color and politics

Human Color Wheel by Neil Harbisson, 2009

There are a number of politicians who seek to polarize by color. It’s a sad and odd phenomenom and yet, in the case of at least one politician, it seems to be working. A frightening plight in my opinion. If Lapham’s Quarterly is on the right track, Plato would seem to agree with me (or rather I with him!) And yet, as Neil Harbisson shows in his human color wheel above, don’t we all look beautiful together?

The idea of color as divisive makes me wonder about the multi-cultural origins of color itself. I found that color pigments originate from all over the world (check out this chart). Imagine if we (let’s pretend that we Americans were not all immigrants in the first place) eliminated a large area of the world, with say a wall or a set of restrictions so severe that people could not cross our borders, what colors might we then be missing?

Egyptian Blue….originally created by the ancient Egyptians.

Cochineal Red….orginally created in sub-tropical South America and Mexico in the 1400s.

Malachite green…originally used about 2500BC in Ancient Egypt.

Pretty dismal world without these colors. And if you count all of the many years that war and hatred divided us from other world cultures, say Germany or Japan, we’d also be missing cadmium yellow, lead white and prussian blue. We’re not left with a whole lot of color.

I suggest we take color and politics in another direction and look at simultaneous contrast. When you look at two colors side by side, they will interact with one another and our perception will be changed based on that interaction. Take a minute to watch the video.

A single color, when placed on differing backgrounds, will appear to be two different colors. So environment has an effect on our perceptions. Also, if a color is repeated on a single background, our eye will fill in the empty spaces. Go ahead and apply that to politics and see if you want to think again about the noise you choose to listen to. If all we hear is that people of a certain color or religion or gender act and believe in a certain way, we will eventually see all people of that color/religion/gender through the same lens. What we see, what we believe, can be changed by what is around us.

Choose your background carefully and never let a tyrant tell you what you believe. Click To Tweet

Keep in touch,


my favorite restaurant design competition winner is….

…not from the US. As a matter of fact, there was only one US winner this year in the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards 2015. Parq Restaurant, San Diego, won in the ‘colour’ (it’s a competition out of the UK) category. More on our one winner later.


In the meantime, let’s look at who else short listed. And if you play the bi-coastal best restaurant game, notice that there are 3 entries short-listed from New York and 3 entries short listed from California. And there are 4 entries that are located inside hotels….nice to see this trend continuing. And yes, I know I included a potty shot below. The whole of Mourad is beautiful, but the bathrooms have me swooning. Something else I noticed across the board….a lot of gold. Does this mean we are coming to the end of the reclaimed-from-an-old-barn look? Can we (hopefully) continue to use sustainable materials without having them look like we pulled them out of the basement?  Oh lordy, one can only hope.

lordy people we can be sustainable and still see an end to the reclaimed-from-an-old-barn look Click To Tweet

Short List

all photos courtesy Restaurant and Bar Design Awards and the design teams involved: Studio Munge, Meyer Davis Studio, Dawson Design Associates, Lundberg Design, nemaworkshop, Emporium Design, hOmE Studio and Bluarch.

The winner is…

And our one and only US winner is Parq Restaurant and Nightclub in the GasLamp District of San Diego. Congratulations to Davis Ink on their win! It is definitely a colour-ful space!

all photos courtesy Restaurant and Bar Design Awards and Davis Ink.

Enjoy the pretty pictures. I certainly do!

Keep in touch,

color: art or science?


color wheel courtesy Goethe/Wikipedia

Once upon a time in design school I took a class devoted entirely to the study of color. And yet, when a friend who just bought a home asked me what color she should paint her walls, I was helpless for an answer. Color may have science behind it, but color is an art and a passion and a deeply personal thing. Choosing color requires attention to many details and begs much more than a 5 minute phone conversation.

Before we can even think about color, there is the issue of culture. And then of course there is perception…remember this perception test? I’ve had long discussions (some might call them arguments) about the color of a particular piece of clothing. No honey, that shirt is not blue it’s purple and it doesn’t go with that tie. At all. And on top of that there is light which, if you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you understand changes color entirely. I might call color an art. And yet…

in branding

Derrick Daye over at Branding Strategy Insider provides a list of colors and what they mean when used in branding (if you come from American mainstream culture, whatever that is):

  • Red: excitement, strength, sex, passion, speed, danger
  • Blue: trust, reliability, belonging, coolness
  • Yellow: warmth, sunshine, cheer, happiness
  • Orange: playfulness, warmth, vibrant
  • Green: nature, fresh, cool, growth, abundance
  • Purple: royal, spirituality, dignity
  • Pink: soft, sweet, nurture, security
  • White: pure, virginal, clean, youthful, mild
  • Black: sophistication, elegant, seductive, mystery
  • Gold: prestige, expensive
  • Silver: prestige, cold, scientific

if you happen to be a poet

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (h/t BrainPickings), a German poet, artist and politician published a book in 1810 about the psychology of color. It is very poetically written, but doesn’t seem to be based on hard science (if there really was such a thing at the time, or now for that matter). He describes all color as a degree of darkness.

