To the Letter

To the Letter

When we think of lettering, fonts, text, and color, we don’t always think about marketing, or poetry, or decorative painting.  But the truth is, all of these things can and do work together to tell a story, communicate a brand, and create a mood.  For all of these things are more inter-related then we may think.

Cathedral School for Boys, an independent Episcopal school Founded in 1957 ,  located on the grounds of Grace Cathedral in  San Francisco  enrolls approximately 267 boys in kindergarten through eighth grade.  When their Development Director engaged me to hand paint the school’s motto and other signage, we had to think about the size and style of lettering, font, and color that would best reflect its essence.

The Development Director wanted to identify “Alumni Hall”, which holds commemorative plaques listing the names of the student body dating back to the 19560’s.  The lettering of the words had to command the wall on which they were placed, and the dates, to clearly identify each decade of  pictured. A deep, rich custom blue was designed, reflected in the existing visual identity of the School, and the font “Perpetua” was chosen, appropriately enough. (Was that a fluke? A “meant to be”…?  A so-called, “Freudian slip” ?)

The school’s motto, “Minds  Hearts  Hands  Voices” was lettered across the front of the architectural detail directly facing the front glass window, creating a potent and effective message.  Key was planning the spacing between the words, as the Headmaster wanted the look to be clean, simple and streamlined, and thus elegant. No muss, no fuss.   It was just to be those four words, after all.   Let the words do the talking, supported by their size, spacing, color and font.  The space between each word serves as a visual and aural “beat”, or resting point of space and silence, which becomes part of the motto’s overall rhythm and poetry.  Aural, because the words “speak” to us the viewer.  As we read them, we hear them inside our heads, and as we are moved to speak, recite, or chant them.  This process again supports and enhances the messaging of The School, and perhaps, the adjacent related Grace Cathedral as well.

Without being overpowering, the power of the words which embody the intent, spirit and brand, of The School communicate, while integrating perfectly into its presentation, its lobby, its front office, and its formal signage.

The architecture of the building, its purpose, where it is situated geographically, its urban and natural surroundings, and its spiritual identity and associations are also an inspiration for the aesthetic choices relating to it.

Seeking grace and maybe sometimes  finding it.  The elements of visual and literary art, architecture, design, urban planning, education, the natural world, our creative, quirky and infinitely original  imagination, these gifts are always at our disposal to feed our hungry souls, and those around us.  Here’s wishing you grace, and the ability to offer it to others, through the powers of  our own perception.

Have YOU found a moment of grace through the powers of Your own perception?

If You feel so inclined, please share about it with us here.

We love to hear from You.

Remember, we are all  finding our own manner of grace in this thing called Life, together.


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Brand New 2

Brand New 2

What is a “brand“?  I added a link to the term, because I think Wikipedia describes the concept better than I can, at least at this stage.  One of the salient words used in the definition is “identity”.  Specifically: “A brand is the identity of a specific product,  service,  or business.” My colleague  Elka Eastly Veratransformative coach and brand consultant, defines it such: “A brand is like soul DNA. It’s what people recognize you for. It’s where the “you of you” meets the world. It’s the essence of your business. “

Jim Moran, founder and manager of Co-Op, a NYC-based branding firm, says,Brand is really the DNA that defines your company. Branding is about storytelling.  it’s about bringing the DNA to life and creating perceptions.”

When Frank Mahnke, of the International Association of Colour Consultants/Designers says that color is a form of communication and information, he is talking the language of branding.  How do colors, patterns, textures, shapes, forms and images create  ‘soul DNA’, and story?

It took me awhile to realize how much like graphic design and marketing decorative painting could be.  When I worked with the talented graphic designer Dianna Jacobsen, of Jacobsen Design, on the creation of my website, business cards, brochure, and postcard, I went through an in-depth process of determining how I wanted to beam my business, my work, my self, out into the world.

It’s not just about making things beautiful, but creating an experience for people.” says Dianna, about bringing the “brand” into physical spaces.

