Recently we had the opportunity to sit down with Laura Guido-Clark, a consumer products designer of color, material, and texture. She has been dubbed an “Experience Consultant,” which reflects her interest and study of human reactions to the look and feel of new products.
Photo by Laura Flippen.
We asked Guido-Clark to speak with us because we also appreciate the importance of color in our lives.
Q. What inspired you to pursue a career in color?
A. When I was ten years old, I saw the Wizard of Oz. When Dorothy stepped into Oz it was an epiphany for me. This idea that Dorothy transcended into a Technicolor world made me feel something incredibly different. It made me realize that color was transformational.
It was a huge wake up call. I remember that moment really, really well.
I have always loved art and design, but I also have a love of science. In fact, I started college as a double major in pre-med and interior design. They may sound like total opposites, but I think they’re actually the same in a lot of ways. The need to problem-solve is very similar, but I think what moved me most was empathy.
You must have empathy to be a doctor or a designer. You also have to understand the human condition before you can address and get to the root of what you need to solve.
Just as I was about to apply to medical school, I was sitting through an experiment and realized I didn’t see medicine as my future. I got up, walked out, and pursued a career in interior design.
Q. How has your career in color evolved?
A. I began my career in customer service. One of my jobs was to clean the textile room. When I walked in, I had another magical moment. I knew I was supposed to learn this! I started taking classes in weaving and textiles to learn more.
When I met Deepa Thomas, she wanted me to be her salesperson, but I convinced her that I knew how to design. As a salesperson I spent all day listening to designers, so I knew everything that WASN’T in the market. I knew what designers needed. I will always give Deepa credit that she hired me with no experience. I convinced her that I could do it, and she gave me a chance.
When I worked with Deepa as VP of Design at Deepa Textiles, I tried to create textiles that were less about contract and more about human desire. It was exciting because it became known for that in the marketplace. It was very different. It fit the needs of performance while trying to shift the aesthetic a little.
Once I left Deepa, I looked for more opportunities to design, and not just for other textile companies. I wanted to think about how design – and especially color – could touch other things. I wanted to push beyond the industry.
My first industrial design consulting project was with Toyota. At that time, I was in a partnership with Beverly Thome. Toyota saw some of the colors we did for Spinneybeck leather and loved them. That is how I broke into the industrial design world to do color, materials, and finishes.
Q. Does color influence other areas of your life?
A. Everything I’ve ever done revolves around color. It moves me so deeply. As I worked with Fortune 500 clients, I realized I wanted to bring my love for color into communities.
In 2011 I started a non-profit called Project Color Corps. We go into underserved communities to teach kids about color and empower them to make positive change in their school and neighborhood. It has grown! I founded Project Color Corps in the Bay Area and we have expanded to three more cities – Portland, New York and Chicago – and we have designers from all over signing up to work on our projects. It remains one of my most heartening and fulfilling endeavors.
Before and after photos of E.C. Reems (top) and Wo-Chieve (bottom) Academies in Oakland, CA. Photos courtesy of Project Color Corps.
The kids inspire me. They say the most profound things. For example, we always ask how color make them feel, and they say things like “Pink has a lost feeling. It’s wide and it’s beautiful.” Color Factory in Houston is posting these profound quotes from the kids as an experience in one of the rooms. We’re really proud of that, and people are deeply moved by what these kids have to say about color.
Project Color Corps is a new way to think about color and teach people about color. It’s kind of the galvanizing of my career – these two things together – the capacity to affect our environments and the ability to empower people to understand that color changes everything. It changes the way you think about your environment and the things you interface with, but mostly it changes the way you think about yourself.
These are things that really make me happy.
Q. How do you work with companies to help them get color right?A. Along with continuing my work in communities through Project Color Corps, I consult with consumer product companies and I teach my new methodology called Love Good Color.
Image from LOVE GOOD COLOR® online workshop.
In my consulting practice, if I’m working with a textile company I usually start in the yarn phase and continue through final weave. With furniture, I may be working on the formulations to get color to match across multiple materials. The application of color, material, and finishes on furniture is tricky but incredibly rewarding. Having been in the trenches, I now know how long it takes and how difficult it is.
Herman Miller Cosm Chair. Photo by Stephanie Gonot.
Although there’s an accepted industry knowledge that color is trickier than you think, getting light and color to match across multiple substrates is not an easy feat. But when it works, and your eye takes it all in and doesn’t stop at any one thing, the result is incredibly beautiful. The Cosm chair by Herman Miller is a great example of color success.
Q. Do you have any words of wisdom for our customers who struggle to get color right every day?
A. Never get discouraged. Color loves to be in relationship so please don’t be afraid to play. The more you play, the more you learn. The more you learn the better your palettes become.
I have a deep understanding that color will never be perfect because light makes it vary, but you can get close. Getting color right requires an enormous amount of patience and time to effectively evaluate and continue to create those nuanced changes that are necessary to make a palette perfect. But the reward is worth it! It’s like anything. When you bake an incredible cake and all the ingredients come together, you can taste everything that went into it, including the intention.
Color is one of the most transformational mediums. That’s why I love it so much.
About Laura Guido-Clark
Guido-Clark launched a color methodology called Love Good Color at NeoCon 2017 to integrate scientific and aesthetic theories to help designers consider emotion and the senses when using color. The courses are now offered online. To learn more, visit www.lovegoodcolor.com.
She has also contributed to the color, materials, and finishes for Herman Miller, HP, Samsung, and Toyota and has designed textiles and patterns for HBF, Pallas, Carnegie, Ultrafabrics, and FLOR.
We thank Laura Guido-Clark for taking the time to share her color journey with us.