  • Yellow: ‘in its highest purity it always carries with it the nature of brightness, and has a serene, gay, softly exciting character’
  • Red/Yellow: ‘the red-yellow gives an impression of warmth and gladness, since it represents the hue of the intenser glow of fire’
  • Yellow/Red: ‘a yellow-red cloth disturbs and enrages animals. I have known men of education to whom its effect was intolerable if they chanced to see a person dressed in a scarlet cloak on a grey, cloudy day’
  • Blue: ‘as a hue it is powerful — but it is on the negative side, and in its highest purity is, as it were, a stimulating negation. Its appearance, then, is a kind of contradiction between excitement and repose’
  • Red/Blue: ‘blue deepens very mildly into red, and thus acquires a somewhat active character, although it is on the passive side. Its exciting power is, however, of a different kind from that of the red-yellow. It may be said to disturb, rather than enliven’
  • Blue/Red: ‘a carpet of a perfectly pure deep blue-red would be intolerable. On this account, when it is used for dress, ribbons, or other ornaments, it is employed in a very attenuated and light state, and thus displays its character as above defined, in a peculiarly attractive manner’
  • Red: ‘the effect of this colour is as peculiar as its nature. It conveys an impression of gravity and dignity, and at the same time of grace and attractiveness’
  • Green: ‘the eye experiences a distinctly grateful impression from this colour…the beholder has neither the wish nor the power to imagine a state beyond it. Hence for rooms to live in constantly, the green colour is most generally selected’

in architecture

Frank Mahnke wrote a very interesting article for Archinect about color and its effect on the psyche. In addition to the effects of individual colors, the combination of colors and their intensities must be well balanced so that a space does not over or under stimulate. Also the light reflectance of colors must be addressed to safeguard visual comfort and efficiency. He provides a few examples of emotional responses to specific colors, and I imagine he completes this list in his book ‘Color: Communication in Architectural Space’.

  • Pastel yellow: sunny, friendly, soft with a message of stimulation, brightness, coziness
  • Red: arousing, passionate, provocative, fiery, aggressive with a message of dominance and advancing
  • Green: balancing, natural, calm with the message of simplicity and security
  • White: open, vast, neutral, sterile with a message of purity, emptiness and indecisiveness

So you tell me, is color a science or an art? I believe it is both, and much more complicated than 837 words can unravel. I guess that’s why I keep buying books, attending seminars, and absorbing whatever I can find on color. So no, there is no ‘right’ color to paint your walls. It’s a bigger question than you imagined…

If you’re interested, one book I really love is ‘Colour Source Book’ by Rosalind Ormiston and Michael Robinson. They include definitions, technical info, history/culture and examples of hundreds of colors in addition to lots of background information.

Keep in touch,


summer food palettes

It’s summer, meaning I need to plan the menu for the hubby/daughter birthday barbecue. And I’m in the mood to build palettes ( as always), so this is me combining the two. If you click on the photo it will take you to the recipe. This menu features a few of my favorite go to recipes every summer….especially that creamsicle recipe!

Watermelon Daiquiri

drink image courtesy

drink image courtesy

Grilled Rosemary Chicken

food-bbq chick

bbq image courtesy

Crunchy Napa Cabbage Slaw

slaw image courtesy

slaw image courtesy

Nectarine Creamsicles with Rose Water


Seriously, the creamsicles. So easy and so delicious. You’re going to want to save some room for those…and maybe decorate your kitchen to match since you’ll be wanting to make them all the time!

I’m out tomorrow surveying a job, back next week. Have a great weekend!


palettes: breaking bad in gifs

More palettes from my cinematographically favorite show, Breaking Bad. That’s a Friday only word and I expect you to give me credit if you use it. These palettes are based on some hilarious GIFs from the good people at Funny or Die and they just make me remarkably happy. And while we are on the subject of Breaking Bad and happiness, did you hear that Walt may not be dead? Really? I’m giddy just thinking about it.

Color palettes created, as always, at colourlovers.




bb-2bb-3paletteBe the danger….and have a great weekend!

palettes: fine art

The masters definitely knew how to use color. Here’s a sampling from the French masters displayed at the SF Legion of Honor, which not only houses an awesome collection but is an awesome building on a beautiful site. This is where I spent much of my senior year of college….learning from the best. The building was given to the people of San Francisco by Adolph and Alma Spreckels to honor the thousands of Californians who died in World War I.

Pictures courtesy, color palettes created at

art-caillebotte (800x657)

Soleils au Bord de la Seine, Gustave Caillebotte

art-monet (632x800)

Sailboats on the Seine, Claude Monet

art-bouguereau (800x738)

The Broken Pitcher, William Adolph-Bouguereau

art-cezanne (685x800)Forest Interior, Paul Cezanne (afraid this one isn’t on display, but I love the gorgeous colors! You can check it online.)

