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Episode 21 – How Color Influences Design

Discover how you can green your life by building a knowledge base of current, sustainable, and eco-savvy trends. This is Build Green Live Green.

This episode explores how color influences design.

We are here today with Jessica McNaughton and Alyssa Holland of CaraGreen.

JESSICA: Hi, this is Jessica with Build Green Live Green and today we have a special guest, one of our own Alyssa Holland.

ALYSSA: Hi, this is Alyssa.

JESSICA: Alyssa is sitting in for Kim Loftis, who had her baby, little Ava Joy, a little over a week ago. So, congratulations Kim and we will kick this off with Alyssa. Today we're going to be talking about how color influences design, and because Build Green Live Green is a podcast about healthy building and healthy lifestyles, color really plays a big part in that. So that's what we're going to tie back to is how color not only impacts design, obviously it's an important element of that, but how does it physically impact you. How do you actually respond to color? Color is incorporated into a lot of different spaces that we interact with everyday, whether it's a restaurant, an office building, a hospital, they all use color in different ways and it's only been in recent years where the true impacts of those colors in all of these spaces are being realized. So, we'll talk about a couple of examples, but I will let Alyssa kick it off with diving into, you know, color and design and some of the aspects of that in general.

ALYSSA: Yeah, so like Jessica said, you can find color and the way that color is used anywhere that you go. So, Jessica, even earlier today when you were looking at picking out fabric watches, you were thinking, what do you want that space to feel like, do you want to feel calm? Do you want to, kind of, spark conversations? May be add in a bunch of different colors or keep it more neutral. So, really just even thinking about it on that kind of a personal level will help you understand color when you're out and about. So, we're going to mention some examples of colors and, kind o,f what those colors make you feel and then really think about ways that you can use that in your own designs or in your own lifestyle or your home, what you wear, or things like that.

JESSICA: And one of the big takeaways that I’ve always had when it comes to color is, I almost feel like I'm being manipulated, because your response to color is not something that you necessarily control. So, it goes beyond, “hey I like blue,” but blue actually makes you feel a certain way. So, when spaces incorporate those colors, they are playing into your natural response to those colors. So, it's really interesting and hopefully our listeners will find this talk, and we'll have it on our website at www.caregreen.com, but it'll be interesting, you know, as you listen to this, start looking around you and noticing those colors and see how you're almost, kind of, being manipulated by some of the spaces that you frequent.

ALYSSA: Yeah so, I guess you brought up blue, we can talk about blue first. So, blue we think of things found in nature that are blue, the sky, the ocean, things that we generally think of as being peaceful. So, blue is very calming. It also kind of brings about the idea of royalty and high-end design. So, you will find blue a lot of times in different lobbies of hotels or major retail stores to kind of calm you down, get you feeling integrated with the space and feel almost at peace with yourself.

JESSICA: You bring up blue and it really, it makes me also think of the effect that green has. So, blue is very natural in the sky and the ocean and then you've got, kind of, green in the middle there, which is a very earthy tone with, you know, you think of leaves and trees and grass and things like that. So, I think that green and blue are very complementary in that sort of spa feeling, where they're trying to, kind of, connect you to nature. We have a podcast where we talk about biophilic design and bringing the colors of nature into a space and I think that blue and green certainly do that and it'll be interesting, you know, for our listeners to know as they go into spaces now, what are the colors in that space. When I'm in a spot, are there lots of blues, are there lots of greens, or even in an office building, a lot more people are incorporating nature into that space and, you know, blue and green certainly do that.

ALYSSA: So, kind of moving along the spectrum, then, we get to yellow. So immediately when I think of yellow, I think right of McDonald’s, Subway, fast-food.

JESSICA: Yes, you've mentioned McDonald’s and fast-food and I think this is where- really where the psychology comes in. Because yellow makes you happy and content, it's very exciting. It draws you in. It also becomes quickly very irritating. So, while it draws you in, you think about a fast-food place, it also is annoying enough that you leave quickly so it really increases turnover. So, these high turnover places that wants you in and out quickly like McDonald’s, like In-N-Out and like Subway, they incorporate a lot of yellows to get you in and then get you out, and the same can be said actually, for orange and red. They are also colors that are very stimulating but they're harsh on your eyes and you actually physically have to leave. So, most fast food, or fast casual that they want to call themselves now, are using these colors like these reds and oranges and yellows to draw you in and kind of push you out at the same time.

ALYSSA: And red even can be kind of indicative of power and even anger in some cases, correct?

JESSICA: Yeah, yeah, and I think you know a lot of people associate red, also, with love and-

ALYSSA: Passion.

