ArtPrize hired Grand Rapid’s own Conduit Studio to design theme ideas for this year’s event. Together, they selected Celebration of Color to highlight the importance of color in our everyday lives, and to inspire visitors to explore and discuss the creativity of the event.
Last week, X-Rite Pantone contributed a guest blog for ArtPrize that walked through the process to select the color palettes that would define each neighborhood and give the event a unified feel. Today we’ll link art and science as we explore how the color inspirations are coming together. From signs, posters, monoliths, and t-shirts, to artist nametags, the neighborhood palettes have to remain consistent.
First, how would they communicate the palette colors to the print shops? Each color needed a name to ensure that it was properly specified and reproduced. This step was easy. Pantone is the gold standard for communicating color specification and quality control. Pantone provides a common language for color so specifiers and manufacturers can be sure they understand each other. Using Pantone Color Guides, the designers flipped through the pages and pulled out the chips that represented each ArtPrize color.
The colors needed to match. They were going to applied to a dozen or more different materials, like corrugated plastic, vinyl, sidewalk cement, cardboard, canvas, and fabric for posters, street signs, banners, and merchandise. And they would be produced using different printing technologies. What role would the substrate play in color reproduction?
In printing, background is a color, too, which means color palettes are not one size fits all. If you print the same color on a white corrugated board and a concrete sidewalk, it will not look the same. The gray from the sidewalk will mix with the color to make it appear darker.
Conduit Studio called on the experts at ICON Sign, another Grand Rapids-based company, to help them dial into the exact colors that would ensure that the final products matched. They tested the colors on each of the materials, then made adjustments to color formulations for each substrate and printing process. Each participating print shop received a “tolerance” – an acceptable color difference – that they had to meet.
Lighting also impacts how a color is perceived. As strange as it sounds, objects themselves don’t have color. Their dyes and inks have properties that determine which wavelengths of light are absorbed and which are reflected. It is the mixture of reflected light that enters our eyes and gives us the perception of color. So if ambient light has more blue, like sun on a partly cloudy day, colors will appear bluer. If the light is more yellow, like an incandescent bulb, everything will appear more yellow.
Conduit Studio did its homework to make sure its chosen palettes would remain consistent in every venue. As the signage and merchandise samples came in, staff viewed and compared them under a variety of different lights – outdoor, tungsten, fluorescent, all of the conditions present in the venues of ArtPrize – to ensure that the colors remained true.
Conduit Studio also chose neutral lighting for the premier event, instead of the colored lights used in previous years. O’Neill said, “Color was so important to our theme that we didn’t want to interfere with or distort the colors we had developed.”
Activating ArtPrize with color
Now it’s time to bring everything to life. Color will be everywhere!
… On Pantone Pathways
There will be five Pantone Pathways: four connected to downtown neighborhoods, and one as an Access Art Pathway with visitors’ mobility in mind. Each Pathway runs 2.4 miles or less and 90% of ArtPrize Seven venues come within one block of a Pathway. So, if you take just one Pathway a day, you will see most of what ArtPrize Seven has to offer.
The Pathways will be created using the Pantone colors Conduit Studio worked so hard to define. Paint trucks will use stencils to lay down the perfect colors to link each neighborhood, and the same paints will be used to create the Pantone Hopscotch and Crosswalk that will invite visitors to start their journey.
Herring wants people to understand that ArtPrize is bigger than just downtown. “The goal of defining the neighborhoods with Pantone Colors is to provide subtle color cues and invite visitors to see what each neighborhood has to offer. It’s about moving around and seeing more. Connecting with more things. Being moved by the color and the design.”
… Within the venues
As the Conduit Studio staff was working on other event collateral, they realized there were parts of the downtown hub they could activate with their Pantone Color palettes. They scoured vintage stores for fun and unique items, then spray painted them with colors from the neighborhood palette. Joked O’Neill, “It got into the nitty gritty… turns out that color-coordinated macaroons are crucial to any event!”
… On the artists
Color is even playing a role in an interesting social experiment. Artists will wear nametags sporting the colors of their individual neighborhoods. During the event, ArtPrize will be watching… Will artists stay in their own neighborhoods and hang out together? Or will they be mingling with artists from across town? Only time will tell.