Black Sails: A Lesson in Color

We don’t often cover television shows here at Colour Studio. With a name like Black Sails is hard for a color blog to resist! Executive produced by Michael Bay, Black Sails is a new show from Starz that on first look  might just seem like yet another pirate drama, but the show was based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novel Treasure Island and stands to put a bit of dirt and underworld grime back into the recently romanticized pirate ethos. But why are we so interested? Black Sails has a color lesson to teach about the power of neutrals.

You can learn a lot just by watching the trailer.  The show, which is a gritty portrayal of the pirate life, doesn’t resort to the dreary grays and desaturated tones of games likes Fallout 3. Black Sails manages to feel gritty and violent and exhausted without being bleak. The colors of the show are rich and tonal and most importantly neutral, or at least neutral with a warm bent. The show’s color palette is heavy in black of course, but not a pure inky black, a dusty incomplete color that lingers at the edges of fabric and frame alike. The colors suggest not just an unkempt underworld but a place where characters breathe lungfuls of hot, moist, particulate laden air.

All images property of Starz 

The show is a great example of how the emotional magnitude of colors is played not by the individual colors themselves but how and in what groupings they appear. The dusty, bleed together quality of the colors create a visual environment that lets a splash of red blood or wide swath of blue water really catch the eye, giving more meaning and highlighting certain scenes. This technique can be used in all kinds of color applications: web site design, products and logos, fashion and of course our specialty, architecture. We would love to hear what shows have inspired you in your hunt for new colors!

Color Icon: Milton Glaser

Everyone knows Milton Glaser, everyone. Even if you don’t know his name you likely know a design he created in 1977 for the New York Tourism board. I love New York, a simple grid of three letters and a heart, has outperformed even Milton’s wildest dreams for the logo. It has gone on to not only spread all over the world but it has spawned an entire industry of imitation logos. And if imitation really is the finest form of flattery, the I love New York is a world favorite because the Tourism board had filed more than 3,000 suits against imitators.

The popularity of this one image had been so all encompassing that many people miss the lovely, broad, and colorful portfolio of the man who created it. Glaser, born in 1929, a New York native, has made a lifetime of simple and striking design work but one of the best example of his work with color is the album covers he made for Columbia Records artists, including Bob Dylan.

His prowess for creating images for music also included magazine covers, like this one for Eye magazine featuring Aretha Franklin.

Glaser’s work and that of Push Pin studios (the graphic design house he founded with fellow Cooper Union graduates Seymour Chwast, Reynold Ruffins, and Edward Sorel, in 1954) cut a huge swath through the design field. Their work has become a central reference in graphic design. Later in 1974 Milton ventured off on his own and founded his own design firm.

All images property of Milton Glaser

Milton Glaser had a habit of questioning the core beliefs of graphic design. Take the assumption that ‘If you have to explain it, it’s not working.’ This is an oft repeated assumption in graphic design because the poster or logo or design will have to stand on its own. But Milton tried other strategies. What if he made images that weren’t clear on first glance, images that illicit more curiosity  involvement from the readers.  He used changes in perspective, cutting posters at odd angles and using isometric grids all to catch the eye and engage the mind for the viewer.  Here is a great TED Talk by him of you want to know about his design process and work.