As designers, we have a distinct palate for design just like master chefs do for food…
We discussed early on that safe design is ensured via strong concept, but where does palette play a role in this?
Palette vs. Palate
No, I’m not talking about astute taste buds here, though there was many a restaurant design whose concept has insinuated both palate, palette and (per the above concept) sex appeal… For this discussion though, let us focus on color… palette.
Color palette can be defined as the range of colors used by an artist (designer in this ‘sense’) to harmonize space and enhance the overarching concept. In design, color is generally a secondary exploration along with pattern, texture, scale (etc). Color does have meaning. Color should have intent. And color even (and perhaps most importantly) has psychological implications.
Color by Feng Shui
In Las Vegas Casino design, we would often bring a feng shui consultant on board. (For Suzie), feng shui is the Chinese art of determining the most propitious design and orientation of space and elements so that maximum harmony is achieved. The relationship between the flow of chi, the environment, and the end user is scientifically established. Proper and intentional orientation is believed to bring good fortune and to eliminate bad luck.
Luck be a Lady (tonight?)
Since Las Vegas is a city of chance (and hopefully luck) and so many high rollers are of Chinese decent, it was imperative to have high-profile casino and game room layouts, concepts and FFE selections reviewed by a feng shui specialist. Though I learned quickly about favorable orientation, each time I selected a new material finish and presented it, I would find something ‘unacceptable’… some materiality that carried ‘bad omen’. For example, in one of the high roller table game suites, a custom light fixture had been designed that contained facets of antique mirror. This was unacceptable to our specialist because the glass was believed to house improper spirits that could not escape the room due to the unclarity of the reflective surface. The antique-ness is also believed to cause the feeling of distortion or disorientation and to the gamer looking for luck, this created unease immediately.
Back to palette… in this same project, a custom carpet had been proposed that had hues of blue. In feng shui, blue is representational of water. The same unease that presented itself in the antique mirror arose in blue flooring (any blue flooring). This idea of ‘walking on water’ was not admirable in the Eastern culture. Again, it manifested feelings of nervousness, unease and even fears of sinking or drowning. Needless to say… it was eliminated (and never presented for this application again!).
Seeing the Full Spectrum
These examples are extreme and specific. They were not taken lightly in casino floor design because the industry relies on their high rollers for extreme gaming revenue; however, color palette and theory is just as important in other realms of hospitality, health care and education design for impact both psychological and by affiliation.
The amazing freedom that comes with hospitality design is that the end user groups’ (the tourists) only expectation is to be WOWED. It doesn’t (really) matter if the color palette in their hotel room or dinner venue is their preference or if they would ever put it in their homes. And really, they shouldn’t desire to. They are on vacation, escaping their realities, escaping normalcy. They “allow,” expect and accept experiences that they never would warrant entering through their own front doors. So, designing typical guest rooms? 5-Star Restaurants? Nightclubs? With intent, the sky’s the limit. Too pink? Sorry gentlemen… luck be a lady? (maybe you’ll have some)… after all, it’s only for a few nights (at least that’s what she said).
Health care design is about as specific as it gets. Materials with anti-microbial properties, ease of cleanability and high PSI ratings are imperative and priority. After all, the focus is patient care and that means designing for (the unspoken) body fluid and function that will inevitably ‘happen’ in the space. So where does color fit in? Colors in hospitals are often soft and muted, and most commonly in hues of pale green. This is intentional. Not only are pastel tones calming for care facilities, but these greenish color ranges actually make a sickly (greenish) patient look less sickly (green). Against pale tones, patients look less pale… There is significant perceived psychological impact that they look better than they feel and their psyche is intended to embrace that. Mind over matter, with intent!
As children enter pre-school and early education environments, they are often surrounded by colors in the primary spectrum. These colors are early learning devises and identifiers. They help to serve as introduction to color affiliation and understanding.
As children advance in school (at least by junior high), color selection in educational facilities is generally mandated by maintenance and often established by athletics – hooray for my nemesis – school colors (I just got sickly green)! Go (AWAY) Big Blue – your logo should be reserved for the basketball court.
Color On… Point.
What I want to point out here is that (as a general rule), color is not a concept. There is often confusion (and disagreement) here and it has been a very frustrating struggle for me with other ‘designers’ in my past. Color is an additive, a supplement, a trend. Color is not an idea. Color supports an idea. So, Please (designers) PLEASE don’t mistake it for one… and if you do… we never met, seriously, get the f*ck out of my herd.