The Fourth Wall

10.28.08 Play Ball!

It remains to be seen which team is going to win the World Series, an agonizing game-suspension pause-button was pushed last night due to pounding rain. Still, with 3 wins to Tampa Bay’s single success, as of this writing the Phillies stand poised to take home the prize.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that my BF is a sports spectating freakazoid. And, of the big three professional games, baseball is his number one love (hoops coming in second with football a not unenthusiastic third. Pity me, dear readers.). Yet, because he’s the wonderfully strange guy that he is, it’s not just sweat ‘n numbers as they say. His addiction passion also includes history, uniforms, stadium ephemera, the whole gosh darn gontseh megilleh (that’s yiddish for “big deal”).

I’ve blogged about UniWatch in the past, the blog that covers “the obsessive study of athletics aesthetics.” For a great rant that dovetails the BF’s sports mania with my typography nerdism, check out today’s UniWatch post re: the Phillies logo. Pictured above, the actual logo on top, a proposed redesign below. Read the details here.

Now, fair is fair and I don’t want to get in trouble with the BF. So, because we are rooting for Tampa Bay at our house (Why? Because the Phillies kicked the Mets outta the playoffs the last two years, don’t you know anything??), I must give their logo equal blog. To the left, the Rays’ actual logo; to the right their cap insignia. For more info about why a major league (literally) professional corporation with a high-profile national/international presence would want to have two distinct and mostly unrelated brands (neither of which is particularly well-designed)… I can’t answer that. You’ll have to go digging around UniWatch to solve this particular athletic aesthetic mystery. Or ask the BF next time you see him. He probably knows.

10.22.08 A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

With all of this blogging lately about color it’s time for me to introduce you to one of the designer’s most primary and useful tools-of-the-trade, and explain why clients too should consider owning at least a portion of the Pantone guides to color.

First, a few general lessons about color. Did you know that color is not really absolute? We all think we know what we’re talking about when we say “red,” but beyond the fact that there are zillions of hues of red, our eyes might see (and our brains might perceive) these hues differently. Some of this is physiological and psychological, to be sure, but even simple and absolute things like lighting (which can be cool or warm), context (ie, what color surrounds the red?) and material or substrate (is the color printed on shiny coated paper, being viewed on a computer, a piece of fabric?)… will have a PROFOUND affect on our perception of that color.

This complex and tricky situation–essentially, controlling color perception among those who are concerned with it–is Pantone‘s raison d’etre. In every professional creative field, from specifying color for graphic design, such as brochures, Web sites, etc., to fashion and interiors, Pantone provides a printed set of standards that help us discuss and actually perceive color in a more consistent way. So that maybe, une rose est une rose est une rose.

In today’s cost-conscious, digital world, we designers are producing fewer and fewer color proofs of our work for clients, saving time and money, and opting instead to email pdf’s that for viewing on monitors. Monitors, which are variously calibrated and reproduce color in a special and different way (RGB, or Red, Green, Blue) is a subject for a whole other post. For now, just trust me… your monitor is not a safe way to view color for print.

Along with proofing by pdf, we are also buying and managing far less printing on behalf of our clients; clients are opting to navigate this hugely complicated terrain on their own in an effort to keep costs internal. For all of these reasons, please (please, please) consider buying the Pantone Color Bridge Set. At $179, it’s not cheap, but will save you piles of money on ibuprofen alone. It may also save you thousands of dollars in print materials that turn out differently than you expected because you viewed a pdf of your company brochure on your monitor. Let’s dig in to this, shall we? I suggest a cup of coffee.

Ok, ready? I know that you are!

Pictured above is a complete set of Pantone guides that we bought in 2000, admittedly lightyears ago in terms of our industry. This set probably should have been replaced because of color fading alone, but having kept ours undercover they remain in like-new condition. For most clients, the entire set of these (over $500) is way more than you’ll need, but if your company can afford it, I’d recommend the whole shebang (the CURRENT set, not the slightly outdated one we own). Explanations of these tools follow.

