Mini Design Lesson II: Color

There has been a tremendous amount of research on how color affects human beings and some of this research suggests that men and women may respond to colors differently. Color effects us emotionally, with different colors evoking different emotions. In short color has the capacity to effect the human nervous system.

Color Vocabulary:

  • Hue: refers to the names of the primary colors, red, green and blue.
  • Value: lightness and darkness of the color - the amount of white or black added.
  • Intensity: the purity or saturation of the color
  • Monochromatic color: use of one color where only the value of the color changes
  • Analogous colors: colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel, e.g. yellow and green

Analogous colors next to each other on the color wheel "get along" and are referred to as being harmonious. Analogous colors are often used in visual design and have a soothing affect.

Complementary colors: colors opposite to each other on the color wheel, e.g. Blue-violet and yellow, represent colors positioned across from each other on the color wheel. Complimentary colors exhibit more contrast when positioned adjacent to each other -for example yellow appears more intense when positioned on or beside blue or violet (see picture below).

In the photograph above - green and yellow are analogous colors that harmonize where as the violet color of the shooting stars appears more intense against a complementary colored background.

Warm colors include: yellows, red and orange we associate these with blood, sun and fire.

Cool colors include: violet, blue and green because of our association with snow and ice.


Activity: Record the Colors Around You

As you are out and about this season, note the colors around you and how they make you feel. What colors are you most drawn to? Which ones repel you? What types of color combinations do you like? Are the Analagous? Complimentary? Cool? Warm?

Do you find these colors in your wardrobe? in your house? If not, why?

Color Harmony: Layout: More than 800 Color Ways for Layouts That Work
bookad Selecting the right color palette for any design project, whether personal or commercial, can make all the difference in getting it right. Colors set the tone for visual communication and are essential elements in effective information navigation. Unfortunately however, for most people, even many trained designers, choosing color is not an easy process, but with a little bit of science and a color advice, anyone can make the right choice. Color Harmony: Layout takes 23 descriptive adjectives and shows 10 different layouts (letterhead, poster, book jacket, brochure, newsletter etc.) in three color combinations for each adjective. The result is 1,035 color/layout variations illustrating how colors are used to great effect in design.

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Mini Design Lesson I: The Rule of Thirds

If you've ever taken a photo class, you've probably heard of "the rule of thirds." If you haven't, it's a fairly simple concept & one that makes your compositions instantly more interesting and appealing. It works with photography, design, landscaping, etc. (Designers might be familiar with "the Golden Mean" - of which, the rule of thirds is a simpler variation).

The basic idea is, instead of plopping something right in the middle of your page (lawn, photo, wall, etc), divide your space into thirds and use that as a guide to place your image (shrub, pictures, subject).

Usually, photographers will place an imaginary grid over their image and adjust it so that the focal point isn't dead center. You can apply the same principles to any design aspect.

The Golden Mean is a slightly more complex version of this rule, in which your design space is divided through a mathematical ratio - causing each space to be smaller than the next.

Generally, what you'll find out is that if you pay attention to what type of design or layout "feels" the best, it will most likely align with the Golden Mean.

Here is a good tutorial on the Rule of Thirds and the Golden Mean.

Activity: Look for the Design Layouts That You Like
As your reading through magazines, shopping, or surfing the net, look for packaging or web designs that catch your eye, and ask yourself why you were attracted to that design. Is it the layout? The color scheme? The pictures? etc.

The more you understand about your own aesthetic preferences, the better you'll be able to incorporate those aspects into your life.

Layout Workbook: A Real-World Guide to Building Pages in Graphic Design
bookad Cullen approaches layout with this comprehensive guide that begins with a series of step-by-step fundamental chapters (a "how-to" of layout) addressing topics such as Inspiration, The Process of Design, Choosing Type, Structure and Spatial Organization, Establishing Hierarchy, and Communicating Messages. Following this thorough and instructive section is a diverse collection of visual case studies showcasing some of the best of layout design; inspirational quotations; and a unique, progressive book design that is truly reflective of the content.

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I've been searching for Christmas gift ideas that, considering my budget, cost little to nothing to make. In my searching I keep coming across stories of people in third world countries that are creating amazing art objects out of trash. If they can envision and create these haut couture items out of nothing more than refuse, why is it that we have such a hard time in this country finding our creative sense? Or is it that we will only see trash as creative potential if our financial status reaches that of a third world citizen?

Items to experience (click on images for more information):

Basura Bags from Honduras

Coin Purses from the Philippines

Vietnamese Paper Vase


3 Things

Mohandas Gandhi once said, "There is more to life than increasing its speed."

In a world where we are finding new ways to multi-task and plug in, I would suggest that perhaps we take a moment (just one moment) to step back, take a deep breath, and look around.

Actually, this might be a good time to make your own personal list of the 3 important things to remember.

Have you ever seen the movie City Slickers? There's a scene that I just love: Curly (the gruff & tumble trail boss) asks Billy Crystal's character, Mitch (the City Slicker):
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger]
Curly: This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the "one thing?"
Curly: [smiles] That's what *you* have to find out.

Your 3 things are just that, yours. These are the things that you live your life for, the things that make your world beautiful & wonderful.

I would suggest that you keep this list in your pocket & when your life is getting rather hectic, take a step back, inhale deeply, find your list & read it - slowly. Once you've read it, take a look around. Is what you're doing enhancing the list? If it's not, maybe you should rethink what you are doing.


