Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Purpose of Color: The Batel Centre of Cartagena

The Batel is the auditorium and convention centre of Cartagena, a small city of around 200,000 people on the Mediterranean coast in the Murcia region of Spain. Designed by architects José Selgas and Lucía Cano, the centre is a fantastic example of textural color outside and functional color inside.

The city of Cartagena is rich with the traditions of sea based trade, a port town dating back  to around 200 BC. The architects used our spherical coordinate system of longitude to inspire the look and layout of the center and focused on color to bring out the linear threads of the building. Not shy about its industrial neighbors you can see the shipping cranes peeking out from behind the buildings brightly striped exterior.

Much of the exterior is covered with striped and slatted multicolor siding along with two undulating translucent facades made from ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, a type of plastic of great resistance to heat, corrosion and UV) which instead of being painted after the fact is dyed during extrusion with neon pigment. But the real eye for color continues to entice once you venture inside.

The Batel is interesting not just for its cultural sensitivity to its surroundings, liner inspiration, or colorful exterior, but because the interiors use color in very specific and well thought out ways. The architects took into account the myriad of ways, and kinds of events, these types of convention centers produce  and designed various halls to accommodate the desired mood or atmosphere for different types of events. Having a relaxing but interesting talk on the application of quantum computers? Try Hall A, one of the complexes auditoriums, nestled just blow sea level and paneled in deep blue polycarbonate to keep the space, used for everything from heated discussions, lectures to music performances and poetry slams, feeling relaxing and harmonious. But perhaps after the lecture you need to get your scientists moving, inter mingling, sharing ideas?  Then move over to Hall B, designed with airy ceilings and warm colors  which suggest a stimulating  experience in an inviting atmosphere.  The Batel uses color not only to delineate different spaces but to activate a similar mind set in a diverse and disparate crowd of people.

All images via Javier1949

Monday, August 19, 2013

How Paul Rand and IBM fathered Apple and the Beautiful Computer

This week at Colour Studio we wanted to introduce you to Paul Rand, an American graphic designer who brought computers and the companies that make them out of the bland realm of corporate design and began the slow process of personalization and brand loyalty we see today with companies like Apple.

He worked with a slew of well known clients including ABC, Ford, Yale University, UPS and IDEO.   The one relationship that came to define his career was his long time work for IBM. Paul Rand not only changed how we see  multinational corporations but  also demonstrated  how a designer can  effect the entire public personality of a client and even an industry.

He convinced IBM that design and the way the audience interacts with your product is just as important as the quality and usefulness of the product itself. This seems like common sense to many designers and companies today but there was a time when the visual stamp of a company was valued little when compared with its grander reputation. With the launch of his first IBM logo in 1956 Rand created not just a 'identity' for potential customers  to relate to, but launched a design ethos that echos to this day.

IBM logo, 1956
IBM logo, 13 bar variation
To modern eyes these original logos may feel  simplistic or dated but  they were designed when bold brand definition was in its infancy. The striped logo  has come to be synonymous with IBM and uses the simplicity of blue and white to convey the companies relationship to information.  Pixelated individual parts were constructed to form a visual whole. Rand set the viewers  emotional response to the logo by introducing that clear effortless blue, a color long associated with dependability and credible practices. 

The logo then began to insinuate itself into the package design, pamphlets, posters, and even annual reports. It helped ground the companies design footprint while still allowing Rand the opportunity to change the colors,  spacing or striping based on the logos context. It was precisely because of its simplicity that the logo was so versatile for use in any design setting.   Clear enough to carry the weight of the brand even when the color spacing and orientation of the letters changed. This image shows a set of package design from back when people actually bought things like typewriter ribbon. The design builds on the companies standard logo but also creates an eye catching and visually new interpretation of the logo itself. 

But by now you might be asking what does any of this have to do with Apple.  Rand and his IBM logo were the historical context which  inspired Apple in development of their brand.   Apple took Rand's design principles and used them not only in their own logo design but also in the design of their physical products.  The apple missing a bite  become  an idea as well as a design.   This was Rand's lasting legacy. It's the idea that matters. The apple can change size or shape, the IBM letters can move around or change or color but the residue of the identity remain.