The 3 guides above represent the complete Pantone Matching System, commonly referred to as PMS. Your organization probably has corporate PMS colors and possibly even an expanded palette of same… part of the graphic standards (along with fonts or templates perhaps) developed by a professional designer (we hope) to keep your materials consistent and cohesive among outside and inhouse designers alike.

PMS colors are PRE-MIXED INK FORMULAS. Think of paint that you buy for your walls or home… these colors are professionally mixed in controlled environments, and when specified for your brochure, can be counted upon to be relatively absolute. The books above fan out to show you the full range of these available SOLID colors, printed on uncoated, coated (shiny), and matte (coated, but dull) papers. Why? Because these substrates profoundly change the way many PMS formulas will appear. You can see this illustrated below; I have the three books open to the same page. The difference between uncoated and coated (either shiny or matte) is particularly apparent.

The reason to own this set of books is so that you and your designers can discuss PMS colors, and even paper specifications to some extent, while viewing these things in the same context (remembering again that the colors will shift in sunlight, warm or cool fluorescents, etc…). So when we say: We are thinking about PMS 265 for your logo… you can look that up in your book and say: Oh, I like that very much!

Remember, we can NOT show you what a PMS color will look like by printing on our sophisticated studio inkjet printers. These printers use CMYK to print color, not premixed inks. If the studio inkjets used the actual PMS inks, we’d have thousands and thousands of cartridges (one for each of those 6,000 colors!) residing here in the studio. Obviously not feasible. Let’s explain further.

Pictured above, the Pantone Process Coated and Uncoated (same substrate issue) and the Solid to Process guides. Let’s tackle process first and then the whole solid-to-process conversion ordeal (about which, there is some shocking news! A virtual cliffhanger if you will).

Process refers to printing in CMYK, which stands for Cyan (blue), Magenta (hot pink), Yellow (yellow) and Key (Black). This is the printing process used for all materials that contain color photos; essentially a pattern of dots in varying percentages of all or some of these FOUR COLORS will make up every hue seen on the printed piece. To the naked eye, the dots blend smoothly together, looking under a magnifying glass or “loop” will show you the pattern of dots.

Sometimes, process printing is combined with Pantone printing… a company may have a budget for a 5 (instead of 4) color job, so that their corporate color (PMS 265) remains absolute. But, if budget doesn’t allow for the addition of this 5th color, we will be converting your PMS color to its CMYK equivalent. And that’s where things get tricky.

The first two books pictured above show you JUST a selection of CMYK process colors. Because the combinations are close to infinite, even the thousands of builds shown can be frustratingly limited for us. Still, if we stick to one of these, we can talk to our printers and our clients in the same absolute color language.

The last book, solid to process, shows the conversions from Pantone or PMS to CMYK, side by side. In the photo below, the PMS or PREMIXED pantone color is in the bottom row. In the top row is Pantone’s best effort at replicating that color in CMYK process. Or is it? READ ON, my friends. And, prepare to be shocked.

In what can only be called hugely scandalous, Pantone has CHANGED the CMYK builds, unbeknownst to me until the very morning of this writing. Let me say that again… Pantone has CHANGED the CMYK builds!!! A client, having just this week taken my advice to purchase the NEW Pantone Bridge guides, pointed this out while we were discussing colors. And boy, was my face RED! PMS 032 Red, for those in the know.

So, if you own the Solid to Process book, THROW IT AWAY and purchase the Bridge, pictured below. If you own nothing at all, purchase the Bridge, pictured below. Mine is on order!

Here’s what you’ll get and really, it is all a non-designer needs: The same presentation format as the Solid to Process guide, but (heretofor unpublished) on BOTH coated AND uncoated paper. And, most importantly, with Pantone’s revised, updated, new and improved conversions that promise to be a closer match between PMS and Process. Whoooohooooooo!

Get it? If not, don’t worry… this is the stuff of big headaches, for sure. Just go back to the beginning of this endless (but hopefully not pointless) post and read all of this again. Or call me, I’ll try to help. Because an educated client really makes the best partner for brilliant design and printing results.

10.9.08 A Palette for the Season

Sometimes color enters my life in waves; the colors of the natural and manmade environments, colors I’m wearing, and the colors that work their way into designfarm’s projects. It’s fall here in the Mid-Atlantic region and although our trees and gardens still show lots of green, the olivine shades feel older — perhaps more sophisticated — than the saturated new-birth greens of spring. Leaves are turning orange, red, and yellow. The sunlight is warm and really does (despite the seemingly trite nature of this sentiment) cast a golden glow. Gray shadows are long, the sky is clear and blue.

The brochure above (3-panels pictured flat), designed for Friends of the Library, Montgomery County unconsciously brought just these colors into a print context.

A pair of earrings I designed for a client’s fall wedding a year ago reflect the same delicious tones.

A new logo for VisArts was presented in gray + yellow/green. Other solutions featured gray + orange. The client chose orange as the second color. Which do you respond to?

My favorite addition to a more obvious fall palette are certain shades of blue. Offering, like the sky at this time of year, a crisp counterpoint to all of that lush warmth. Earrings above purchased last weekend.

All of these colors — blue, gray, orange, yellow — came together in the branding for an exhibit at The Phillips Collection. Watch the DC Metro for the diorama pictured above.

This time of year always finds me knitting. It’s probably a nesting urge, but also satisfies my ever-present need to have busy hands that are making things. Most of the yarn I use is handspun; sometimes using wool collected from the artisan’s own sheep. I love watching the colors interact and since my skills don’t go much beyond easy-peasy scarves, I favor fussy, textural yarns with lots of thicks and thins. This skein, purchased from Folktale Fibers, came with pom-poms attached.

What’s your palette this season? Once you start noticing, it will suddenly appear everywhere you look.

9.18.08 Manipulation 101

I took this amazing photo of NYC from my hotel room window the last time I was there. I printed it in my darkroom at home. I’ve got photography skills, don’t you think?

Oops, what is that… um, crease along the bottom? Well…. umm, uhh, I wasn’t showing you the whole lovely print I made in my darkroom at home, because, well, my 10-year-old folded it along the bottom so I cropped that part out. Yep, that’s what happened.

Oh no, I’m caught in the act. I didn’t take a photograph of New York City after all… and my 10-year-old is exonerated.

In fact, here’s the reality. The “photo of NYC” is actually just a super tight crop, a close-up of a part of a cute little gift bag that sits on my desk here at the office. The reason I love this bag and the reason it occupies valuable real estate on my desk, is because I can (mentally!) dive into the image, as shown at the very top of this post, and feel like I’m there… I can zoom in with my mind’s eye, eliminating the surrounding clutter… and travel. I heart NY.

I can also demonstrate what’s possible with cropping, a tool in every designer’s bag of tricks, and something we do by second nature after a certain number of years. A practicing designer begins to really see the world differently and can then manipulate your perception as well. Verrrrry powerful stuff.

Thankfully, most of us (your friends at designfarm, included) operate in service of good vs. evil.

9.18.08 The Power of Punk (Images)

Confession: I was never really a bona-fide punk rock grrl.

Not in the pure sense of earning the title. I was rebellious; in the cultural context of my early-70’s teen years suburban Columbus, Ohio ennui was such that my rebellions could have been considered fairly radical. A few years later, within my college culture (University of MD, fine arts dept), I might also have been considered a rebel, lugging massive art books and dressed in shades-of-black thriftstore clothes. Small things, yes, but in 1977, these affectations amounted to quite the statement in College Park, where sports and the Greek System defined campus life. I may have thought I was cool, and maybe I sort of was for a nerdy art-dork. But I’m pretty sure I knew even then that I wasn’t hard core. After all, my nice Jewish mother would have killed me and although I was in perpetual mourning for the sad state of the world, I wasn’t ready to die yet.

Regardless of my admission to being far too tied to my traditional upbringing to ever qualify as Punk with a capital P (see Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten, above), I can say with absolute certainty: The Sex Pistols, bursting onto the world scene with glorious brain-searing noise unlike anything ever heard, changed my life. The Pistols turned everything upside down; how I thought about popular culture, music, art, writing, fashion, graphic design, DIY, image and image-making, politics, the whole heady late-70’s mix of youthful life. So although I never pierced my face with a safety pin, part of me became and still is punk.