JESSICA: Passion, and things like that, and some of the richer reds, you know, they're very, that kind of sensual red color, you'll see them in a lot of, like, lounges, you know, nightclubs and things like that where this kind of that red velvet, you know, nasty late-night nastiness, you know, that's kind of more of a that element of red as well. We kind of glossed over brown. We were talking about biophilic design, the blues, the greens, I think brown has to be part of that conversation as well though do you agree?

ALYSSA: Yes, it's very natural, even looking around the room that we're in now, most of the things in here are brown. Think, if you have any sort of leather, any sort of wood finishing, most things in your space are going to have, kind of, that natural, kind of, earth tone, whether it's wood like we mentioned or even stone can be kind of on that gray-brown spectrum.

JESSICA: And I think it's important to note that when we talk about these colors, there's different degrees to which you can use that color. So, if you want to use a pop of yellow, which is bright and exciting in a kitchen, you can do that. You use it as an accent color or it's, you know, your teapot is yellow or, you know, there's trim elements that are yellow. It can be used in minimal ways to really create that excitement without being that harsh effect. So, it really depends on how much of the color is used as well, correct?

ALYSSA: Yep, and even kind of muting those colors, so more on the pastel versions. So, there is a big trend now called scandicolor. One of our manufacturers, Durat, recently came out with a collection, all about these scandicolors. It's this idea that you could have color in your space and bring it in, but still have that kind of calm, peaceful effect. So, you get, kind of, those colors in there as an accent, but they're not screaming in your face, this bright yellow McDonald’s sign. It's more of a muted yellow, it's peaceful.

JESSICA: Right, so this kind of goes hand-in-hand with the trend that we’re seeing towards hygge and the project we're working on with Hygge Supply where they're really focused on comfort and scandicolor plays into that. So, hygge is another Scandinavian concept that, together with this color palette, you know, they kind of weave together very nicely. So, we've talked about a bunch of different colors. I think two that are worth mentioning are black and white and their effect really is to, you know, with white you're creating a sense of openness, brightness, and with black, you’re kind of creating almost like a backdrop for color to pop or to create a smaller sense. So those colors are used in that way, but they're relatively balanced and you don't quite have that same reaction that you do to some of the, you know, more earth tones or those brighter colors.

ALYSSA: So, since we're talking about colors, how do we see them being used in spaces?

JESSICA: So, I think about when I painted my house and when I looked at the colors I wanted to use, I wanted something that would kind of go with everything else in the house and then you want to be able to use the accent pieces to really pop off of those base colors. So, oftentimes what you'll see is a base color that's used to achieve that effect, for me I want my house to be relatively calming until my kids get home.  But you know that was kind of the baseline that I wanted. So, I chose a color that was in that realm, whereas like we talked about with restaurants, they may want to create, you know, a different feeling, hospitals may want to create, you know, a different feeling. We're starting to see more and more hospitals incorporate color into their designs, as well as a lot of office buildings are going more towards those earthtones, because they're doing that, bringing the nature inside, biophilic design type of thing. So, it's really interesting, you know, people achieve different things with color. I think the challenge for people that are incorporating color is getting beyond just that paint and what other elements in the space can you use to really incorporate color. It's not just paint, there's a lot of materials out there that have a great color palette, from scandicolor to some of these bright colors that can be used.

ALYSSA: The main one that comes to my mind when you mention that is EchoPanel by Kirei, they have a bunch of different bright colors. It's an acoustic treatment, it can be done after you move into your space, it's kind of noisy in there, so think kind of noisy restaurants things like that, you can put up these baffles, they serve a purpose, but they're beautiful. Beautiful colors, a pop of color out of the corner of your eye.

JESSICA: Right, so you've got, you know, these stark spaces. I mean how many people have these really stark office spaces and EchoPanel has these amazing geometrical patterns in all these nice colors, where it's not so harsh necessarily that it's at eye level and you don't, maybe you don't want a bright red at eye level, but you can have it on the ceiling and it kind of draws your attention up as well. So, you get the sound control, but you get the beauty and you get the color and that is just not as common in acoustical treatments, you typically get whites and grays and beiges, but Kirei really has brought color to acoustics.

ALYSSA: Another one I think of is Koskisen. So, they have this-

JESSICA: Not easy to say, Koskisen, K-O-S-K-I-S-E-N.  It's a product out of Finland.

ALYSSA: So, Koskisen is a finished grade plywood, so a really high-grade plywood that's coated with a translucent water-based paint and then a melamine layer. So, it has all the durability that you would get out of, say, a laminated piece of plywood, but you can see that beautiful wood grain underneath these bright vibrant colors.

