Creating a Colour Palette – An Interview with Greg Gunn

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How do you select the most appropriate colour for a logo? How about selecting the perfect supporting colour palette? What colour mode should you be working in?

In this weeks podcast Ian interviews Greg Gunn to answer these questions, and to discover more about his new training course, Colour for Creatives. Greg is a Los Angeles based Illustrator and Animator working as Creative Director for Blind, a brand strategy design consultancy.

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Colour Books & Resources Mentioned

 

 

Colour Wheel

Source: https://tubikstudio.com/color-theory-brief-guide-for-designers/

 

Greg Gunn Interview Transcription

 

Ian Paget: One of the main reasons why I wanted to get you on is because I wanted to do an episode on colour theory for some time and I’m aware that you’ve worked on a colour training course with The Futur and I thought it’d be a great opportunity to have a conversation around colour and also to help promote that.

I’m just going to jump straight in on one of the biggest questions I know most of the audience will be wanting to know. When you’re working on a project, whether it’s a logo or any other graphic design-related project, you generally need to pick one primary colour, how would you go about choosing what that colour is?

 

Greg Gunn: Well, usually I just hang a colour wheel on the wall. I grab something sharp nearby like a pen or pencil. I put my hand over my eyes and I just throw it as hard as I can against that. No, that’s a really good question.

Colour is one of those strange and subjective things. In my opinion, it’s part art, part science with much more emphasis on the art part. In terms of picking a primary colour, I find that doing some conceptual thinking before you get to the colour part helps. For instance, if you are working on a branding project, let’s say, and you were trying to design a style guide, which is typography, photocell, all this kind of stuff, there should be some bigger idea and concept at work that will help you inform how you design, what visual language you use, the typography and fonts you select.

I think colour falls within that same place where if you have a concept and you’re like, “Okay, well, I need to communicate this feeling, this emotion, this message, what do I think would be an appropriate colour for that?” but then that’s also where the subjective part comes in because what might be appropriate to me might not feel right for someone else too. That’s also a reason why I love colour so much. It’s this like elusive thing when you think you understand that you, you really don’t.

 

Ian Paget: I find it really fascinating that colour has such different meanings around the world and every individual person has a different experience with colours. For example, there might be a specific green I absolutely love because I associate it with, I don’t know, say, my first car or something like that, but then it might trigger a memory of like their grandma’s curtains and they couldn’t stand going there. I do find it interesting with colour that it can be very subjective. In terms of those like associations, can you use any of that to your advantage to pick and how would you, how would you go about knowing what would be the most appropriate selection?

 

Greg Gunn: I don’t know that there’s a test that you could perform that it’s like, “Yes, that is 98% appropriate.” I think you have to do your best. The whole reason I put together this colour course and I’m so fascinated by it is because I realised whenever I was using colour, picking colours and trying to work with it, it was just arbitrary. I put like almost zero thought into it. Once I took a step back and started to understand how it works, like the technical part of it, then have a bit more consideration about what colours I’m choosing when I’m making things, I found my overall, I don’t know, colour palette started to improve and I started to develop a system and a process.

Now I’m like, “Okay, I at least know where to start.” I feel like I can do my due diligence. When I’m working on a project and maybe a client is like, “Oh, that’s an interesting colour choice,” I have an answer, I have a reason. There’s something there to support it. It’s not, “Oh, I just love mint green. Sorry.”

 

Ian Paget: I definitely think that that’s the best approach. As a few high-level examples, blues, darker tones of blues tend to have a more of a serious feel to them, but in comparison, oranges and yellows are more fun and playful. I think you can use a lot of your own experiences with colour to make choices and hopefully you’d agree with that.

 

Greg Gunn: Absolutely. I think there is a term colour psychology, which I think is really interesting. It too, I believe, is an evolving thing that changes depending on where you are and when you are culturally too, because yeah, blue is a great example. Like in the States, it’s like, “Oh, boys always wear blue. Girls wear pink,” and whatever. That’s pretty stupid and ridiculous, but it is a thing that exists that for some reason people believe, but I’m willing to bet that’s not true any anywhere else. Why is that true? Why is that true now? Because a hundred years ago, it was the inverse. Pink was a very masculine colour. It’s weird.

 

Ian Paget: Really fascinating. I know at the start of the conversation you actually referenced the colour wheel. I use that on almost every single project to help me choose a range of colours, but there might be people in the audience that might not necessarily be familiar with what that is. Would you mind briefly explaining what a colour wheel is? I’ll make sure to include an image in the show notes.

 

Greg Gunn: Yeah, sure. I think an image would help a lot more than what I’m about to say…

 

Ian Paget: Yeah, yeah, definitely.

 

Greg Gunn: I will do my best. It’s a wheel and it’s made of colour. It’s like the way I like to think about it because for some reason you don’t see it in like Photoshop or Illustrator, but if you look at the visible spectrum of colours, the rainbow like left to right, it’s, it’s a long rectangle. If you were to just make those two ends meet and make it a circle, that’s the colour wheel. That’s the easiest way I think to visualise it.

 

Ian Paget: I never really thought about it, but the colour wheel is probably broken down by the spectrum of light, when you split light out or one of those little prisms. I don’t know if you did that in science at school. It breaks it down into like the rainbow colours. I think that’s probably where those relationships have come from because the colours, the one next three on the wheel is like it’s, it’s nearest neighbour, even from a scientific point of view.

 

Greg Gunn: Yeah, that’s exactly right.

 

Ian Paget: I know we’ve spoken about how you would go about picking a primary colour, but typically within a branding project or any other graphic design-related topic, you wouldn’t just pick one colour. I know your course dives into this in more detail, but would you be able to explain about how you would go about selecting a supporting colour palette once you selected that primary colour?

 

Greg Gunn: You’re asking if you have a hero colour, how would you then go about choosing supporting colours?

 

Ian Paget: Yeah. How would you pick out complementary colours and other colours that you would use within that identity project?

 

Greg Gunn: Sure. The way I like to approach it is two-pronged, I guess. On the one hand, there is the art side where I find inspiration, I source colours from other places that I think tonally and conceptually line up with what I want to do. For instance, I’m working on with a brand and they want to feel like mid-century rustic or something. It might have some texture. You’ll have a certain type phase. Then, what I would do is I would look up packaging design from that era and clothing and things like that and start to understand, “Okay, what were the colours that were used at that time and how are they used together?

A great decade is the ’70s because you’ll notice if you watch films from before the ’70s and after the ’70s they’re somewhat consistent, but the ’70s is like everything is dipped in gold and it’s very warm and orange. If you want to communicate that era, that’s a nice way to do it, cliche or not. Finding the right inspiration that you think fits and sampling those colours and trying to identify the kind of palettes that were in use for what you’re after, I think that’s one way to do it. That’s a little bit more of a creative approach. The other side of that coin or prong, whatever, is the more scientific part which is, “Okay, well, let’s examine colour theory and take a look at colour harmonies.”

You mentioned right before, how do you find the complement? A colour harmony if you don’t know what that is, is a relationship between two colours and I go over a ton of stuff in the course, but there’s monochrome, there’s complementary, there’s split complementary, analogous, tetrad, triadic, all these interesting terms for this stuff, but basically it’s like if you have two colours, how do they relate to each other on the colour wheel? Logo design for instance, since this is the Logo Geek Podcast, if you look at a lot of logos like you know, ’76 or the Los Angeles Lakers, I did not say that because I live in LA, but you’ll see the colours that they use are almost always complimentary and they’re really vibrant.

When you use complementary colours, there’s this like visual friction that happens because they’re essentially opposites on the colour wheel, like red and green. If they’re both really bright and vibrant, you get this like, “Whoa,” it really gets your attention right away. I think that’s intentional because for a logo or a mark, you want it to stand out, you want it to really like boom like grab you, right? Whereas you if you were to have like a huge block of type, you wouldn’t necessarily want people to read green type over a bright red background. It could hurt to be honest.

That’s the other side to it. Examining what colour harmonies there are and taking into consideration, “Do I want something that’s going to create a conflict?” Maybe a complementary or split complementary. “Do I want something that’s a little more easygoing and it feels natural and things like blend together?” Then maybe analogous and analogous or colours that are all neighbouring colours on the colour wheel and it’s much easier to look at versus looking at things that are on the opposite side. I don’t know if I answered your question, but those are the two avenues that I like to go down.

 

Ian Paget: You absolutely did. I think what you mentioned about sourcing inspiration, I think that actually answers the first question I asked because I know at the beginning of a lot of brand identity projects, I know what you guys do at The Futur, you do work on those Stylescapes or I know some other people work on mood boards, they have the same primary purpose, but from that, you can find relevant imagery that has the right look and feel and the mood and palettes that feel appropriate that you might not necessarily have considered. Inspiration is definitely one of the key parts of that.

Are you looking in any particular place for that or is it just literally going on Behance and Dribbble and Google search, just anywhere that you might potentially find something?

 

Greg Gunn: That’s a really important question. Yeah, I use the internet for most things, but I do think it’s important to be careful about where you start sourcing things from. For instance, I go out of my way to try and not look on Dribbble and not look on Behance even. I try to look outside the traditional design bubble because it can be an echo chamber of like aesthetic and things.

 

Ian Paget: Very much so.

 

Greg Gunn: I also find things are more interesting when you look elsewhere. In the course for instance, I go over building a colour palette for this illustration and I talk about how I want to communicate, that it motivates people, that it’s about being outside and being active in nature. I start by looking at REI and photos of Yosemite and things like that. That’s where I really like start sourcing colour information from. Maybe, that might sound a little like obvious or something, but I’m just trying to find something special and unique and I know that whatever I do won’t be special and unique for the sake of being special and unique, but why not? Why not try to do something different and interesting, especially with colour?

 

Ian Paget: Absolutely. I think it’s the type of thing that can quite heavily dictate what the identity look like because I’ve seen studies of famous logos where they’ve literally just picked out the colours and turn it into spots and you can recognise what brands they are, what logos they are because, you can see, “Oh yeah, that colour palette is IKEA. That’s Tesco’s.” It’s bizarre how much colour can impact on identities. I think it’s definitely worth in investing in that time. Just going back to what you mentioned about that more scientific approach using the colour wheel, you mentioned about the complete opposite colour, the complementary colour, that clashes slightly.

I work on a lot of web design as well and that can be really good for calls to action. Primary colour through the website is used really heavily. If you use the complete opposite version, you can use that for buttons and prices or whatever to help the user find their way around a website.

I’m also thinking of paintings. If you look at some like classic paintings, there are a few that have that depth and they’ve used colour theory to create that depth. When you look in the outer part would have a reddy tone. Then as it goes into the picture, it would be green and that creates that depths and that’s all colour theory. It’s all like the technical scientific aspect that everywhere you look, once you understand it, you’ll see it and anything that works well.

 

Greg Gunn: Colour is at work on us in our brains all of the time, whether we’re aware of it or not. I’m glad you brought up the kind of classic painting thing because that’s an exercise I go over in the course. I’m going to stop talking about the course eventually. One thing that taught me a lot about colour was bringing some of my favourite paintings from art history and stuff and then just sampling the colours and making little swatches just to see what’s going on. What I found was that a lot of paintings that I thought were very vibrant, I’m like, “Wow, that blue is so, so bright and so blue or that red is so powerful and strong.”

Then, you look at the colours that are around it. When you take everything out of context, you’re like, “Oh they’re all kind of pastelly,” but because of the way that they’re arranged relative to one another, it really makes that one complementary colour, that one dominant colour just stand out and like jump out at you. It’s pretty interesting.

 

Ian Paget: If there’s any listeners out there that just happened to look into how to use the colour wheel, once you understand it, you can do really interesting stuff with contrast and colours. It becomes easy because I know we’re talking about it like it’s a science, but once you get the colour wheel out and you want something that really contrast with it, you just pick the opposite of that colour. I find it fascinating.

I also wanted to quickly ask with inspiration for colour, there’s a few websites that I’ve seen. I think it’s coolors.co, something like that, where it’s got like inspirational colour palettes. Would you advise using anything like that or do you think that could become an echo chamber as well?

 

Greg Gunn: No, I think those are great. I think anywhere like if you were to give more thought to your colour choices, that’s a good start. Even if that means going to Adobe Color or some of these other really, really cool palette generator sites, I think that’s a start. If you go there with a clear intention and you know what you’re looking for, then sure, why not?

I’m also of the mind where I think if you understand the way colour works and how to pair colours together, you can then take something like that and really refine it and make it your own, so you don’t have to literally just find the perfect one or copy and paste and use the same palette of someone else’s.

 

Ian Paget: Something I wanted to ask you about colour palettes is, would you just create that in isolation or would you work on something first and then create the colour palette from that? It’s something I’ve always of juggled with in my mind. I’m working on an identity at the moment for a company. I’ve just finished the logo and I’m going to be working on packaging and other identity assets as well. They ask me, “Oh, is it worth creating like a brand guideline document now?” It’s something I’ve never really been sure the best way to do it. Would you just create the palette in isolation without having worked on any elements or would you work on the elements and then agree the colour palette and put that into brand guidelines document?

