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Best Practices for Graphic Designers, Color Works by John Cantwell, Eddie Opara

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Three examples of fifteen different
covers for Sagmeister’s Things I Have
Learned In My Life So Far. As the imagery
pushes through Sagmeister’s stenciled
visage, you see the extreme color options
used to personify the multifaceted
designer: cool gradated blue, feminine
yellows and pinks; the green of spring-
time. The hard use of black and white
clearly outlines Sagmeister’s mouth,
nose, and eyes.
I feel pretty much at home in the conceptual world
of color. In a lot of our work, our need for color came
out of the concept for the project, and it played
a very pivotal role in the concept.
The Color
Subjective
Stefan Sagmeister
fig. 001
152 Color Works Clients & The Subjective
2.4
5.5
The Color Subjective
Sagmeister intelligently uses
nature’s ability of effecting color change.
In this instance, bananas ripening over
time allow the readability of the message
to occur, even when the bananas have
over-ripened. The random color change
from yellow to brown creates a frenetic
composition.
Projects such as the HP Zinker album, Mountains of Madness, wouldn’t
have worked without color. It needed to be that particular red, and that
extremely particular green, and we worked out that red and green for-
ever, and I had to pay more money than they paid me to get the printer
to wash out the machine one more time so that I could fiddle with the
green and get the green so that it would actually become black under-
neath that red jewel case.
The design basically allows you to see two images on the same field.
Once the red takes over, that’s when the guy is seen shouting. Once the
green takes over, a red filter cancels out the red because it’s printed on
white. And the green becomes black when it’s inside the jewel case.
The initial desire, of course, was to have this guy shout. That concept
came out of a simple question that I asked the singer of the band. He
said the album is called Mountains of Madness because of the craziness
of New York City, and I asked, “What kind of craziness are you talking
about?” And he said, “The other day I was walking across the street and
this old, very grandfather-looking guy came toward me on the street
and he looked calm, looked like my granddad, and suddenly he started
to freak out. And it seemed like the city made him freak out.” It was an
illustration of that incident. And then it was the question of how we could
illustrate that incident in some sort of exciting way.
I like projects where, from an audience’s point of view, it looks extremely
easy, and it’s kind of light. With the Banana Wall we did for the art gallery
Deitch Projects, people would say, “Wow they put a lot of bananas on
the wall.” The craft doesn’t show at all, even though this was hundreds
and hundreds of design hours.
We chose bananas for many reasons. One part is because bananas, in
the ripening process, give off pheromones that are said to make you
happy. The banana is also a good-looking fruit. The banana became
famous in the art world through Andy Warhol, and through a Velvet
Underground album cover. And the gallery was connected to Andy
through Jeffrey Deitch. The banana is one of the few fruits that allowed
us to do the kind of knitting pattern we used, where at the end it looks
like a homey, crocheted sweater.
Color was at the very heart of the concept. The installation wouldn’t
have worked without the bananas changing color. Our initial desire was
to have the bananas ripen evenly. We made many, many banana tests
over the course of a year. Basically, they infect one another, so it’s almost
impossible to make an accurate test of 10,000 bananas, because 10,000
bananas actually ripen in a different way, as we painfully discovered,
than 100 bananas. The bananas resisted our experiments.
Again, with the covers for Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far, it is
this conceptual color—the color came out of the concept. The design
started out without my portrait. It had a light gray laser cut with other
stuff behind it. Once I figured out that the portrait itself would give the
most changing possibility, only then did the concept of the content
fig. 002
fig. 003

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