Oddly enough, today, a week past my 51st birthday, I may be having the truest, yet wholly unexpected experience of what it meant/means to be punk. And I am having it because 30 years after the fact I am sporting a t-shirt I picked up at Trash & Vaudeville in the East Village, NYC (above) this summer.

Pictured above, in screaming neon pink, there is Sid… as hideous and F-You as he could possibly make himself (or, as English impressario Malcolm McLaren could create him). And yes, I’m sporting a t-shirt of Sid, and Sid is sporting a t-shirt of a shattered image of Christ–unarguably sacreligious just for the context and color treatment, among other things.

On the elevator ride to the designfarm world HQ this morning I wasn’t really thinking about all of this–I just love this danged t-shirt–but the reaction was palpable. I could feel my usually friendly office-building mates stiffen with discomfort and I was taken aback. As people exited, they snuck final sideways glances. Then they scurried off. Quickly.

Attraction/repulsion… I think that’s at the heart of punk. You want to look, you must look. Simultaneously, you have a strong urge to run in the opposite direction. The fact that a t-shirt, so far removed from the people and events themselves… can still have this effect… is a testament to the undeniable power of images and of design, and of the enduring power of punk.

And yes, I probably should have known as much.

8.19.08 Beach Type

I try so hard not to “work” during the little vacation time I take each year. It’s important to get away, relax, see and hear the ocean, eat boardwalk fries drenched in vinegar and salt, read a couple of books, &tc&tc&tc!

And for the most part, that’s exactly what I did last week. Interspersed with just a tiny bit of email, a few office calls, and my usual hyper-awareness of color, texture, forms, design-in-general, and TYPE. I love type. I can’t help it. Type is everywhere; good, bad and ugly, and in the case of Rehoboth Beach Delaware (and so many other locales), it can truly define place. Pictured above, the super iconic Dolles Salt Water Taffy (since 1910!) signage. So big! So retro! And so wonderfully ominous (especially for a candy shop) against the darkening sky.

I love the fat serif type in circles (Bodoni Poster?) above and especially the crazy-colorful palette. However, I would highly recommend Snyder’s Candy shop over the ever-present Candy Kitchen. Snyders has some amazing gourmet chocolate covered pretzels and TONS of retro candy that you’ve forgotten how much you once loved.

Neon is always fun, no matter what. This signage hangs in the window at Louie’s Pizza (best at the beach in our opinion, forget Grotto’s and Nicola), where a waitress named Noelle remembered Molly and I from two years ago. I am NOT kidding!

The above specimen was found on the seat of one of the long white benches that line the boardwalk. Abstract, weathered and so cool.

This sign appeared to be hand-painted in a turn-of-the-century carnival style, but I think it was done fairly recently and faux distressed. Great job… . I love the font, colors and overall feel of this piece. The Boardwalk 5&10 is super fun too, with terrific tacky souvenirs and sundries.

The type above isn’t of great interest (especially those irritatingly misaligned bullets!) but the image of the surfing ice cream cone is great! Best soft-serve frozen custard on the beach: Kohr Bros (since 1917!), with a new flavor that mixes caramel and cappacino. YUMMMMY!! Observing and documenting typography gives me sheer pleasure, to be sure. But the real satisfaction comes later, when these images and memories work their way out of my files and my mind and into my creative projects.

7.16.08 A FAILURE OF DESIGN

I’ve let my New Yorker subscription lapse recently and not because I don’t enjoy reading this entertaining and smart magazine. Politics, literature, reviews, humor… it’s all there. The problem for me… it’s sort of too all there. As a weekly jam-packed text-heavy publication, TNY tends to pile up on the dining room table, leaving me with feelings of intellectual laziness and/or guilt. Confession: Sometimes I just read the cartoons. (Come on, so do you!) Look, I’m a busy mom with a job and a half… give me a break! I just don’t have time. But make no mistake, I love The New Yorker. One thing I actually often make time to read is the front section that describes the goings-on at the NYC galleries, movie theaters, etc. It somehow makes me feel connected to, if deeply lonesome, for the great city where everything happens about a year before it hits DC (if it hits at all).

