Workshops of Innovation | How does food, fashion, and landscapes inform our intelligence for design?
The studio have collectively explored three key areas of colour, through food, landscapes and fashion. This research aims to challenge our creative thinking, endorse our design philosophies and influence future innovations.
The Taste of Colour
Food can be rich, salty, sweet, sumptuous, decadent and a variety of other wonderful things. Exploring these descriptors, looking at how they make us feel and what images they generate in our subconscious, can the food we eat inform the designs we create? Take ‘zest’ for example, citrusy yellows and greens and bright, sharp, fresh tastes and smells come to mind immediately. All of this describes food of course, but can also be used to describe a space. Looking at a selection of different words we associate with food, we will realise the vast scope of interiors they can inform.
Rich | An indulgent chocolate cake, a perfectly spiced curry, a Michelin star dish that despite being small is so full of flavour you are not sure you can finish it. The word ‘rich’ in relation to food can conjure up a large range of dishes, however they all have their richness in common and when thought of in the context of an interior, make you think of warm, bold, deep colours, an inviting space that will envelop you and make you feel comfortable. The diverse flavours could suggest a patterned or heavily textured material, the space would want to feel luxurious.
Sweet | We know that sweetness also appears in savoury food but the first things that come to mind are desserts and puddings, one penny sweets from the corner shop and candyfloss from the fairground, patisserie counters and beautifully piped cupcakes. All of this comes together to create a bright and colourful space, using pastel colours and soft cosy textures to bring a sense of fun and excitement to the interior. Places influenced by the word ‘sweet’ will be a joy to spend time in.
Fresh | A layered salad hand-picked at the market stall; a bowl of mixed berries with droplets of water running from them after being rinsed under the tap. Freshness leads us to think about vibrant simplicity; spaces which feel fresh will promote a sense of rejuvenation, calm and tranquillity. The crispness of fresh food could suggest a more minimalist interior with perhaps a clinical, contemporary edge with highlights of vibrancy set against a palette of hues inspired by nature.
Earthy | Most food types can be woven into this descriptor, however, immediately root vegetables spring to mind; potatoes and carrots pulled from the ground, or fungi hand-picked in the woodlands. How these foods are sourced and their relationship with the earth inspires an interior connected to the landscape. We would expect an ‘earthy’ interior to feel at one with the outside via shared finishes from the exterior, with a warm and layered approach to evoke a sense of tranquillity inside.
The Nature of Colour
Colour is one of the most rewarding elements of the landscape, but also one that represents perhaps the greatest challenge when it comes to working on its intervention. Vision is the first sense we use to obtain a perception of space and therefore the appropriate use of colour is essential since it has a profound effect on our emotions, perceptions, and overall experiences in life. Colour is present in each element of a landscape, contributing, on the one hand, to give a particular character and on the other, to establish the chromatic synthesis of a landscape image, known as ambient colour.
From its origin the natural world presents us with a rich spectrum of colours from the warmest reds to the coolest blues, with seasonal changes creating balance and relief over time. We are aware of how colour can affect our emotions and psychological effects on our minds, but often are not able to underpin the psychology behind this.
As designers our goal is to achieve purposeful, balanced, and well-proportioned spaces, tailored to the people who inhabit them. How can our innate psychological connection with the natural world assist in informing our future design choices through colour?
Red | The colour red has been a symbol of danger and power since humans first encountered fire with modern surveys in Europe and the USA highlighting red as the colour associated with heat, activity, passion, anger, and love. Red is an energising and exciting colour, motivating us to act, it can also give confidence to those who are shy or lacking in willpower. It enhances metabolism, increases respiration rate, and raises blood pressure.
Red in the natural world is seen in many plants and animals, with the colour present to warn away predators or show they are toxic; seen in holly berries or the poison dart frog. A red sunset can be a sight to behold, where a phenomenon called Rayleigh Scattering takes place to present these vivid hues in the sky.
A little touch of red can go a long distance, however, in large volumes may cause visual strain. Using red is a bold aesthetic move and could be utilised deliberately to zone settings and create a pictorial statement. On the other hand, red can be used proportionally to the space to provide warm accents.