 

Greg Gunn: Great question. I think the latter would be the smart approach solely because colour, it’s finicky. Without context, it’s hard to really know if it’s going to work for your needs. I’m always just like, “Okay, here’s an idea. I don’t want to spend too much time overthinking the colour at first. Let’s get it into context. Let’s see how it looks. I know it’s going to change. I know it’s constantly going to be like adjusted and altered and we’re going to bounce back and forth between what colour goes where in an image and things like that.” I think context is incredibly important for colour. When you’re building a colour palette and I imagine once you send off that style guide, that’s the Bible. You’re making a commitment there.

If it were me, I would try to make sure that I’ve tested these colours and given them some context just to ensure that I like what they’re, that they’re going to work, that they have legs and that they can take care of everything I need them to before you’re like, “Okay, this is it.”

 

Ian Paget: That validates what I was thinking because what I explained to my client is that because it’s only me currently working on the identity, we don’t really need to document any of the rules. I explained to them once I have created more of the identity, the reason why you would need the guidelines document is so that you can bring in a team of people. There’s that level of consistency between everything. I’ve encouraged them that we create a number of elements first, so packaging and display boards and lots of different things that we’re doing. I’m going to do it. After I’ve done that, that means I can play and I can still experiment and I’m not restricted by any rules and then I can document that should anyone else want to continue it. It’s interesting that you would take that similar approach.

 

Greg Gunn: I think that makes sense. Also, that way you only have to make the style guide once.

 

Ian Paget: I also wanted to ask in terms of like colour palette within one of these brand guidelines documents, is there any like general role as to how many colours you would choose?

 

Greg Gunn: I don’t know. That’s an interesting question. There aren’t many rules with colour there. If there are, they’re definitely meant to be challenged and bent and broken. I don’t know that there’s a limit. I know that it’s easier to work you’re your colours. That much is true. Google for example, it seems like they used quite a few colours in their branding. I think it’s less about the quantity and more about the balance of the way that you use the colour. If you have five major colours in your brand, I’m sure one you’d like to be the dominant and then maybe some secondary and then maybe some third-tier, tertiary. The way that you use them and put them together is what will determine their value in, if this palette works or not.

That’s something I’ve seen some people put into their brand guidelines and style guides. It’s like you’ll see this big square and it has broken into smaller, smaller pieces and areas of colour. It’s like maybe red is three-quarters of it and then you see the other colour is broken down. That gives you an idea of visually like, “Here’s the balance. These are all the colours you’re able to use, but this is how this should balance out in your approach. You don’t use the third-tier pea soup green as the primary colour when it’s meant for just like legal copy or metadata or something.”

 

Ian Paget: That’s interesting because I know like that example that I said earlier about eCommerce websites, if you did pick a complementary colour, you would literally only want to use that like a degree of 5%. Otherwise, it doesn’t serve its purpose because the whole point of that complementary colour being there is so that it picks out certain things and your eye is drawn to them. For example, if it’s a buy button or a price, you wouldn’t really want to use it on anything else because it your eye is drawn to it and that’s what it’s for. Yes, it’s an interesting way of presenting it within documents if you can find a way to present, “This colour here should be like 80% of the identity. Then these are colours, should just be like 5% 10% or whatever.”

 

Greg Gunn: Right. I think it offers some consistency and like you said especially when there’s a team of people working on it, there’s continuity between design elements. Then again, I mean look at what Collins did for Dropbox, regardless of how you feel about it, it’s so interesting. They use all kinds of colours really, I guess traditionally weird colour as you would not think, but the one thing I have noticed is that they only pair certain colours together. Maybe they’re using upwards of 10 different colours for the brand, but they’ve identified pairs that worked well together. Even in that seemingly like use any colour you want, there is some conceptual thinking. There is a method to the madness so to speak.

 

Ian Paget: Well, I know with Dropbox they intentionally wanted to attract the creative industry. There’s obviously some strategy behind it. It’s not just like a random choice like, “Let’s do any colour.” They’ve allowed for that real creativity, I guess, to attract people like us that use it on projects.

 

Greg Gunn: Definitely. I don’t know if this was, I doubt it was intentional, but I recall when that rebrand first came out, you were in one of two camps, “I love it. How progressive,” or, “My gosh, that’s hideous.” I thought that was great. That was so cool. I’m like that’s the conversation I want to have.

 

Ian Paget: Well, it created so much debate online. It must have been intentional. I think they would have spent an absolute fortune on that campaign and that was probably what they wanted to happen.