Even with  brand identity soaked into what is essentially merely a shape, its no coincidence that IBM and Apple's logos most commonly appear in blue and grey, strong and dependable. Those  colors are  associated with reliability in business,   and you can observe those two popular colors in the business suits roaming the halls of offices everywhere. The history of design is littered with  examples of the long lasting effects of Paul Rand's influence. His ideas changed the world. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Humanæ: The Skin Color Index

Humanæ is an ongoing photography project, a "chromatic inventory" to be specific, attempting to use an external color system, namely PANTONE®, to index the spectrum of human skin colors. The project, created by Angelica Dass of Rio de Janeiro, uses color as a "bridge between masks and identities."

In an attempt to subvert our typical skin color classifications Dass reached for the external framework of PANTONE® Guides, one of the major classification systems for color in the world. The system differentiates colors not with nice sounding names but by a consistent alphanumeric code which allows them to be reproduced reliablly in both the material world as well as in digital formats. The system has become such a standard-bearer for the industry it is often called real color. 

Much like a natural history museum strives to maintain a thorough collection of life on Earth, a frankly impossible task if you think about it, Humanæ's goal is a complete index of all possible human skin tones. By indexing the faces of humanity, not with our complex system of moral codes, national borders, and historically unjust racial divides, the project attempts to reveal the spectrum instead of the classification of skin colors.

The color chosen for each volunteer is taken from an 11 x 11 pixel segment of their face and a background is dyed that exact color. But the photographs do more to illicit the color association than simply matching the face and the background color. The series eliminates the external contexts of height, build, and fashion choice. 

The project ignores race classifications such as Asian, Caucasian, American Indian, African American or Other labels which wars have been fought over, and replaces them with the impersonal 71-4 C or 7522 C. Strife and disconnection long associated with skin color is being neutralized by the use of present technology to forge ahead on equal footing, creating an future free from racial divides and privileges. The series challenges the viewer to create an identity independent from "nationality, origin, economic status, age or aesthetic standards." Who knew color could be so integral to how we know our selves and how we know others. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Portraits of Color: Sara Cwynar

Here at Colour Studio we are interested in people who are interested in color and while we often profile icons, long in the field, we also wanted to introduce you  to a younger individual with new and sophisticated ideas about color. Sara Cwynar is an artist and designer, originally from Vancouver, but now working out of New York, who takes photographs of stuff. Sounds really specific right? But its true. Her work focuses on the collection and visual organization of what might other wise be see as junk: photographs, shopping bags, coffee cups, animal skulls, curlers, fake flowers, rubber gloves, cleaning supplies, food, books, plants, empty soda cans, and plastic spoons.

Much of her work focuses on piles and spills, the accidental curation of objects and colors inherent in any type of collection from hoarding to arranging flowers.   In a recent series titled 'Color Studies' Sara took her magpie instincts a step farther and organized her chaos by color themes:  grey, pink, red, blue, green and yellow. On the surface each image is just a small landscape of assorted stuff of an arbitrary color but the longer you look the more the images become sun bleached collections of the leftovers of day modern life. Mostly faded, the colors and the objects look lost in time, a bottle of orange juice hopefully bought yesterday next to rollers not seen at the dollar store for twenty years.

Essentially shrines to color, these photographs are not just the technical composure of color fields but also the cultural feedback loop inherent in our experience of color. Our specific associations with color are feed by what objects in our surroundings are available in those colors.   In turn,  our decisions to acquire certain objects in specific colors makes those connections stronger over time. Each image exists as a portrait of our color choices and associations not as individuals but as a collective consumer culture.

This  blue photograph illustrates the blue we encounter in everyday life. Not just the paint chip or color swatch but blue in the wilds of our object filled world. Want to see more of Sara's work? Visit her site here and leave us a comment about how you observe color in your world or tell us about an artist who has changed how you see color!