievably gorgeous and dapper Armin Vit

Pam Williams outdoing Madame Pierre Gautreau by John Singer Sargent

This defines classic and glamorous, Michael Donovan and Nancye Green

This defines classic and glamorous, Michael Donovan and Nancye Green

Board heartthrob Brad Weed and beautiful wife Susan Pappalardo


Immaculately dressed Michael Vanderbyl and ever-charming Gaby Brink

Sean and Kenna Kay absolutely perfect