 

Greg Gunn: Maybe.

 

Ian Paget: It wouldn’t surprise me.

I’ve got a technical colour question for you. It’s one that comes up in the Logo Geek community quite frequently actually. There’s different colour modes. We’ve got Pantone, CMYK and RGB. One of the challenges that people face is having a consistent colour from screen to print. Do you have any advice to keep it consistent? I’m just going to throw something in there. Some people start with RGB colours and that’s difficult to translate. Do you have any approach that you take when choosing colours to ensure there is that level of consistency across everything?

 

Greg Gunn: Yeah, that can be a really tough one. It’s like a chicken-egg situation because if you start with RGB, you have access to a wider range of colour in value and intensity, but yeah, if you use a particular colour and it’s really difficult to recreate in prints, then you know, you might never get the same kind of match.

Conversely, if you started in CMYK, then you’re limiting yourself, I guess. Maybe what ends up on screen isn’t that vibrant or interesting or you wish it was. Do you value consistency or, I don’t know, options?

I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong answer there for where to start, but in terms of keeping it consistent, I can think of one project in particular where it was a brand-new project. We were building a website and then there was all kinds of other collateral and print that we had to come up with. We had a hell of a time just trying to find a matching blue like for the one that we had done in RGB.

I think we did ultimately, but it took some time to really figure out. If you’re doing anything in print, you should probably have a set of Pantone swatches, like the physical ones that are printed out for reference because you really can’t trust what you see on your screen if it’s going to print.

Pantone is very smart in building their empire around the idea where they have inks and you can use those anywhere potentially with printers. Assuming they know what they’re doing, then it should look the same. We tend to operate where we’ll design an RGB and also perhaps keep in mind like, “Hey, if we want to use neon green, we need to be prepared to replicate that in print,” and what that means, but for the most part, when it goes to print, we will pull out the Pantone swatches and just start looking through them and try to identify the one that is closest.

From there out everything we do in print, we’ll use that Pantone colour so that there is a consistency. Yeah, I think depending on the colour, its intensity and brightness. Some things are not going to reproduce in print very well unless maybe you use a specialised ink or something. That’s something to keep in mind I suppose when you’re putting together a palette that you know will be printed eventually.

 

Ian Paget: I had a project about six months ago where the client wanted a specific blue that was impossible to recreate in CMYK and I understand why they wanted that. It was very vibrant and a lot of what they do is online anyway. I just made sure to explain to them that there will be problems reproducing this and CMYK and I picked out the nearest to it which is obviously a lot dollar in comparison. There was happy to take that sacrifice because like I said a lot of the marketing material and their communications is all online so they could get away with that. If you did want to use these like neon greens and slightly radioactive, very vibrant colours that can only ever exist in RGB, you can get away with it, but you just need to accept that it might not be possible to recreate in print.

Also, what I’ve heard some people recommend, some people start from Pantone because Pantone they know will be able to be reproduced and then they convert that CMYK and anything that’s in CMYK converts to RGB nicely. That seems like a smart move. I don’t take that approach personally. I start with RGB like you, but obviously, I double check the conversions to CMYK just before I finish off that project.

 

Greg Gunn: I liked that approach. That’s smart. I don’t know that everyone has Pantone swatches laying around, but that is a great idea. Even if you do start with RGB, like you said, I think periodically checking what that would look like in print is a smart thing to do also. It will hopefully remove any surprises down the road when you go to print something and you’re like, “Uh-oh.”

 

Ian Paget: I know with those Pantone books, they’re really expensive.

 

Greg Gunn: They are.

 

Ian Paget: If you’re going to be really anal about it and you want it really accurate with colour, you have to replace them every few years because the light damages the colours. The books that I have, I take them out, I check them and then straight back in the box in my drawer and I keep it in the dark, so that I don’t need to buy another set.

 

Greg Gunn: Right. I think if you’re doing a lot of print work, it’s a business expense.

 

Ian Paget: Yeah, you need it.

I noticed that you recommended a few books in one of your videos recently. It might’ve already been answered in that, but what are the best books that you found to learn more about colour?

 

Greg Gunn: Let’s see. I think it depends on what you want to learn about colour. There’s three key ones that I always like to recommend.

One is called the Designer’s Dictionary of Colour by Sean Adams, I think. It’s a really fantastic reference book. There’s a little bit of colour education upfront with like terminology, like what this means, pretty helpful. Then if you flip throughout, the way it’s organised is by warm colour, cool colour, neutral colour, monochrome. You can see examples of different colour palettes that fall within that part of the colour wheel and how they’ve been used in print design. I think they probably have some digital design in there too, but it’s a really interesting reference book. If you have a colour in mind and you want to quickly look at some example palettes that people have put together.