Happy Friday! Paint yourself a beautiful weekend….


color: what you see, what it was, what it does

What you see

Check out this free online color challenge by X-Rite, owners of Pantone (among so many others). Apparently color acuity is measured on a scale….see generally where you are on the scale. Are you more or less color challenged than you knew? If you want all the persnickity details, the Farnsworth Munsell 100 Hue Test will allow you to determine the specifics of the color clarity of you and all your co-designers.


 What it was

Medieval book historian and teacher Erik Kwakkel shares this Dutch book on color, called  Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau (Treatise on Watercolor Paints), hand written and published (do you call it published if there is only one?) in 1692 by someone known only as ‘A. Boogert’. Nearly 800 pages of color mixed and described by the author for ‘educational purposes’ during the Dutch Golden Age. You can check it out digitally, or take a little trip to Aix-en-Provence and see it in person at the Bibliotheque Mejanes. Gotta wonder how it compares to the 2100 Pantone colors.

the power of red

If you are a woman trying to attract male attention, wear red. If you want a job, don’t. If you are competing in a sporting event, wear red. If you want to attract customers, paint the exterior red, but not the interior. The color red has a power that seems to far surpass that of other colors. Fast Company put together the information from a number of studies supporting these theories. More than any other color, the psychology of red is not something to discount. So barn red….wonder what the psychology is there?

barn (800x431)

Have a great weekend….hope you find a reason to wear red!

palettes: breaking bad season 2

More Breaking Bad palettes. These from season 2. The boys are well engaged in their desert meth making, Walter thinking he has control of his destiny. Their tiny little speck of existence in the massiveness of their environment might indicate otherwise.

breaking bad2-1

breaking bad2-2

breaking bad2-3

Season 1 palettes are here. As always, thanks to colourlovers for their palette creation tool!


palettes: breaking bad season 1

It’s late and I’m already working with weekend brain, so my last post for the week is a bit of a lark. Breaking Bad has the most beautiful and artistically deliberate cinematography I’ve ever seen on television (although to be fair I don’t watch a lot of television). There are so many image clips that swim around in my head long after I’ve watched the show. See what you think of my Breaking Bad color palettes….

breaking bad1-1

breaking bad1-2

breaking bad1-3

If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t watched the show yet, start it now! Have a great weekend,


vacation in color


our last Hanalei 2013 sunset

It’s April and school is still in, I’m a little frustrated with a project I’m working on, the weather is unreliable….time for a vacation. But time or not, there is no vacation in my near future, so I’m creating palette vacations today. See if these take you where they took me….back to Hanalei ten months ago. Happy sigh.


the pathway alongside the taro fields behind yoga hanalei

hideaways....our favorite snorkeling beach

hideaways….our favorite snorkeling beach

Have a great weekend….find me at Picnic in the Presidio this Sunday!

food palettes…a starting place

With every design project the designer must choose a starting point. For a restaurant project it might be the food. Here is my flight of fancy using food palettes as conceptual beginnings. All photos courtesy  Click on  photos to get to recipes.

Cured Salmon with Oyster Panna Cotta, Crab, Avruga Caviar & Avocado/Crème Fraîche


Chocolate/Almond Tortellini with Blood Oranges & Pine Nuts

 Oyster with Carolina Rice Grits & Ramp Capers


 Burnt Heather Partridge with Celeriac, Watercress & Chanterelles


Is this all making you hungry?  Or maybe it’s time to get out the paints. Either way, it was fun for me! What inspires you at the beginning of a project? I’d love to hear your thoughts

Keep in touch,

what does Friday taste like?

I cannot imagine a better person on a project team than someone with synesthesia.  As a designer and a writer it’s always my goal to engage as many senses as possible in whatever experience I’m trying to create.  So someone whose senses are already intertwined would be an awesome asset.  Do you know a synesthete?  Are you a synesthete?  Lucky!

Dr. Richard Cytowic is a neurologist who studies synesthesia.  In this talk at the Library of Congress he refers to synesthesia as elevated perception and discusses links between synesthesia and creativity.  I wonder if I can develop it?  The color red is definitely sweet and hot…..but maybe I’m just confused with red hots.

Sigh….have a great weekend,

red hots

scratching the surface of color

my mid-century palette

my mid-century palette

Have you discovered colourlovers yet?  So cool.  Load a photo and pull a color palette or twenty.  Then create patterns that use your palette.  One of my new favorite color tools to play with (and by new I mean I barely know what I’m doing yet but it is a great way to waste several hours getting side tracked with color).  Check it out and let me know how you like it.  Any other great color tools you use?

a pattern that I created from this palette

a pattern that I created from this palette

the picture that started it all

the picture that started it all