When I found myself working with clients ranging from businesses and  organizations to  non-profits and institutions, I discovered that I was helping them do just that through visual, and often verbal elements as well.

Let’s take a look at a few of them who employed the painter’s brush as a tool for communicating their message.

921 Front Street is a historic building dating from 1859, located in the North Waterfront area of San Francisco. Originally a warehouse, it is now a commercial building providing office space. The signage in the lobby is based on the building’s logo, so there is an immediate tie-in to the brand.  The metallic copper and steely silver colors used in the lettering reflect the natural and industrial materials used in the lobby.

Maitri Compassionate Care provides exemplary, innovative, and compassionate hospice care. The Maitri Mover Campaign Donor Recognition Arch above was designed to honor the donors who participated in the capital campaign supporting its present facility. Names of donors are hand-painted onto the glazed surface of the industrial arch which supports the one-time parking garage.  Like 921 Front Street,  the lettering is done in metallic paints to draw the eye to the words, and make them stand out from the background.  Whether said background be black or white, and the words words sparse or abundant, all visual and verbal elements support the branding.

“On the Fly” is a specialty men’s store designed by  Martinkovic Milford Architects The broken stripe design suggests stitching, as well as the classic men’s pin-striped suit sold inside. The stripe patten reflects the visual branding image used in the brand’s marketing materials. The “hands on” stripe application both communicates and enhances the store’s established visual message, and is “tailor-made” for the venue!

Also communicating directly out onto the “street”, but in a whole other way, the mural above depicts an imagined “Land of Oshun”, where a host of interacting Oshun figures express the colors, symbols, and attributes of this beneficent and inspirational goddess figure. Oshun Center, a drop-in center for women and their families, is a program of the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics.   Oshun is the name of an “Orisha” or goddess in the Yoruban (an ethno-linguistic group of West Africa), Brazilian, and Cuban religious pantheons.  Oshun’s color is yellow, and her metals are gold and copper. Other symbols depicted in the mural include peacocks and mirrors, reflective of vanity and physical beauty.  Oshun represents life’s joys, and all that makes it worth living, and this is the “soul DNA”, message, story,  brand, of Oshun Center, supported in turn, by the visual language of the mural.

When we think about how everything we see, indeed everything we experience through any of our senses, transmits something, carries and provides associations, and potentially stirs our emotions, we can see just how powerful visual and verbal elements can be in telling the story of our soul, and communicating the soul of our story.

How have You communicated the essence of your own work or business, or that of another,  through the elements of color, pattern, texture and imagery?  What about words, text, or as the brand editor Abby Kerr would say, “phraseologie”?

Please share about the richness of your experience with us here.  We love to hear from You.

Remember, we  are all branding through this thing called Life, together.


Brand New

Brand New

What is a “brand“?  I added a link to the term, because I think Wikipedia describes the concept better than I can, at least at this stage.  One of the salient words used in the definition is “identity”.  Specifically: “A brand is the identity of a specific product,  service,  or business.” My colleague  Elka Eastly Veratransformative coach and brand consultant, defines it such: “A brand is like soul DNA. It’s what people recognize you for. It’s where the “you of you” meets the world. It’s the essence of your business. “

If we look at the idea of a “brand” this way, then it could even be used to describe how we present ourselves in the world.  But that is a subject for another post….

The visual elements of color and design, pattern and image, texture, shape and composition can all be brought to bear upon  the process of developing and communicating a brand identity.  Graphic designers, like the talented Dianna Jacobsen, of Jacobsen Design, do this all the time.

As an artist, muralist, decorative painter, and colorist (not mutually exclusive terms by any means), I am always intrigued with how this works, and fascinated to participate.  We may tend to think of “brands” as purely commercial (cereal, dog food and shoes come to mind), but devoted non-profits and noble institutions also have theirs, and in my experience, a similar approach is taken to communicate them.

Let’s look at a number of  businesses and organizations who employed the painter’s brush as a tool for communicating their message, how color plays a starring role in their brand identity, and why.