The second book, which is really great for I think learning how to work with colour and especially how to pair colours together is called Interaction of Colour by Josef Albers. It’s a fun little book. Well, it’s not little. It’s lengthy, but essentially, it takes this very conceptual colour psychology approach to pairing colours together and then how a colour is context and what colours are nearby changed how it’s perceived by us. Basically, it’s like half reading lecture and then half I guess like exercises that you can do where you place different colours next to each other in different ways or divide them up. It’s hard to really discuss without seeing what I mean, but it’s a cool way to see and practice, I think, putting colours together and understanding how they relate and change based on what they’re surrounded by.

Then the last book that is probably my favourite of the three is called The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St. Clair. It’s not a colour theory book at all. It’s almost like a history or storybook and it’s super cool. The way it breaks down is it, I guess, walks you through the history of how colours came to be in terms of pigment and print. There’s a story I like to hear from it about Tyrian purple. It’s like a certain shade of purple. There is a story in there about how that pigment came to be and how it was discovered and used. Long story short, it involves Julius Caesar and like the destruction of like hundreds of thousands of sea snails just to create enough pigment to dye one toga a certain shade of purple.

It’s a really, really weird and fascinating story. That’s what the whole book is. It’s like, “Did you know about this colour?” It’s really interesting uses. There’s another colour, I forget what. I think it’s mauve maybe, but it was accidentally discovered while someone was trying to cure malaria. Pretty strange and interesting.

 

Ian Paget: I need to check that one out because I saw you mentioned that one on the video that you recently put out. I’d love to read some of those stories because you never really think about it because you’re just this all the time… “Where does that colour actually come from?” It could be an interesting one to read.

Have you ever read the book Color Works? It’s one by some of the Pentagram Partners. I think it might be out of print now, but that’s another book that I would recommend for understanding colour and how to use it within branding. There’s some really fascinating diagrams in there as well for like how colour is used globally, the meaning of colours in certain countries and how they differ in one culture versus a different culture. For me, that’s one of my favourite books for colour, but I’ve not checked out any of those that you just recommended, so I obviously need to read a little bit more into colour.

 

Greg Gunn: I’m going to find a copy of Color Works. I think you’re right. It’s no longer in print, but I see some used ones on Amazon.

 

Ian Paget: I’d highly recommend if you’re really fascinated by colour, I got a couple of books on colour and that’s one that really stuck in my mind and is actually one of my favourite books. It’s a useful reference book, but it also has some interesting theory in there as well. I definitely recommend you check the out and the listeners as well.

 

Greg Gunn: I will. Thanks.

 

Ian Paget: Now, I know you briefly mentioned it through our conversation, but you do have the course called Colour for Creatives and that would be useful for people that might want to look into and understand how to use colour a little bit more. I’ve seen some of the videos where you’re actually like painting with colour. I know you’re an amazing illustrator as well. Would you mind briefly explaining what the course is and how people can go and check that out?

 

Greg Gunn: Sure. Happy to. It’s called Colour for Creatives and it’s like one-third colour theory, one-third analysis and twelve-thirds practice. I got my math completely wrong, but like I said, I made it because I am fascinated by how colour works and I started doing a lot of research. I also found what I thought about my own education and like colour wasn’t really given that much weight and it was an afterthought like, “And here’s how you paint the colour wheel.” I looked around and I didn’t really see any contemporary approaches to teaching colour theory or how to think about it, how to analyse it and then also really how to use it in your work in a meaningful way. The way that you probably will end up using it which is finding reference, testing things out, changing your mind a lot and eventually trying to get to a place where you’re happy with it.

It’s an online video course with The Futur and it’s very much a go-at-your-own-pace thing. I signed a lot of homework, but it’s optional. If you just want to coast through it and really gain a better understanding of how colour works and how to use it and how to approach it, I think you would really enjoy it.

 

Ian Paget: I’ve not gone through it myself, but I’ve watched your introductory video. It does look very good and you’re right. I don’t think I’ve seen any modern-day training for colour. It does tend to be that extra thing that’s rushed through on other courses. You can see just in this conversation what we’ve been speaking for like 45 minutes about colour and we haven’t really even scraped the surface for what can be done. If anyone is interested in learning more about colour, go and check out the course. I’m going to set up an affiliate link for that. For anyone that wants to purchase the course will also support the Logo Geek Podcast in the process. I think I’ll set up something like logogeek.uk/colour. If anyone is interested in checking out the course, go via that link and you will support both myself and Greg.