Oddly, my subscription seems to have ended with the controversial Obama + Michelle as Islamic Terrorists cover. The mag wasn’t in my mailbox this week, so I heard about this from my mom, pulling up the image later on my computer.

So, we’ve established that I am a TNY magazine reader and bigtime fan. For the purposes of this essay, let’s also just go out on a professional limb and establish (in case it’s a secret, ha!) that I am also a political progressive. Very left of center. I like Obama and I want him to win the Presidency. There you have it, my cards are on the table as I am about to offer a bit of harsh criticism to my beloved TNY.

What I’d like to say simply is this. MEMO TO THE NEW YORKER MAGAZINE: WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??! AND &%$#!@.

What I’m going to say instead is: The New Yorker covers, and not just this one but particularly this one, often suffer from a big failure of communication, a failure of design and marketing. A big fat FAILURE OF MESSAGE CLARITY.

Shame on you TNY. You are much too sophisticated for that. Aren’t you?

If you know the magazine, you know that the cartoons are often satirical. Heaping dollops of irony. A long time ago, I felt intellectually ashamed when I didn’t “get” a TNY cartoon. What was I missing? More importantly why was I missing it? I’m smart, political, savvy and cool… why don’t I understand the humor?? Is it because I didn’t go to Harvard or Yale? Later I realized, it’s a running joke among readers: While some cartoons are quick and easy, and laugh-out-loud funny, others can be so obtuse that the humor is buried under such opaque layers of literary or political or some other reference that most people aren’t getting the joke. Whew!

The covers, which are marketed and sold by the magazine as framed works of art, employ illustration, a graphical tool that brings point of view into play automatically by its very nature. Sometimes the illustrations are simple, a gently sweet comment on the season. Here is one such cover from 2002 by Gahan Wilson. Easy peasy, right? My 10 year old would “get” this, and importantly: NO caption is needed. We all get it: Fall, Halloween, witches, broomsticks, etc, whatever!

There are many many such TNY covers. Friendly, easy non -satirical, non -ironical subjects. Treated non- satirically and non- ironically. Played straight, by the art director and the illustrator, who have worked together to come up with the image. The message, if there is one, (It’s Fall! Enjoy!) is clear. But the covers are not always lacking in social and political commentary.

Here is another, from 2007 by Anita Kunz.

And now we should tell you something else about the TNY covers. Each cover, each illustration actually has a caption, a title if you will, but this text is nowhere in sight. You will have to look very hard to find this title, it’s on page 3 or 4, tucked in with the Table of Contents and in rather small type. Are you beginning to see a problem here? W/r/t the cover above… I think I get it and you probably do too. But I’m not 100% sure. Clearly, this image is a commentary on religion and women, sexuality, freedom of expression, east, west, and… maybe, California? But, who is the blonde? Frankly, at the risk of admitting my ignorance here… I am thoroughly unsure if she is someone specific, perhaps some political scandal chick, vs. a generic representation of free-wheelin’ Western (or at least rumored and depicted as such) feminine sexuality and bodaciousness. I just don’t know. I’m simply not sure. I’m sitting here thoughtfully considering it… and I’m still not certain. If I walked past this image on the newsstand, it would register quickly and with no small amount of blurred uncertainty. Just what is the New Yorker trying to tell me? What is their position? What are they promoting, supporting, criticizing? WHAT IS THE MESSAGE?

I’m left in my intellectual wonderland. And perhaps so are you. As is the rest of the world, because this is a globally published image. I found it in about 3 seconds with the help of Google.

The point, dear consumers-of-good-design is this: When text and images are not handled intelligently (no matter the intelligence of either or both), responsibly, hierarchically and with regard for BASIC principles of graphic design… it can be, and sometimes is, a very dangerous thing.