Orange | The colour orange is often described as an energetic colour, calling to mind feelings of enthusiasm and excitement. This is the hue of encouragement and self-confidence, marking the extrovert. Orange radiates warmth and happiness, combining the physical energy and stimulation of red with the happiness of yellow. Orange can have a stimulating effect, particularly on the appetite and is recognised as a key colour utilised by branding agencies and sports teams due to its buoyancy.
Orange in the natural world is a dynamic colour, which is quite rare compared to its warm counterparts red and yellow. Carotene, a photosynthesis pigment is the reason leaves turn to ember in autumn.
In this instance, orange would work extremely well within a fitness suite to promote a mood-boosting atmosphere, encouraging wellbeing. On the other hand, orange should likely be avoided or used minimally in spaces intended for quiet, focus and reflection.
Yellow | The colour yellow is known as the colour of the mind and intellect, resonating with the left, logical side of the brain helping to foster strong, logical thinking. It is creative and forward-thinking, uplifting and illuminating, representing hope, happiness and fun. However, too much yellow is known to cause anxiety and nervousness, agitation, and confrontation.
The colour of autumnal leaves, canaries, daffodils, and lemons appear yellow due to the carotenoids which give this characteristic. Despite the sun being white, the Earth’s atmosphere scatters blue light more efficiently than red, with this slight deficit in the blue light, our eyes perceive the colour of the sun as yellow. Plants can use yellow to attract pollinators, while some animals use it as a flashy warning to potential predators.
As designers we should be mindful of using the colour yellow in anything other than small bursts, unless deliberate to create a playful and overloaded experience with clear intent. A lower-intensity, buttery yellow or soft golden tone could be an ideal combination for portraying positivity, without overpowering and causing anxiety and would be ideal for social spaces, co-working and communal lounges to project a sense of warmth, harnessing a community.
Green | The colour green is the obvious colour of nature, representing balance and growth. This is a colour of security, harmony, and stability. Darker shades can relate to prestige and wealth, while lighter greens translate to freshness, growth, and rebirth. Green’s connection to the natural world promotes underlying qualities of healing and genuineness, which in turn implies safety and liberation.
Green is one of the most common colours found within the natural world. The complex chemical known as chlorophyll can convert sunlight into chemical energy, with its green pigment, this helps plants trap light for photosynthesis and is the reason it is so profoundly striking.
Due to green’s positive properties, this is a colour which can be utilised in a variety of settings and can enhance function. The use of green can project the feeling of a stabilised and secure environment and would work cohesively with other complementary tones to promote prosperity and socialisation. Enlivened and activated settings for co-working or socialising would welcome the use of green to promote a municipal sense of place and increase a feeling of wellbeing.
Blue | The colour blue is a symbol of trust, serenity and peace suggesting loyalty and integrity. Blue has the reverse effect on the brain to red and is too represented as opposite on the colour wheel. The calmness of blue can reduce tension and fear as blue is perceived to be the colour of the mind; a soothing colour affecting us mentally as opposed to physically (like red). Strong blues stimulate clear thought and lighter, softer tones can aid concentration. Blue is the most universally favoured colour.
Interestingly there is not a ‘true’ blue colour or pigment in the natural world, with both plants and animals having to perform tricks of light to appear blue. Violet and blue light have the shortest wavelengths, with red having the longest. Blue light is scattered more than red, hence the reasoning for our oceans and sky appearing blue.
Blue’s positive connotations of calmness and genuineness allows an endless application of this colour to interiors without risk. As a colour of trust and integrity, freshness, and stimulation, applying blue in various tones will be sure to bring depth and visual interest to a setting or place. Focussed zones for concentrated study, or lounge settings designed for peace, quiet and restfulness will be enhanced in their function if wrapped in blue, optimising function with colour.
Purple | The colour purple is the colour of imagination, creativity, and spirituality. Purple is imaginative and individual, however can also be viewed as immature or impractical. As a meditative tone, purple can allow us to connect with our deeper thoughts. Purple denotes feelings of sensitivity and compassion, it feels dignified and tranquil, yet can be perceived as colour of royalty and richness; with purple utilised within branding to portray a premium product or offer.
The genus Viola is a perfect example of the colour purple in the natural world. Purple is common in plants mainly due to a group of chemicals called anthocyanins. Purple in animals is less common and perhaps explains why purple feels less symbolically present within nature.
