RDA Color Trends, From Coast to Coast

Compadres! Here’s your latest alibi for perusing a little eye candy: have you studied up on the latest color trends nationwide, as seen in Print’s Regional Design Annual? In honor of putting the RDA online for the first time in its thirty-year history, let’s spin through some late-breaking color brain-waves now seeping across our timezones.

CONCERT POSTER FOR GOGOL BORDELLO.
DESIGN FIRM Jay Vollmar CITY Denver, CO

Strong yellow with hot pink

Graphic designers have a perennial weakness for strong yellows. You can nearly always count on a bevy of lemon, canary and highligher-acidic yellow washes in any sampling of modern graphic work. It’s a workhorse color: potent, but easily adjust to the right pungency to suit a particular job.

What you don’t see every go-around is this clever pairing of hot pink with a strong yellow. For obvious reasons, not every client is game for such a palette, nor is the combo sure-fire for too many projects at a clip. But when paired with the right message, hot-pink-and-yellow are a fantastic salvo, cutting clean across the usual panoply of brighter-hued work.

LOGO/STATIONERY SUITE FOR KIMMEL KIDS.
DESIGN FIRM i dezin ART DIRECTOR Cristina Padron CITY Los Angeles, CA

The new browns: cardboard, buff and sepia

While not exactly a new trend, more than a few projects from this year’s RDA turned to natural-pulp paper and a related palette of soft browns. It’s a durable trend for many reasons, several of which are unusually relevant right now. Browns are warm, rich and tactile – a luxurious feel on the cheap. Their almost living texture (whether actual in print work or suggested in web projects) makes an equally fitting background for crisp, “produced” messages or handmade stamping or other crafty angles. Browns and tans hint at heritage, authenticity, craftmanship, credibility and Americana. They push that right optimistic button, suggesting a blank slate to be filled with fresh, even noble ideas, whether that expresses itself as corkboard, parchment, wood, concrete or butcher drawing paper.

PRESS KIT FOR MAMA LOU: AMERICAN STRONG WOMAN.
DESIGN FIRM Andy Gabbert Design DESIGNER / ILLUSTRATOR Andy Gabbert WRITERS Linsey Lindberg, Erica Mohar CITY Oakland, CA

EDITORIAL ILLUSTRATIONS ON ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION FOR MEN’S HEALTH MAGAZINE.
DESIGN FIRM The Decoder Ring Design Concern ILLUSTRATOR Christian Helms CITY Austin, TX

POSTERS FOR THE SWITCH CREATIVE GROUP’S CONCERT SERIES.
DESIGN FIRM Switch Creative Group ART DIRECTORS Kimi Dallman, Glen Collins DESIGNERS James M. Wilson, Christina Childress, Justin Childress CITY Dallas, TX

BATMITZVAH INVITATIONS.
DESIGN FIRM Sideshow Press DESIGNERS Amy Pastre, Courtney Rowson CLIENTS Jan and Larry Lipov CITY Memphis, TN

INVITATIONS FOR UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD’S PRIVATE EVENTS
DESIGN FIRM Bailey Lauerman ART DIRECTOR Marty Amsler DESIGNERS Dave Markes, Jim Buhrman WRITER Rainbow Rowell CITY Omaha, NE

Sky-blue

Another design classic, sky-blue is proving its mettle again as a hopeful, clean neutral of the moment. It signals youth and age with equal grace. It’s not a bit polarizing, although it lacks the necessary gravitas for certain projects. Like the cardboard browns, it brings to mind other canvases waiting to be filled, from a clear summer sky to unsullied graphing paper – even the technological future.

Paired with cherry-red, it also suggests American without too much overt patriotism. (My post Christmas on the Fourth of July gives you a fuller scoop on that trend.)

POSTERS PROMOTING SECONDARY EDUCATION
DESIGN FIRM Publicis ART DIRECTOR Jeremy Schwartz ART DIRECTOR Jan Michael Bennett ILLUSTRATOR David Fullarton WRITER Jeff Watson CLIENT Learn More Indiana CITY Indianapolis, IN

POSTER TO COMMEMORATE THE ARTPRIZE EVENT.
DESIGN FIRM People Design CREATIVE DIRECTOR Michele Brautnick DESIGN DIRECTOR Adam Rice DESIGNERS Josh Best, Neil Hubert PRODUCTION DIRECTOR Jeanne Weaver CITY Grand Rapids, MI

Honey-bees and tuxedos: yellow with B&W

Here’s a smart new use for strong yellows that I’d like to see more of: a well-saturated yellow, paired with antiqued fonts and touches of B&W. This particular shade of yellow offers so many possibilities. It evokes the sun-dappled Mediterranean, the Hapsburg empress Maria Theresa’s signature shade, parchment and gold leaf, but it can be spun mischievously and energetically, reminiscent of bumble-bees or farm acres of sunflowers.