Finally, way down here at the bottom of my post, is the catalyzing subject of this rant. It would be more like me to place this image top, front, and center on the FourthWall blog because it would get your attention more than the TNY logo will… but guess what? Unless you had more context than even my title suggests, THAT would be graphically irresponsible, creating an instant blur of meaning and message, wide open for (mis)interpretation. What is designfarm saying? Isn’t Jodi a liberal? Why is she furthering the storm over that terrible image? Doesn’t she want Obama to win? YES, she does.

So, while I do love seeing Michelle in a big bad afro, it’s funny and cute, and I’m all about ‘fro’s these days… I just don’t think this is funny. It’s certainly not responsible, politically or editorially. It’s bad design, and it’s dangerous. Because when people walk by the newstands, they have no reason NOT to think that even good old liberal TNY magazine recognizes that Barak Obama MAY JUST BE A MUSLIM FUNDAMENTALIST, and his bigmouth sassy wife is PROBABLY A TERRORIST.

Why?

The answer is simple, but let’s push the point, just in case. A POWERFUL, COMPLEX IMAGE WITH NO CAPTION. NO WORDS. NO INFORMATION HIERARCHY.

Now, let’s open every designer’s friend, PhotoShop, just for fun, adding the cover image’s title, where, of course, it belongs. Let’s forget about fonts, placement, and other surface matters that we designers do care about but since this isn’t a real project, let’s just stick the title/caption on there, with a hierarchy that MAKES CERTAIN everyone “gets” it.

I think my point is clear, if ugly. And ugly is better than confusing, any day. The New Yorker, of course, was commenting on the fear generated by rampant rumor-mongering about Barack Obama, and his wife. They stand by their decision and are not apologizing. But they should. Don’t get me wrong, bad design is forgivable, no apology necessary…. when it’s toilet paper packaging, or toothpaste, and in many other contexts. Not this one.

The New Yorker made a big mistake in assuming that the 1 million people they allege as viewers of the magazine every week bring a level of context and understanding to their presentation of information, to their graphic design and editorial. Well, we don’t. Not those of us who are actually thinking about the barrage of images coming at us a mile a minute every minute of every day, and certainly not those of us who are less attuned.

MEMO TO THE NEW YORKER: WHAT WERE YOU THINKING when publishing potent, challenging, multi-level, complex ironic satiric visuals without accompanying text in a purposeful and clear information hierarchy?

OR, ARE YOU THINKING AT ALL?

And, if not, why not?

4.11.08 Pixelated Camo

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If you were asked to describe the in military operations; as shown in the image below. We see this alot at the metro station here at our Takoma office, which is also located near Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

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Obviously, using camouflage in war has been adopted from nature to simply hide soldiers and their equipment from the enemy. The elements that distinguish camouflage in clothing are color and pattern designed to match the surrounding environment; just like the frog and spider pictured above. Camoflauge tricks the brain and our perception into connecting the lines of printed shapes with the lines of the matching environment; trees, ground, leaves, shadows, dessert or snow.

In the last 100 years the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) has only been redesigned a small number of times. 2004 brought a significant change when military camouflage design turned from the organic shapes of the past toward a digitized (pixelated) patterning.

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Why did the shapes change and what does this pattern resemble?

As a designer, I work with these little shapes called PIXELS every day. Pixels are the tiny, impercetible (to the naked eye) squares that make up pictures on a computer screen. The more pixels the in the display, the finer the detail that can be rendered. Pixel is short for Picture Element, a single point in a graphic image.

Today, pixels make up the digital camouflage pattern which is bit-mapped on a computer and printed onto the clothing. Modern warfare has become more prevalent in dessert and urban settings so the color black–which disrupts the camouflage and is not found in these environments–has been removed. The resulting pattern is more blurry and muted, as well as highly effective.

Below are some additional examples of pixels in use that date as far back as the 5th Century and into the modern day:

1. 5th Century Mosaics depict an ancient use of the pixel concept.

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2. A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (1884) by George Seurat using a technique called Pointillism. Detail is pictured on the right.

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3. 1980’s video games (Atari)

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4. Fine artist, Chuck Close uses a similar inspiration and technique in the painting Lucas (1986–1987)

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5. Digital images that are made of pixels. The picture to the right is an extreme close-up of the area highlighted by the red box on the Emerge cover design.