When  Benihana Restaurant in Cupertino, Ca. underwent extensive remodeling,  a mural consisting of a branded graphical design was specified to be painted on the “corrugated” concrete surface approximately 10 to 80′ in the air.  Benjamin Moore Creative Paint in San Francisco matched the colors of the restaurant’s branded interior wall covering in  paint. Master color mixer and matcher Norman Chinn chose Ben Moore Aura exterior paint colors by eye. He was so precise that without knowing it, he chose the very strawberry red used as a stock color in the Benihana Restaurant brand, which is heavy on warm reds, punctuated by creams, darker reds, and red-blacks. Red tends to be associated with heat fire and blood…can we read, appetite?

Red is used in a different way in the new  Dress for Success San Francisco headquarters, designed by local architectural firm, Martinkovic Milford Architects.  Dress for Success provides business attire and training for women, and key to the design is the theme of butterflies, expressing the idea of transformation. Tone on tone reds provide warmth, accent, and a sense of womb-like support for the women getting ready to launch out into the business world.  Red’s association with life and love doesn’t hurt either.

  Blush Organic Frozen Yogurt venue in San Francisco’s South of Market District is painted is apple green and crisp white, communicating a sense of freshness appropriate to a dairy-orientated ‘snackery”.  However, this hue of green also provides other tasty associations:  the sharp and pungent flavors of limes and sour apples, as well as the sweetness of kiwis and honeydew melons.  All cool and refreshing, and fruity ingredients that could be used in their delicious yogurt!

Although also used to evoke connotations of the natural world, the greens in the  mural below, designed and executed for San Francisco’s Planning for Elders in the Central City organization serve quite a different function. “PECC”, which works to “improve the quality of life of seniors, adults with disabilities, and their caregivers in San Francisco and beyond….”  wanted to use the tree as a central image to express life, giving, renewal, community and support.  Associations with the Tree of Life, and the Giving Tree are amplified by using the color of leaves, which also represents life.  Green is also one of the colors associated with the heart chakra, standing for love, sympathy, and harmony.

Embarking on this post, I see how rich, expansive, and complex the subject of visual branding and the way artists can support it,  is.  A sister post may be in order to further elaborate on the subject. 

When we think about how everything we see, indeed everything we experience through any of our senses, communicates something, carries and provides associations, and potentially stirs our emotions, it boggles the mind, (no pun intended.)  We see, and experience first-hand just how powerful the element of color is, and how many different ways it can be used. 

We can perhaps understand in a new way, the expression, “…coloring perception…”

What experiences have You had with color branding?  Have you used color as part of a brand consultation? Color consulted with businesses, organizations, or even individuals on the how of hue  for their “soul DNA“, as Elka Eastly Vera, would say?

If so, please share it with us here.  We love to hear from You.

Remember, we are all bounding and branding through this thing called Life, together.




Synesthesia: Sense and Sensibility Part Two

Synesthesia: Sense and Sensibility Part Two

Our February 13th “Color Muze” segment on Artistically Speaking Talk Show, focused on the fascinating concept and phenomenon of “Synesthesia”, or “Unity of the Senses. I learned about Synesthesia through my color seminars at the IACC-NA (The International Association of Colour Consultants and Designers North America) from Mr. Frank Mahnke, President of the  IACC-NA and the Director of the IACC Education/Accreditation Programs conducted worldwide. Mr. Mahnke lectures on the  psycho-physiological effects of color, light and the human reaction to the built environment, as well as the role of color as information and communication in the field of marketing.  In other words… Color Rocks the Big One…our Perception.

In my first Seminar with the IACC-NA, I learned about how colors (the visual) can provoke associations with our other senses, (smell, touch/the tactile, hearing and taste), as well as affect our perception of weight, volume, size and texture.  In the words of Mr. Mahnke , “It seems that the centers for processing sensory information are linked with each other, leading to crosstalk between the senses.” If this is true, and it would seem from the evidence of our senses that it is, then the concept of Synesthesia is an important consideration in any and every color decision we make, with potentially profound consequences emotionally, physically, aesthetically, and even spiritually.   How does our perception of Color make us Feel?