WEDDING INVITATION.
DESIGN FIRM Ptarmak, Inc. ART DIRECTOR / DESIGNER JR Crosby PHOTOGRAPHER Zach Ferguson CLIENT JR Crosby CITY Austin, TX

NOTECARDS INSPIRED BY VINTAGE TYPE SPECIMENS.
DESIGN FIRM L. Palese Graphic Design ART DIRECTOR Jim Massey CLIENT Potter Style

STUFFED ANIMALS FROM THE SERIES “ALPHABEASTIES AND OTHER AMAZING TYPES” DESIGN FIRM Werner Design Werks, Inc. ART DIRECTOR Sharon Werner DESIGNERS / ILLUSTRATORS Sharon Werner, Sarah Nelson Forss WRITERS Sharon Werner, Sarah Nelson Forss, Joe Weismann
CITY St. Paul, MN

Speaking of black-and-white, this year’s RDA features several handsome examples of what can be done with an iconic newsprint palette. I’m such a fan of the Alphabeasties book (just ask my dee-lighted nieces, who got it for Christmas along with Christoph Niemann’s The Pet Dragon). Too much kids’ stuff is either just plain ugly or else twee-in-the-extreme, mini-Modernist nightmares that hint at tightly controlling parents more than they suggest ordinary fun. I think kids respond to simple beauty that’s pitched directly to them, and the Alphabeasties series of toys and books hit that spot admirably.

Ahem, end of auntie-sermon and back to B&W. So many designers showed us unexpected ways to spin this classic in the RDA. Tactical Magic put a fine line-drawing against a mottled gray background (below) to hint at rice-paper or parchment and a witty juxtaposition; while my namesake Jude Landry (hi, fellow Jude!) schools us in the clean punch a well-crafted monochrome poster can offer. (I believe that background is a super-dark brown, a nice blending of the recent yen for browns and B&W.)

ADVERTISEMENT FOR MEMPHIS BIOWORKS FOUNDATION.
DESIGN FIRM Tactical Magic CREATIVE DIRECTOR / WRITER Trace Hallowell ART DIRECTOR / ILLUSTRATOR Ben Johnson DESIGNER Brian Borgman CITY Memphis, TN

POSTER FOR JESSICA HISCHE LECTURE AT MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY.
DESIGN FIRM Jude Landry Design ART DIRECTOR / DESIGNER Jude Landry CITY Starkville, MS

Super-dark purples

I called this during fashion week last fall: the future is daubed in a deep, juicy purple. As a color, it screams royalty and richness, but rendered in extra-dark tones, purple offers a discreet elegance, a knowing twist on classic B&W. In Zadie Smith’s book cover below, the finely etched lines waver between purple, navy blue and black – all wonderfully restrained but highly eye-catching.

BOOK DESIGN (INTERIOR) FOR SPOONBILL & SUGARTOWN BOOKSELLERS.
DESIGN FIRM Thomas Ng, Inc.

BOOK COVER FOR PENGUIN BOOKS.
ILLUSTRATOR Si Scott

ENVIRONMENTAL GRAPHICS FOR DOW JONES HEADQUARTERS.
DESIGN FIRM Design360 ART DIRECTOR Jill Ayers DESIGNER Rachel Einsidler PHOTOGRAPHERS Albert Vecerka/Esto, Jeffrey Kilmer

BOOK COVER FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS
ART DIRECTOR Jill Shimabukuro DESIGNER Matt Avery CITY Chicago, IL

The new CMYK and alternate rainbows

I blogged about the rainbow-madness among designers over a year ago, and finally the euphoria is fading. This crop of RDA winners suggests projects in need of multi-color treatment will no longer reach for the candy-colored iRainbow palette unilaterally. The new multi-colors feel richer, older, and more rooted. Even CMYK riffs like the Time 100 spread below take that traditional palette at a slant, in this case imparting a yellowed newsprint feel.

PACKAGING FOR SWEETEETH CHOCOLATE.
DESIGN FIRM Fuzzco ART DIRECTORS Josh Nissenboim, Helen Rice DESIGNER Mason Greenewald ILLUSTRATOR Mason Greenewald WRITERS Josh Nissenboim, Mason Greenewald CITY Charleston, SC

BIRTHDAY CARD.
DESIGN FIRM MX Mitchell Designs DESIGNER Martha Mitchell CITY Norwalk, CT

INVITATION FOR BABY-NAMING CEREMONY.
DESIGN FIRM Siquis ART DIRECTOR Greg Bennett PHOTOGRAPHER apparitionstudio.com CLIENT Anita Kaplan CITY Baltimore, MD

GATEFOLD INSERTS FOR THE TIME 100: THE WORLD’S MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE.
DESIGN FIRM Headcase Design ART DIRECTOR D.W. Pine DESIGNERS Paul Kepple, Scotty Reifsnyder, D.W. Pine, Lon Tweeten ILLUSTRATORS Paul Kepple, Scotty Reifsnyder WRITERS Leslie Dickstein, David Bjerkile CITY Philadelphia, PA

A hearty congrats to all the RDA winners this year. Thanks for giving us tons of great insights to chew on, including (and especially) in color!

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