Movie palettes: Fantastic Mr Fox

Around the holiday season, families flock to the movie theaters. Whether it's bad weather that drives them indoors, or restless children on winter break looking for something to do, holiday movies are always a big hit. I'm always interested in the latest 'kid flick', and being a big Roald Dahl fan, I was intrigued by the film adaptation of his book, The Fantastic Mr. Fox.
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After hearing an interview on NPR, I hot-footed it to the theater the other day to see the movie for myself.
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Directed and co-written by Wes Anderson, the movie is created with stop-motion animation. Miniature models are posed and photographed, one tiny movement at a time. Then those still images are played back, like an old-fashioned flip book, to create the movement.
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There's just something so precious about miniatures, you know?
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In the interview on NPR, Wes is questioned about his distinct palette choice for the movie. Autumnal colors in yellows, golds and oranges dominate the sets, particularly at the beginning.
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When researching for this movie, Anderson traveled to Great Missenden, England to visit Dahl's 'Gypsy House', where the story is set and Dahl wrote the book. It was autumn time, and everything was muddy. Anderson left feeling like this should be the setting for the movie, but that maybe it wasn't going to be a very colorful place. No rolling green hills, etc.
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But the beauty of stop motion films such as this is that the creators have complete control over the world they create. Anderson soon discovered,
"With a movie like this, if you make a decision like that, well, we're not going to have any green. We're not even going to have a blue sky. We're going to have the skies be pink. Because you have so much control, really... there's literally nothing that's green. There's nothing that's blue...
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Anderson elaborates,
"the grass is made of yellow towels, essentially. So suddenly, it really does take a jump from reality... You quickly sort of adjust to it. Your eye just accepts this sort of 'palette of the world'."
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Want to see more? Here's the movie trailer.

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Anyone seen the movie? Let's discuss!

A solution to cubicle farms

Everyone knows people function better and are happier in supportive environments. If you're stuck in the gray compartment of a cubicle for 8+ hours a day, it can wear on you.
This brings to mind Madonna's "Material Girl", set to new words:
'cause we are living in a cubicle world,
but I am not a cubicle girl
You know that we are living in a cubicle world,
but I am not a cubicle girl
There have been some creative solutions to breaking out of the nightmarish zone called the rat maze. One I haven't seen before was created with cool laser cut forms for desks, partitions, doors, you name it. Who is behind this? Because We Can, based in my hometown of Oakland, CA, is a sustainable interior design & custom furniture firm. Design-build is cool because everything is built to spec, so no waste!
While a gray sea of cubicles might be acceptable for some companies, Cryptic Studios, a gaming design company, knew their creative team needed something more inspiring than your standard "cube farm". The theme for the cube walls is 'Cities of the Future'. As you know, we creatives don't function too well in gray boxes.

Each area is its own city, and its own color.
Color coding the cube areas enable staff to easily find each other.
They even have hanging space ships and such to tie into the overall theme.
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And of course, it wouldn't be California without our Golden Gate bridge and a giant sea monster! Just peeking beyond these colorful dividers, you can see sadly unadorned cubicles.

Which desk would you rather sit in?

Latest Stir article- the low down on online design

My latest Stir article just went live, and it's featuring several color and design experts we know and admire. If you don't know about them, it's high time you did!
Thanks to Maria Killam, Barbara Jacobs, Kelly Berg, Jennifer Mitchell, and Lori Sawaya for taking the time to share their insights and opinions on virtual design.
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The Pros and Cons of Online Design
Can online design really deliver the same kind of professionally designed rooms clients get via hands-on design?
E-decorating is all the rage these days. In tough economic times, homeowners are getting creative to make their money stretch farther. The popularity of home decorating shows, design blogs and home design magazines has propelled interior design from an exclusive perk, once available only to the wealthy, to an accessible service for just about anyone. Armed with a sense of empowerment, and tightened purse strings, homeowners are seeking alternatives to in-home design services. So, is online design an opportunity ripe for the picking, or a potential waste of time and money? Continue reading
What do you think of online design? Thumbs up or down?

An Exclusive Peek into the Secrets of Jellyfish

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has an amazing exhibit on jellyfish in their permanent exhibit space. The colors of these creatures against the bright blue tanks is Incredible if you have the chance to see it in person.More than anything, I am blown away by the exhibit design itself. Here we have basically translucent creatures- so how do you display that?

I had the opportunity to speak with the exhibits coordinator who was in charge of this tremendous endeavor, Randy Hamilton. "New Wing Exhibits Coordinator" was his title during this project, a hybrid position between husbandry of animals and husbandry of exhibits.