We tend to talk about color in terms of the visual; “Oh, that red bedroom is so bright!”, or “That’s a very pale shade of lilac.” But, if we tune into our own phraseology, we may just as often hear ourselves speaking about color in terms of our other four senses, the auditory, (hearing), olfactory, (smell),  gustatory, (taste), and the tactile (touch).  “Oh, that red is just so loud!” “What a sour green!”, “Such a sweet pink room!“, “I love that soft blue.”

Let’s awaken all our senses by taking a closer look, and tuning into what we feel, and how we respond to color.

What do colors sound like?

Warm colors such as yellows and oranges tend to feel loud to us, and can potentially make a space feel “noisy”.  According toHeinrich Frieling, Director of the Institute of Color Psychology, we associate gold-yellow with major keys, and orange with loudness and major keys. Cooler colors such as blue on the other hand, tend to feel quieter and more distant, with darker-hued spaces seeming to  further muffle sounds.

What do colors feel like?

What texture does a particular color “feel” like it has?  It’s not surprising that yellow tends to “feel” smooth. When we consider yellow’s associations, this makes sense.  Have we ever felt a ray of rough or scratchy sunlight?  Looking at yellow’s opposite or complement, purple, we can get a sense of velvet.  Would this have anything to do with our association of purple with royalty, and the images of purple velvet which we may associate with royal robes?

What do colors smell like?

The  chroma, saturation, lightness, and brightness of a particular color  can affect its sensory associations. Under Frieling, the Institute of Color Psychology has asserted that the color brown is associated with a musky, or roast taste.  We may even use the word “browning” in lieu of the word “roasting”, or to describe part of the roasting process.  However, green-blue may elicit fresh to salty associations, while the hue “blue” is essentially odorless. Add to this the nature associations we have to brown in all its aspects (think “earthy”), green-blue (sea) and just “blue” (sky), and the sensory meanings can become clear. Different blue and brown combinations will give different effects, making us think with our noses, as well as our eyes.

What do colors Taste like?

Taste and smell are closely related, and tend to hold the same or similar color associations. Red is sweet and strong, as long as it contains no yellow, and doesn’t cross over into the realm of orange, which may not be so sweet, despite our associations with the fruit.  Perhaps the holiday of Valentine’s Day has played upon this “red as sweet” association, with its emphasis on red-wrapped boxes of chocolate, and other sweets.  I would add the term “rich” into the mix, my association with Valentine’s Day chocolate, if its worth its salt- er, sugar.  Green, and yellow-green by contrast (red and green being complementary colors, and opposite each other on the color wheel) associate with sour, with yellow-green veering to the tangy, and green, to the juicy.  Consider green apples, kiwis, limes, fried green tomatoes (well, maybe not fried…tomatoes ARE fruits though!)  Green to yellow-green hues can make our mouths water and our lips pucker just by thinking about them!

Thinking about it.  In a way, that is the point.. isn’t it?  Because, as we know, as scientists, colorists, designers and artists know, however subliminally, that color IS a matter of perception.  Color exists in our brains. As Frank Mahnke says, “There is no doubt that a unity exists from one sense to another.  Perception is not just a mosaic of separate sense stimulations.  In certain aspects of psychology…the entire organism is looked upon as a whole.”

All of our senses play into the impressions we receive, the internal images we carry, and the ideas we form. resulting in how we feel.  How we feel affects how we behave, and vice versa. When we understand, or perceive of color that way, we realize how amazingly,  incredibly important and powerful  it is.  Color really does Rocks the Big One…our Perception. And as some would say, “perception is reality”.  What do You think?

If you feel so inspired, share YOUR sense and sensibility with us here.  We love to hear from you.  Remember, we are all experiencing this thing called Life, together.

Newsflash: for another yummy look at the phenomenon of Synesthesia, please check out Elizabeth Brown’s Colorific blog post on the same subject.