 

Greg Gunn: Thanks. That’d be great.

 

Ian Paget: You’re very welcome. We’ve covered all of everything I wanted to go through with colour. I’d love to find out a little bit more about you in the time that we have available because I’m sure people will be familiar with you from The Futur because you’ve been in quite a few of the videos now, but I was surprised looking at your website how much illustration work you’ve done and I’m just going to be totally honest. It’s amazing. Your work is amazing. You’re very talented. I’d love to find out like, how did you get into that?

 

Greg Gunn: Wow. Well, thank you for such kind words.

Let’s see. I love to draw and I think since moving full time into working on The Futur with Chris and everyone, I spend less time doing creative work, traditional creative work so to speak. A couple of years ago when Procreate came out, I happened to get an iPad at the same time. I’m like, “Sure, I’ll check this out.” I really blamed those two things because it changed my life. I could go home after a long day, sit on the couch and just draw and illustrate and enjoy myself. That’s really how it started because up until then I would be working during the day, whether it was on client work or The Futur. By the time I got home, the last thing I wanted was to sit in front of a computer again at a different desk, open up the same software and do that.

I think the convenience of those things really was this initial catalyst to me jumping back into drawing every day and getting into illustration and even like now finding illustration clients that I can work with just because I want to and I enjoy it. By accident, I guess, and I’m also able to balance like I can watch The Office and illustrate at the same time and pet my dog. It’s all right there. I think if it wasn’t that convenient, I’m not sure that I would’ve ended up getting into illustration the way that I did.

 

Ian Paget: Procreate is not that old. How recent are we talking that you got into this because I just made the assumption that you’ve been doing this for years and it’s how you eventually ended up working for Blind and getting into The Futur. Is it really a recent thing as early as whenever Procreate came out?

 

Greg Gunn: Well, I think what’s on Instagram for the most part, yeah. That’s just a couple of years. Before that, I’ve always enjoyed drawing. I was doing more animation than anything else, but in terms of like illustration and really thinking about that stuff conceptually and doing it every day, yeah, not that long ago.

 

Ian Paget: It’s not long at all. Has that changed your career in any way? What were you doing previously when you did start doing illustration? Am I right that you’ve been working for Blind for what, like 10 years or something?

 

Greg Gunn: Almost. Yeah, coming up on it. Since about 2006, I’ve been working as a creative director in some way or another and most of the time was spent pitching and working on commercial advertisements, a majority of which were animated or motion graphics or some hybrid between live action and motion graphics and eventually moved away from that, got more into branding and graphic design through Blind. That was my full-time job and any creative directors out there know it’s really not doing much creative work. It’s more managerial and working with clients and things like that. You don’t have a ton of time to actually do the work. You hopefully find a great team and are confident that they can get it done and you can work with them to help develop that.

I think it was probably also a combination of the convenience of those cool things, iPad and Procreate and also my longing and me missing doing some other work. I went to school for animation and storytelling. I don’t have the time to do much animation, especially after a long day. I’m like I just don’t want to do that. I just started sketching and then that led to an iPad and that led to Procreate and now I’m like, “Oh, I can make some really interesting things now. It works within my available time also.

 

Ian Paget: Well, it’s really nice to see like I said when I looked, I was really surprised because obviously I’ve seen you on The Futur and I know that you’re knowledgeable when it comes to creative direction and graphic design and the more traditional like corporate stuff. I looked on your site and it’s like, “Oh, these illustrations are really, really nice, like a really nice style.” It’s a shame that you don’t do more of that because I would pick you being a very good children’s book illustrator, especially with your background in storytelling. You’d be absolutely fantastic at doing that full time.

 

Greg Gunn: Thanks. I have a very long bucket list of things and that is one of them on there.

 

Ian Paget: You should definitely do that.

 

Greg Gunn: I feel like that’s probably my younger creative self being like, “Don’t sell out. Keep going with the art. You can do something.” At least, I joke about that, but I do think I need a balance of that kind of stuff. If I go for too long in one direction, I think ultimately the pendulum has to swing back the other way.

 

Ian Paget: You know what I recommend that you should do, you should pitch to Chris doing some kind of illustration course with Procreate and then you can spend more time doing that, creating a training course.