In order to really appreciate the magnitude of this display, you need a little background crash course on jellyfish exhibits. Let's go!
The original look and feel of the displays was intended to simulate what a scuba diver would see 60 meters off the coast, 60 feet under the water. This feeling of "open blue" would have no sides, no bottom, and no rock pinnacles. Just suspended animation in a vast field of blue. Selected from a ring of acrylic sample colors, there were 3 to 4 blues to chose from. The blue that most closely emulated the color of the ocean at the desired depth was specified.

To achieve this illusion of nothingness, the tanks are much larger than they appear, disappearing out of the peripherals. The tank may be 20 feet, but the opening to viewers is only 16 feet. But how about this: the back of the tank is actually less than 12 inches away from viewers!

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When the Monterey Bay Aquarium first undertook the challenge of a jellyfish exhibit, there were huge limitations on the size tank they could design. But the desired blue acrylic panels were only available in 6'x6' transparent sheets. For smaller tanks, this would be fine, as the designers simply glued white opaque acrylic behind the sheets to create an opaque look. And in other large tanks, panels could be butt-welded end-to-end to create enormous windows. But for the jellyfish exhibit, the designers could have no visible seams- it had to be optically-exact. They had to up the ante. After several years of R&D, Nippura of Japan came up with a new patent to accomplish the desired size acrylic panels.

20 years ago, there were no jellies in tanks anywhere. Jellyfish are 99% water, so in order to keep the tanks filtered, and the animals fed (they eat tiny particles of food all day long that can cloud the water), scientists had to come up with a solution that wouldn't destroy these delicate creatures as clean water was pumped in and dirty water sucked out through filters. The first solution to this dilemma was developed in Germany. The Kreisel tank design utilized laminar flow, the concept of circular flow to support and suspend the jellies. Water flows across the filter to blow the jellies away from the screens to keep them from getting sucked in. This is critical for suspended animation, as well as for keeping the water looking clear for viewing. Murky water isn't pretty.

Fluorescent lights are used to light the tanks, positioned up high to emulate sunlight from the top of the water. Additionally, tanks are back-lit with fluorescents to highlight the blue tint of the tank background. Side lighting is used to light the animals themselves. The light illuminates the natural color of the jellies; no colored gells are used.

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In order to continue the vision of the limitless ocean, all displays were rounded with organic shapes. An architectural feat, and an engineering nightmare, according to Hamilton. While viewers won't necessarily -see- the curving dark walls of the exhibit, (helping the tanks take center stage) the subtleties of the exhibit are of course experienced by all.

An amazing exhibit, my many thanks to Randy Hamilton for taking the time to explain this to me so I could share it with you!

all other images taken by me

Stop the spread of recipes

Shame on Psychology Today for perpetuating cookie cutter recipes for color.
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Color colleague Kelly just wrote a hilarious rant about the sidebar of note on her blog, Arte Styling. Check it out!

Mid Century icon gets a colorful makeover

George Nelson’s bubble pendant lamps are icons of Mid Century Modernism.

Constructed of a steel wire frame and covered with translucent plastic, emiting a soft light, these lamps have been manufactured in white since their inception in 1947. Just white.

Until now.Now, buyers can chose from the newly available yellow "Cigar" or blue "saucer".

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Oh happy day!

via source- thanks

Design dilemma- How To Showcase Artwork

Ta da- it's a new Design Dilemma! You might remember Rachael from her home gym dilemma last year. She was so pleased with the results she got from Hue and reader suggestions, that she's come back for help with her home office and client meeting area. So designers, get ready to roll up your sleeves, because your help is greatly needed to pull this space together.

Here's the scoop:

Rachael is a professional photographer. Her in-home office/client meeting area is in great need of a paint job before her new furniture arrives.

Here's what her space looks like now. A blank canvas, waiting for an infusion of her personality.In terms of light, the room's windows face north, so there is never any direct sunlight coming through them. The existing yellow color is a bit too dark for her taste, as the room isn't generally very bright.
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It's not the biggest space, but it has loads of potential
This is the new office furniture that is arriving any day now.

And the new desk will go right here. Look how organized she is- floor plan and everything! Here's how the new office will be arranged. The two walls above the new corner desk will feature a large display of her photography, both gallery wrapped canvases and framed prints.

As this space also functions as a client meeting space, it's super important that the atmosphere of the room reflect the character and aesthetics of the photography Rachael sells. The work should be showcased in this space. She describes her work as,
"fresh, fun and candid. That's exactly the feeling I want people to get when they come meet with me. My work is colorful, honest and full of personality...

When a client walks into my room, I want them to see a space that is modern, clean and airy while still comfortable and relaxed. The room should feel light and open. I want clients to know they aren't getting the same old stale, posed, traditional photography."
Here are some images Rachael provided for inspiration from 2 other photographers' studios she liked:
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Maybe a bit sterile for the warmth of Rachael's photos?
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I love the blush-colored walls in this studio- it really brings out a sense of intimacy and tenderness from the photos, don't you think? Paired with the chocolate brown furnishings, the dark color grounds the space and keeps it from being too "sweet".