JESSICA: Right, so, the water-based paint you're talking about is, it can be, red, green, blue. So, instead of these tacky plastic laminates with all these glues that get used, Koskisen leaves that natural wood grain so you have this green panel that is the actual natural grain of the wood and it's so nice for cabinetry, casework, tabletops. We have those amazing doors in our showroom that are made out of it and those are all in blues and greens, nice earth tones. But yeah, I mean you just don't see a colored plywood like Koskisen anywhere on the market. I also, you know, one of the product lines that always had some color to it was solid surface and then over time that just kind of gravitated towards this stone-like neutral brown, vomitty look that all the solid surface companies have now, except for Durat.

ALYSSA: So, Durat has over 70 standard colors, but what I really love about them is they can color match anything. Pantone, RAL, paint swatch, your college colors, your office colors. They can match anything at all. There's these little specks that are inherent in the Durat product, those can even be customized as well. So, there's really this versatility in regard to color.

JESSICA: Right and I mean the other benefit of Durat of course is that it's got the recycled content. So, the speckles that you're referring to are recycled plastics that can come in any color, they can be whites and blacks and, you know, we've had people customize those and do some really neat things. Generally, with Durat solid surface, I mean with those 70 colors you can probably find what you want. But you've got green green, you know like an apple green, you've got the vibrant yellows, you've got every color in the spectrum along with the scandicolor, that more muted palette. So, you know, the things you can do with Durat are really unbounded and we've seen a lot of children's hospital where people respond to that color, as we talked about, and when you're in a hospital, you want to be engaged and using color to engage is a really powerful tool for designers and Durat really gives them something that's literally unbounded in terms of color and what you can do with it and really put your fingerprint on it and make the direct color your own.

ALYSSA: I remember Crayola actually customized Durat for their headquarters.

JESSICA: They did, they did, that was a really neat project. One of the restaurant chains, Core, which is owned by Moe’s, they have another chain that's just rolled out, it's called CoreLife Eatery and its broth bowls and salads, it's really healthy good food and they just opened up one right here in Cary, North Carolina. Yeah, they've used color in their space back to what we talked about with the orange and they've used not only the Kirei EchoPanel, but they've also used Durat 480, which is that nice vibrant orange, which is becoming a lot more popular and they also use the reSAWN, the orange charred timber. Okay, so, we've talked a lot about some different materials that you can use. Muted palettes, some of the bright colors, but what about elementAl and the new Light collection that they're coming out with? I thought there was some customization that you were able to do there as well.

ALYSSA: So, elementAl is releasing a new Light collection, it looks similar to the old collection without the metal fillings.

JESSICA: Kind of like a 3Form.

ALYSSA: Yep, exactly. Most of the panels will be pretty vibrantly colored. They're translucent, so light will pass through.

JESSICA: I feel like there's some of that product on the market, like, I think like Lumicore and 3Form has something like it. But what I like about elementAl, and, you know, full disclosure we collaborate with elementAl on picking out some of the colors, but I’ve seen some there's almost like a coral, there's a really bright green. But elemental has not gone out as, “hey we're a new product, look at us.” They've really gone out with a message of, “hey we're taking color and we're addressing the recycling crisis,” because elementAl products are 93% recycled content, which is unheard of in the surfacing space. So, that's really exciting and the fact that you can customize those as well is really powerful. So, you know, I really like how manufacturers are bringing color back, right. Because it was gone for so long. I mean if I see another Cindy Crawford laying on a white Silestone top, I mean, you know, there's just no, there's no need for it and the marble look, I mean it's in everything. Solid surface that looks like marble, quartz that looks like marble. Marble doesn't even want to look like marble anymore. Alright, well I think, you know, we've covered a lot, you know. Scandicolor is a trend that will probably continue. Now you know why McDonald’s is yellow and CoreLife is orange and Sonic, is that, I think it's yellow and red. Burger Kings looks orange, I never go to fast food.

ALYSSA: We need to call Sandy for that one.

JESSICA: I know, that's a Sandy one. Chick-Fil-A is red, we know that. Okay, yeah, so look at color, look how you respond to it. If you have any questions about color or if you're looking for colorful products that you can use to kind of create that pop, we can certainly help you out or point you in the right direction. We have tons of samples of tons of colors of different materials, all with a really good story that you can tell. You know, we did a really great pink countertop currently with the Museum of Ice Cream, that same pink was used for Treat Cupcake Shop. So, it's really neat to have these stories that go along with these materials and color certainly tells the story. Well, this is the end of our podcast, this is Jessica with CaraGreen and this is our podcast Build Green Live Green.

ALYSSA: This is Alyssa, thanks guys.  

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