I love color.

I love exploring color, I love designing with color, I love wearing color. There’s just so much to work with. You can evoke different emotions, different memories, different ideas. I love playing with the tint, shade, and tone of something until it’s exactly right.

And I think getting back to the fun, creative side of color is really necessary for those working on an in-house design team.

(Not to neglect the importance of getting back to basics in a more general sense — who’s your audience? What are they really looking for and do they have the language to really describe that?)

Because design isn’t just tint, shade, and tone and it isn’t just the final product either. When we focus our design too much on those specificities, we lose focus on other aspects…

Texture, dimension, shape, form, line, motion.

So I wanted to get back to basics and put together a winter whites mood board.

I got to thinking about the whole idea of color and the act of describing color as one of the things that we often overlook. When I write these blog posts, I start to view color as a nondesigner while also looking at color as an artist. And there’s a very crucial step there that’s very necessary to understand:

The colors in this board are “white” — but they aren’t really white. You can see in the borders between the images, which are actually #FFFFFF, but the majority of the board isn’t.

What the nondesigner views as white, the artist views as shades of something else. Maybe it’s soft, milky ivory or a pure gray. The likelihood is that in some cases, especially when working the world of design that isn’t purely digital: textiles, fashion, outdoor advertising, interiors, fine art.

White doesn’t have to be white for the point to get across. It’s the contrast between the darkest part of the piece and the lightest that all together create the overall impression. It’s value. We so rarely use pure white in art… but it’s necessary to understand this in order to get your contrast right.

There’s a level of understanding necessary for designing to please people (which… isn’t that basically all of us?). When somebody says white, they don’t necessarily mean white. The color that I would describe as white could be very different than someone who isn’t as familiar with color.

There’s this funny graphic that a colleague sent me that always comes to mind when I describe color. I learned pretty quickly that referring to a “coral” and “light tangerine” meant nothing to people outside of my department. I should’ve known, but I guess “eggplant” isn’t a normal descriptive word.

Image result for color to an artist vs normal person

Someone who doesn’t know the difference between a warm neutral and a cool neutral is unlikely to be able to really use vocabulary to be able to express the look, feel, or tone that they’re going for. Purple could mean lavender or grape or burgundy or heck, it could even mean fuchsia or navy. The person who uses purple to describe magenta up on that graphic above definitely won’t be able to explain tint, tone, or shade of what they’re looking for.

Designer: part artist and part layman.

till next time,