Design+ Colour

Delve in the world of colour with Caitlin Wharton RGD. Interviewed by Renee Taillon Provisional RGD


When curating colours for clients, how do you decide what the most effective combination is? Do you ever have clients that don’t like the colours you choose? How do you overcome this?
Colour is a very emotional thing. Every living person on Earth has certain memories attached to certain colours - we all have colours we like and don't like. This makes colour daunting, especially when presenting to clients. It's never about getting clients to 'like' a palette we choose, rather it's our job to explain in incredible detail the history and rationale behind each colour and why it's effective for the communication of their brand. We consider it an epic fail if a client inserts their personal colour opinions into feedback - it means we haven't done a good enough job of explaining the why to them.  
When it comes to branding specifically, what role does colour play in your process? How important is it to the final result?
We work a lot in the food & beverage industries so a lot of colour choice comes down to research. Colour acts as a great and memorable first impression of a brand and a lot of that comes down to seeing what is out there in the market so you know, for sure, you can own having the only baby blue pizza box in town.

Natural Dye 

What are your favourite resources for exploring colour?
One of the most fascinating resources I have found on colour is Kassia St Clair's book The Secret Lives of Colour which explains in detail the origins and history of every colour. It brings a whole new perspective to the colours we live with on a daily basis. 
How did you get into teaching colour theory? Did you always know you wanted to teach? 
I will talk about colour to anyone who will listen. I started teaching at the college level several years ago because I've always thought learning about design should be more about experimenting and getting weird rather than reading a textbook. When the colour theory course needed a prof at Humber, a fellow teacher put my name forward and it was a done deal.

Natural Dye Swatches

What is one of the greatest hurdles you face while teaching colour theory? What is the best advice you can give a student who is struggling with the concepts behind colour theory?
I find the history of colour theory to be pretty problematic. In our textbooks, the founders of colour theory are old white European dudes. I think that centring around the European and North American viewpoint is incredibly limiting as colours have such vast and rich histories globally, and mean different things to different cultures. Learning about the theories and memorizing terms can be downright boring. The advice I give my students is that looking at a textbook will give you a foundation, but to truly love and understand colour, you need to go out into the real world.
How would you describe the work you do as a designer? Who are your greatest influences?
I believe I was put on this earth to make the world a more beautiful place. I think as a designer, my job is to take something that isn't pretty and improve it so it's easily digestible in the world. My greatest influences are my design team at Millie who have an uncanny ability to see the world differently. I feel like they blow my mind every day. 
I hear you’re currently in the process of making your own natural inks using foraged materials, can you tell us more about the process and thought behind this project?
Gladly. I quite literally have been living in a forest since May, spending my entire summer in Lake of the Woods. Being surrounded by my two absolute passions in the world: nature & colour, I started this project. I must say, I am certainly a rookie in this world; the world of natural pigments and colour is a deep well that I am just digging into. One of the coolest parts about natural ink is that they are living breathing colours, and can change week by week. The joy for me comes from going on a walk with my little fanny pack and shears and then coming back to my kitchen and experimenting. Sometimes you make stunning ink by collecting wildflowers on a hike by steeping them in the sun for 3 weeks..... and sometimes, your kitchen smells like toxic vinegar for weeks as you attempt an ink from copper scraps. I don't remember the last time I've had the chance to just get messy and play. 
Now for a fun question, if you could only wear one colour for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? (no neutrals!)
Let's go with red(!)

Caitlin Wharton RGD is a Graphic Designer and educator based in Toronto. She studied Graphic Design in NYC at Parsons and Alberta College of Art and Design. With over ten years of experience creating visual identities, her obsession with colour allows her to create an immersive world within her branding. Some of Caitlin’s latest work includes Creative Directions for the RGD!









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