Good Neighbors

I suppose "good" is a relative term - but how would you define a good neighbor?

On our street, I feel confident in distilling the characteristics down to two types of neighbors: The kind who can't be bothered (because they already have enough going on in their lives - for which, I reserve no judgment), and the kind who will drag you out to watch a spectacular sunset (because it's spectacular). Our next door neighbors are of the latter breed. They are the type of people who you immediately like (for reasons unknown to you) - friendly and welcoming, with big big hearts. And this week, they lost a sister to suicide.

My heart swells for them. We brought them loaves of bread (such a seemingly small gesture in the face of such big circumstances), and through the pain, frustration, and anger you can still see the love & appreciation in their faces.

How unfortunate that neighbors like these are so few and far between, and more unfortunate still that this particular set has to face such difficulties.

A few years ago I had a friend who always ended her answering machine message with "be good to yourself" - I would extend this gesture to you, and suggest that your neighbors are worth such goodness as well.


The Orginizational Gene

Photo by jazzmasterson.

I'm convinced this is genetic.

Somewhere between the anality of Martha Stewart's labeled shoe boxes, jars of ribbon, and wallpapered cannisters, and the chaos of Oscar the Grouch's trash can lies my study.

I say this is genetic because this is very reminiscent of my mother's workspace, as well as my grandmother's workspace. (My dad's study, on the other hand, is pristine in comparison - why couldn't I get THAT gene?).

In attempts to organize, I've turned my closet into storage space, removing the hanging rod & replacing it with six foot long bracketed shelves and still I have clutter spilling out into the room. I have a work desk whose surface I've not seen in months, and art supplies that haven't seen the light of day since we moved last. At this juncture I have a handy half-moon path around my desk - leading from the door to my desk chair. All the rest of the floor space is filled with four foot high boxes of stacked clutter.

I look at magazine spreads that show artist's studios & am in awe. They always seem to have the perfect storage solutions: the old card catalogues from libraries gone by, the flat storage found at some flea market for a steal, book shelves built of old dresser drawers.... Yet whenever I go to the flea markets & thrift stores, all I find are rotted out partical board shelves and cheap plastic crates that wouldn't even hold a milk carton.

In my frustration, I draw out plans for the perfect storage solutions. My sketchbook is full of schematics for computer desks, mobile art desks, paper & tool storage, even hidden shelving units. It's my own little (organized) world & I disappear into it on occassion.

What would your organized world look like? Where do you disappear to when daydreaming or imagining your room | house | garden | office | etc?


Holiday Booklist

If you're looking for good gift-giving books this holiday season, here are some ideas

click on the image or the link for more information:

Visual Chronicles: The No-Fear Guide to Creating Art Journals, Creative Manifestos and Altered Books
bookad Art journaling is fun, cathartic and EASY. Each chapter of Visual Chronicles quiets common fears such as "Nothing happens in my life." or "I'm just not artistic." with projects such as the "My Day Unfolds Journal", and "Experiments with Composition." Inside, you'll learn that journaling doesn't take big chunks of time--just bits and pieces here and there, whenever the spirit strikes. "Get Going" exercises offer instant ideas such as listening to the conversations you have with yourself or recognizing that meaningful ephemera is a part of each and every day. Soon, you'll see that inspiration awaits all around you: a midnight trip to the store, a favorite scarf, an unexpected phone call, junk email, your breakfast plate . . .

Living Out Loud
bookad Remember those childhood days spent running in your bare feet, playing make-believe, and most of all, living life with wonderment? That youthful enthusiasm and playfulness are key to discovering who you are and what you love to do. Living Out Loud is the perfect prescription for a creative jump start to your life. Included are games, projects, activities, crafts, postcards, and playful ideas that will send you off on an exciting adventure, where you'll discover inspiration around and within you.

The True and the Questions: A Journal
bookad In her books Spilling Open, Brave on the Rocks, and Messy Thrilling Life, Sabrina Ward Harrison shared her thoughts, fears, hopes, and joys through vibrantly illustrated journal entries. Her new work, The True and the Questions, invites readers to allow themselves to "spill open" and create their own illustrated journal, and leaves plenty of space for them to do so. Sabrina's gorgeous art and moving text are interspersed with thought-provoking prompts to readers, encouraging them to draw, paint, collage, and journal.

Drawing From Life: The Journal as Art
bookad Jennifer New takes readers on a spirited tour into the private worlds of journal keepers an architect, a traveler, a film director, an archeologist, a cancer patient, a songwriter, a quiltmaker, a gardener, an artist, a cyclist, and a scientist, to name just a few illustrating a broad range of journaling styles and techniques that in the end show how each of us can go about documenting our everyday lives. Excerpts from journals by such artists as Maira Kalman, Steven Holl, David Byrne, and Mike Figgis give us a peek at how creative souls observe, reflect, and explore.

ReadyMade: How to Make [Almost] Everything: A Do-It-Yourself Primer
bookad You need this book. As the stuff of life piles up and things spin out of control, we could all use a little help. These never-before-seen designs and how-tos are full of surprise and wonder. Learn how to turn everyday objects into spellbinding inventions to give away to friends or keep for yourself. Our simple self-improvement techniques will make you smarter, better-looking, and more well-adjusted.

The Architecture of Happiness
bookad With this entertaining and stimulating book, de Botton (How Proust Can Change Your Life) examines the ways architecture speaks to us, evoking associations that, if we are alive to them, can put us in touch with our true selves and influence how we conduct our lives.