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More rooms she likes. Rachael likes the idea of doing something in the blue/gray/lime green range. Her preference is to have some fun with the walls, injecting them with life and color. I personally like the 1st image in the second row down, as it seems more friendly and inviting to me; more in keeping with Rachael's photography aesthetics.

rugs: source, zebra chair: source, leather chair, couch: source
Alternatively, she is considering a safe, nice cream color, bringing in color with patterned chairs, a fun rug and colorful curtains. Here are some pieces she is considering as options.

But what do I think? The most important thing to consider here is setting a mood, creating a branded "look" for the art and services being sold.

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I'm certainly not suggesting this for Rachael, but think this makes an excellent example of creating a mood. By taking inspiration from the art piece above the desk, the furniture, textiles, accessories, and color palette all reinforce that "look". Rachael needs that for her office/meeting space. Gotta have the cute little designer dog, of course.

Since the photography to be showcased is quite colorful on it's own, I would not opt for injecting too much of a competing color into the space. A strong color might over-power the work. With that said, I've seen some amazing museum exhibits where the underlying color of a body of work is brought out in the wall colors. Here's an article I wrote about how museum exhibition designers maximize color.
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Take this example from a room at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. That color works beautifully, don't you think?

So where do we go from here? I'd like to enlist the help of you designerly- readers to weigh in, so start thinking of your own solutions... Here's the overall color impression from Rachael's grouping of photos: very warm and earthy. My first reaction is to bring in a more arts and crafts style feeling- harking back to a simpler time of strong family values and pride in your craft. After all, her main subject matter does focus on family bonds...
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Within the umbrella of Arts and Crafts, there are many subcategories to chose from: Mission, Craftsman, Stickley, Quaint, Handcraft, Greene & Greene, Prairie Style, Roycroft...but you don't have to be a purist. Mix things up a bit with pieces from different eras. The objective is to be inviting.

I see wood furniture, big colorful throw pillows...
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...a cozy woven rug, and warm-toned walls (maybe pick one color from the rugs above). I'm not pushing for stuffy, or stale, but the overall feeling that is evoked in the art. It's the whole package- art reflected in the space, in the color of the walls, the furniture, and accessories.
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If one doesn't reflect the other, a strong brand impression opportunity is sadly lost.

But what do you guys see? Please share your ideas!

Rachel Perls, Bay Area color expert; Interviewed at Colour Me Happy

Thanks so much to Maria for interviewing me for her blog Colour Me Happy. I'm honored!
For new readers just coming here for the first time- welcome everyone!

How we see color

What do you think of this statement?
"Remember this: that the light that falls on to your eye, sensory information, is meaningless. Because it could mean literally anything."
Intrigued? Check out: Optical Illusions Show How We See, a talk by Beau Lotto recorded at TED this past July in Oxford, England.

Finally, a comprehensive argument for the context of light, color, and our perception. Need more? A snippet from Beau's talk:
"nearly every living system has evolved the ability to detect light in one way or another. So, for us, seeing color is one of the simplest things the brain does. And yet, even at this most fundamental level, context is everything. What I want to talk about is not that context is everything, but why is context everything. Because it's answering that question that tells us not only why we see what we do, but who we are as individuals, and who we are as a society."
Fascinating stuff...

Thanks to reader, color consultant and fellow IACC'er Catherine Stein for this tip!

Oakland/Berkeley color consultant investigates: Sleeping with color

Heading to Paris and need a place to stay? Perhaps the Color Design Hotel is your cup of tea.
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I love this review of the hotel
"It’s perhaps a bit ironic, unless you’re quite up to speed on additive color theory, that the first impression of a place called Color Design Hôtel should be predominantly white. But as a palate (or palette) cleanser, white is the obvious choice — and as a contrast to the relatively gritty Bastille, one of Paris’s up-and-coming neighborhoods, the hotel’s stark minimalism is certainly striking."
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Created by Jean-Marc Galabert, one of Paris' major hoteliers and designed by Carole Picard, each of the 4 floors upstairs is imbued with a single color theme: red, blue, purple, or green.
If you know French, there is an interview with the designer as she takes us through each space. I'd love for someone to translate for us, if they can!
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It feels a bit gimmicky to me. While I appreciate the use of color against a stark white background, the lack of balance turns my stomach as I try to imagine myself locked up in one of these rooms for an overnight stay. My lasting impression is one of inbalance.

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Luckily, the carpets and beds were left in gray to temper the vivid colors injected in each room.

What do you think? Would you stay here and enjoy it?