Color Design Immersion on Bainbridge Island Part 1

One of the first things I learned  at my 4 days of color design immersion on Bainbridge Island Washington was that the Northwest has some of the best light for color matchingIMG_20140728_110323 in the United States. That was from our instructor [Bainbridge Island resident] and the Director of the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training, Leatrice Eiseman. Lea shared her personal stories and antidotes as she guided us through a color project, a psychology of color lecture, color combination workshop and business development logistics.

The participants were all professionals who currently use color as a business attribute or are broadening their use of color for an entrepreneurial venture including – architecture color consulting, jewelry design, internal medicine and psychology of color, interior design, color forecasting, public relations use of color, make up industry, historic use of color and wardrobe/personal style consulting and teaching. We all agreed that we love color and that there is generally a lack of color knowledge in educational curriculum.



Everyone has an opinion on color, what they like and do not like. What we  are mastering is the ability to be a color therapist – to give guidance in the use of color messaging that will build the intended image and emotional response. Accurate color messaging requires context and to gather context we need genuine curiosity and tools to create rationales for color choices. Much of what we learned we will use to formulate questions and palettes to guide color choices.

A second point of emphasis from the training was the discussion of and exposure to the color systems used world wide.  The most broadly familiar is Pantone but we also took a look at the others such as RAL & NCS.  The color wheel is eternal but the world of color choices is an ever-changing phenomenon influenced globally and by the expanding color combinations that are introduced.  We discussed sources for color inspiration ranging from magazines and movies to trade show vendors and street art.  Here are a few sources to use to stay on top of the color curve:

Magazines – Wallpaper, Wired, Dwell

Trade Shows – Maison, Milan, Milan Design Week

Brand guides – Stir by Sherwin Williams

Others: Pantone View Home + Interiors , View Color Planner


20140727_122506-1The books that have been written by Eiseman are excellent resources for color messaging, meaning, historic usage and reference.  She truly has ‘written the book’ when it comes to color. Lea shared stories from her career with Pantone and as a forecaster and color expert that make us all jealous … and yes, she created the perfect job!

The building blocks for the psychology of color including messages and meaning are in the books.  The power of discussing the colors using the lens of psychology is to first formulate thinking from some textbook terms:

Associational – that which appears in nature around us such a blue sky

Classical Conditioning -norms such as stop at a red light

Psychological Effect – embedded subconscious conditioning such as Fight/Flight, Anger, Blush

Cultural / Traditional – passed on with experience or folklore, such as colors of a flag

Spiritual / Metaphysical – suggestibility and guided imagery, atmospheric colors

Regional / Geographic – in the environment where you were raised, these can be positive or negative

Personal Reactions – rooted in childhood experiences, again these can be positive or negative

Trends – can change a persons perspective on a color, Starbucks brown

Because our visual memory uses 1st color, 2nd shapes, then numbers and words, color has the most powerful control over suggestion.  Another powerful element of suggestion is movement, and in color, Lea suggested that the impression of water [and the innate attraction to water as humans] is mimicked by sparkle & glitter which has a movement perception – drawing the eye in to any color with those features.  Specific messages associated with each color family can be found in COLOR: Messages and Meanings. This Fall I will start a blog called COLOR 52: Weekly Color Curiosities this is where I will start to share messages, trends and history of color stories that I curate or research.

More to follow… in Part 2






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