 

Greg Gunn: That’s a great idea. There’s a lot of really good courses out there that cover that stuff. It’s something I’ve kicked around. I think Chris would be open to it. I want to make sure people would want to learn that and also learn that from me and that I can give them something-

 

Ian Paget: If anyone’s listening to this now, go on social media and like tag Greg and Chris Do and ask, “We want this,” because I think it’d be good to see that. Like I said, your illustration work is just really nice to see. We’re near the end of our time, so I’m going to throw in one last question for you. Hopefully, it’s not too much of a hard one. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

 

Greg Gunn: You said it wasn’t going to be a hard one. I know you sent me this question ahead of time, but I should have given this more thought. I like to be candid about these kind of things. The best advice I’ve ever been given, oh my God, I’m totally blanking, it’s probably and I don’t remember who or what exactly it was, but it definitely has to do with being okay and leaving your ego out the door when you work with people. I’m butchering whatever advice that that was given to me, but when you asked that, it made me think about where I am now in my career versus where I was when I first started.

I think the landscape is different now, but when I first started getting into the design and motion graphics world, it was very much like you’re young. You just want to make cool stuff and stay up all night and do that and it will be great. It really was, but I look back. I’m like, man, anytime we ran into a client that didn’t agree with a design or didn’t like it, it was an immediate dismissal and being like, “Well, what do you know? You don’t know what’s good. This is good because I know it’s good and because I’m a designer and blah, blah, blah.” I think the attitude when I look back on myself, I’m like, “Oh, what a dummy. You had no idea.”

There is a time and place for that. I think it’s not like do whatever the client says like, “No, you’re the professional. I understand that,” but when I look back on the unwillingness to, to listen and understand someone else’s perspective and point of view, especially when it’s their project and they’re the ones paying for it, I’m like, “Wow, okay, I’ve come a long way.” I do not think that anymore and that’s good that actually makes me feel like really good about progressing as a human and as a creative professional, so I answered your question.

 

Ian Paget: It’s a good piece of advice. It makes me think that when you work on something, and I’m going to say a logo because this is a logo design podcast, you work on a logo, client doesn’t like it. When you first start out, you might get really offended or you might take it personally or actually even when you’ve been doing it for 10 years, if they do pointblank say that, you’re going to feel upset. What you’re basically saying is separate yourself on the work. The work is not you. If you can try to understand what’s not working from a strategic perspective or if you can try and get more granular as to, “What is it that they’re disliking?”

Earlier in the conversation, I mentioned something about like agreeing to me, I’ve got an association with that and it might be like, “Oh, that was my favourite T-shirt when I was 10 years old. It was that shade of green. Then your client, they might associate that with like I said, the great grandma’s curtains and they couldn’t stand going there, weird things that can make people just dislike something and you do need to make sure that you separate yourself on the work because there’s nothing to do with you. It’s just at the end of the day is the final piece, isn’t it?

 

Greg Gunn: Right. The visual analogy I like to use is if you and your client are sitting at a table, the project is an object that’s sitting in between you and you can both look at it from a different place at the table and a different chair and see it from different angles and you can talk about it together. If the client is like, “Oh, it’s ugly. I don’t like it,” they’re not saying, “You’re ugly. I don’t like you.” They’re talking about the thing you’re working on together that you’re building and there’s something that they don’t like about it. In my weird brain, that is a nice way for me to visually understand like, “Oh, that’s not me on the table. I’m with them, next to them looking at it from a different place.”

 

Ian Paget: If you’re both on the same page, then, it should never be about you, but I know the first time you get anything like that, it’s just not nice.

 

Greg Gunn: No, it’s not.

 

Ian Paget: I think that’s good advice. Well, Greg, it’s been amazing to finally get to chat with you and I think this has been a really great episode, especially if anyone’s really interested in colour and understanding colour. I think we’ve given a good overview for everybody. Like we mentioned, if anyone does want to take a deeper dive, they can go and check out the books that we spoke about, which I’ll link too in the show notes. Obviously, they can go and check out your course as well. Thank you so much for coming on. It’s been really great to chat with you.

 

Greg Gunn: Likewise. Thanks so much for having me.

 

Thank you to the sponsor, FreshBooks

 

I’m incredibly thankful to FreshBooks for sponsoring season 6 of the Logo Geek Podcast! FreshBooks is an online accounting tool that makes it really easy to create and send invoices, track time and manage your money. You can try it out for yourself with a free 30 day trial.

Creating a colour palette - An interview with Greg Gunn

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