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Pay close attention to the pixelation concept, technique and patterning and feel free to send in examples that you find in your surrounding environment.

3.26.08 Yellow!

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Most of us have a complex, possibly even difficult, relationship to the color yellow. Graphically speaking, yellow is cautionary, a loud warning. Police line, DO NOT CROSS! And, here on the residential streets of Takoma Park, SLOW that oversized SUV Hybrid DOWN! Or lose your transmission. Did you know, there is a difference between a Speed Hump and a Speed Bump?

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In our gardens, yellow is often an ugly unwanted weed, pictured above and conspiring to go to seed in order to multiply as April’s winds blow. Personally, I find it hard not to love a thing with a name like Dandylion. And, isn’t a weed just a misplaced plant? Once, my acupuncturist had Molly and I pick and boil bushels of the dandylion weed/plant to concoct an ancient Chinese skin salve. One woman’s weed… well, you get the point.

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Regardless, let’s assume you are happier with a more delicate, purposeful yellow. Ruffly Narcissus (that’s daffodils to you non-gardners) are plentiful at the moment. In fact, the Royal Horticultural Society International Daffodil Register lists more than 26,400 named daffodils! Who knew?

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I am obsessed and in love with yellow right now. Yellow scares me and pushes me away, but also, it’s seductive and appealing with its super-saturated, bright ‘n sunny, how-can-you-hate-me disposition. Yellow won’t be ignored. Yellow wants to cheer me up, no matter what. Throw in a little sugary pink and a touch of black or gray to hold it all down… and whoa, I am undone.

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Most of us were told one of two things regarding wearing yellow:

A. Never, EVER wear yellow, it will make your (likely Asian or caucasian skin) look sallow.

B. Yellow really sets off your beautiful (likely brown) skin.

Despite falling solidly into Category A, I purchased the above pictured cutie jacket at Target this spring. I don’t care if I look terrible in it; it makes me feel so happy, so au courrant.

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Surprisingly (or not) often the three of us here at designfarm come to work, from separate locations miles apart in the tri-state area, dressed as if for a color-coordinated photo shoot. I can assure you, no memo was issued. But today, we are all wearing yellow, pink and black.

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The photo above–the only photo in this post not taken during my lunch hour today–was the last photo in my iphoto library before I uploaded Speed Hump, Narcissus, Jodi, Jess, and Sarah in our spring fashions, etc. for this essay… a delicious ring I designed this week, using unbelievably irresistable miniature cakes handmade in China. Art imitates life. And life this month is in yellow and pink.

3.17.08 Colors of Takoma Park

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Finding inspiration is a part of my daily life as a designer… and color choices are an element that I make decisions about every day. The colors above have been collected and inspired by the homes in the neighborhood of Takoma Park where designfarm is located. My co-worker and I often take walks up and down the steep hills of eclectic, historic Takoma park where I can be inspired after just 15 minutes.

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How simple! Who would think that a color chosen for the exterior of a home might inspire a designer like me, possibly influencing the colors I use in projects. With spring and summer right around the corner, I am excited to see how these colors will apply to my work. It’s great to have an unconventional way to find inspiration for color simply by looking closely at my environment. Color palettes appear in nature, while shopping, at home, in a favorite painting, while traveling, through historical trends, or even in my case—outside the office door. It’s fascinating to simply take the time to reflect on what I’m seeing and how it makes me feel.

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Try thinking like a designer. Take a walk in your neighborhood…snap some photos of the surrounding environment with a particular focus on color palettes from houses, buildings, gardens, and trees. Notice how certain colors in nature can especially enhance the beauty and contrast of one another. Go shopping… retail stores are always up on the latest color trends in fashion and interior design. When travelling… note colors from other cultures, even just up the street in Chinatown or on a short weekend trip to another city.

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Looking for color might just inspire you when you buy your next outfit or pair of leggings, when you get a tattoo, decorate a room, choose colors for your wedding, or even when painting the exterior of your home. In turn, you could inspire someone simply by the colors you choose, as my Takoma neighbors have inspired me.

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