We should be mindful of the application of purple and how this can affect the atmosphere and place-making capabilities of a space. As a spiritual colour, purple would enhance the function of settings for restfulness and therefore be advantageous in a yoga or meditation studio. Art-led industries would also benefit, with a balance of purple amongst other colours promoting creativity and imagination through purposefully designed material choices.
While tone can influence feelings and actions, these effects are subject to personal, cultural, and situational preferences and factors. Further scientific research is required to understand the effect of colour psychology, its origin, and the impact it has on the individuals who inhabit the spaces we apply this to. Having an awareness of its impact on our emotions and mental wellbeing is vital, and to be mindful of how we apply colour proportionally and what materials we use to add depth to space is also to be thought through, too. The nature of colour is not one to overlook and we are proud of the colourful and vivacious interiors we continue to design. This research is thought-provoking and makes us more mindful of the way in which we use colour and materiality to accentuate function, and bring prosperity to the places we design.
The Statement of Colour
Colour has always been an integral part of fashion and understanding the rules of colour is crucial in producing cohesive, timeless collections. What are the rules of colour in the fashion industry, and can this be applied spatially?
Primary Secondary Tertiary
Primary colours are yellow, cyan, and magenta. We know these as colours which cannot be created by mixing other colours. A combination of these colours can create a primary shade of black.
Secondary colours are made by mixing two of the three primary colours, for example mixing blue and yellow can create green.
Tertiary colour is also known as an intermediate colour, made by mixing primary and secondary colours together. Examples such as blue-green, red-orange, orange-yellow.
Examples from catwalks of Lanvin and Akris show primary, secondary, and tertiary colours. This is colour in its most basic form, offering simplicity and conjuring bold statements. Translating this to interior design does not necessarily work successfully. We may view an interior as any one of these descriptors, however the interplay and combination of materials, finishes and depth found within successful interior schemes is not connected to these categories alone.
Monochromatic | A monochromatic approach is a bold and strong statement which has been present within the major fashion houses such as Gucci, Versace and Fendi time and time again. Fashion designers introduce multiple tones of one colour, with varying fabrics to create a multi-dimensional piece. Versace’s use of magenta within their bold prints works effectively due to the juxtaposition of the vibrant, bold colour combined with a sheer material and ruffle details. It is the understanding of tonal and material balance which works so well, and utilising a balance of carefully curated materials, sharing the same tints and shades can work harmoniously together to create a rich interior full of intrigue and playfulness.
Complementary | A complementary approach offers a courageous visual, it is interesting and intriguing using colours which are positioned opposite on the colour wheel. Balenciaga and Off-White use complementary colours to present striking statements; striking orange and subdued ember is combined with a sharp sky blue and grounded via a black accessory. The bold silhouettes and combination of shiny leather and silky viscose create a tactile palette, creating a balance of matte and shiny. Off-White’s balance of materiality, combines lilac silk with sunshine yellow wool to create a level of contrast both in tone and finish. The balance of complementary colours and the contrast of shiny and matte, soft and silky projects and interesting and attractive aesthetic with depth and confidence which could work effectively with an interior to project a sense of confidence and sophistication.
Analogous | Using neighbouring colours on the colour wheel can create an exciting visual blend of tones. Off-White’s latest collection utilises green hues, with corresponding orange and yellow to create a mesmerising palette of fresh, zesty tones. The fluidity of the blend of colours is broken in the worn texture of the knitted material. The striking desert thematic of the catwalk featured behind also adds to the visual appeal of the piece. This too, could work within an interior palette, though, like monochromatic will be effective if the materiality is varied enough to create visual depth and layering.
In today’s visual culture, colour combined with the right materials, forms and textures is key to making a product successful; whether that product is an outfit in relation to the fashion industry, or a space in relation to interior design. Belgian trend forecaster and colour expert Hilde Franq in her book ‘Colour Sells’ discusses the complexity of colour in both areas, she states “Colour can make a product look cheap, or chic. Colour can be natural or synthetic, masculine, or feminine, reliable, or frivolous, timeless, or trendy.” We think that is true when applied to both fashion and interiors. This research has led us to think more about the complexity of colour, how to push the boundaries of colour and ultimately gain further confidence in colour and our application of it as designers.