Designing a colour palette is something we work on frequently in the studio, and this can be a wide open brief - so it’s really important to find a starting point and define the concept or story we want to tell using colour. Typically, the process begins with gathering together words and images that suggest a certain mood or theme, or with a single image or object to inspire our design story. From here we can explore design ideas.
We’ve created a colour mood board using a Bauhaus textile illustration as our starting point. This textile design illustration is from 1925 by Benita Koch-Otte. The postcard - which came from the bauhaus-archive, museum of design Berlin - is the starting point and main inspiration for our colour story. While this illustration already provides a palette of colours, for us this is just a starting point.
As we work with the illustration and it’s colours, we can consider the mood of the artwork and the way colours are used. What impression do we get from the overall palette? Can we identify smaller stories that may work in tandem? This illustration presents a beautiful balance of colours, not just in how they are designed and interlaced in the pattern, but a range of deeper notes, mid tones and accents from across the visible spectrum of colours. The overall effect is gentle, but with direction, warm and cheerful pink, yellow and orange blend with more contemplative nordic blues and greys. The colours are relaxed, as though there is a mist cast over stronger colours. There’s a suggestion of contrasts - lights and darks, brights with muted tones, perhaps referencing day and night, or dawn and dusk - two colour stories that work hand in hand as well as independently.
As we gather more ideas, interpretations and supporting materials, we create a new story outline and new colour scheme possibilities. To bring all these ideas together in a cohesive way, we use mood boards. Mood boards are an extremely useful tool for design – carefully considered arrangements of images, materials and sometimes words. The process of creating a mood board requires us to consider and clarify many details, and make decisions during the process ensuring that we reach a well considered end point where all queries have been resolved.
We have translated this illustration into two complementary colour stories, day and night, and the transitioning of colours between the two. Creating a colour scheme from an image or artwork is not just about identifying all the colours you see, but thinking about the balance, proportion and emphasis of colours. Any one artwork can be translated into a number of colour schemes, all of which would have a very different look and feel. Of course, colours can appear quite different on different surfaces too, so texture also becomes a consideration, as does the function of the colour palette. Surfaces with a gloss or satin finish may attract more attention than a softer yarn based or matt finish material, making colours appear more or less dominant respectively.
How the images and supporting materials are presented on the mood board is also really important as these details symbolise notions of scale, placement, proportion and layering - all of which will impact on the overall effect of the palette and the mood created by the colours. These considerations are not only for mood board aesthetics, but importantly guide us to make decisions about how the colours featured work together, where the eye is drawn to, and how this will eventually translate into a scheme for interior design or other project. Changing the emphasis and arrangement of colours used can really effect the mood created. Partially hidden images, for example, offer a more supporting role to those in front. More yellow or the colour displayed more prominently would add more vibrancy and zing. The central image is only offering inspiration, and not rules to be followed, so we may choose to omit some colours altogether, or choose more saturated hues for some accents - any all of these individual considerations can have a powerful impact.
A mood board can go through many iterations with different elements being trialed, considered, and sometimes replaced. This is all part of the design process. An effective mood board will offer clarity, focus and a visual map to follow for your onward design journey.
Read more about working with mood boards as a design tool.
For a closer look at the colours and fabrics featured in the mood boards you can click the links here: