Issue 003 — Building the Cypress brand: Color

Issue 003 — Building the Cypress brand: Color

Originally published on Apr 11, 2021

Building the Cypress brand: Part 2—Color

"How does a colorblind designer use colors?"

"Doesn't your job involve seeing color?"

"How do you know that your logo is green?"

[multi colored branding image]

I don't hide the fact that I'm colorblind anymore. And as often as it seems like I talk about it, I promise you that more often than not I forget that I can't see certain colors. It really only becomes an issue when I start comparing what you and I might see. And I'm not alone here; You'd be surprised at how many colorblind creatives know each other through shared experiences.

Can you guess what does come up frequently though? The questions from above. And frankly, they get asked for good reason: I'm still not entirely certain what the green of the Cypress Design Co. brand is.

[color books photo]

But I've always strived to use colors in their best setting, regardless of my inability to see them. Color usage shouldn't be a matter of whether or not we all see them the same, it's a matter of understanding the proper context.

Let me try to explain: If you were going scuba diving for the first time, would you pop a tank on your back and a regulator in your mouth and dive right into the abyss? Maybe. But that might not be the smartest, or safest, method. I'd be willing to bet that you'd take a class, or read a book, or get a few certifications first. Why? Probably because people have told you that scuba diving can be dangerous. So what do you do? You study before you do it.

And so do I. I've studied color for quite a bit of my life.

And that doesn't mean my use of color is perfect – I'm certainly not the best branding designer. And okay, I know using the wrong colors isn't doesn't-know-how-to-scuba-dive levels of life threatening. But I certainly know that it's important to be intentional with choice, tone, vibrance, and volume of color in an experience.

[vines photo]

So now for the icing on the cake: the one hue I can't see is green. That's right, the Cypress Design Co. color.

But I do know that Cypress was originally inspired by nature. It started with topographic maps because of my own fascination with encapsulating a natural terrain. It's named Cypress because I grew up in Louisiana and have been surrounded by the lush, swampy settings of bald cypress trees and overgrown marshes for a long time. And if there's a feeling I wanted to capture with this brand, it's the blatant callback to the nature I use for inspiration and the growth in style that comes from creating whatever feels right in the moment.

[screenshot of adobe color]

So I knew why it had to be green. But as we've established, I can't keep poking at a color wheel until the right color drops out.

I'm a firm believer that we shouldn't create new color combinations from scratch. I think the best ones have always existed already in nature. It's why we tend to favor photos of a warm island sunset, or a cool glacial waterfall, or a tropical bird fully extending its plumes. If a range of colors immediately came to mind, you know what I'm talking about.

What you're seeing in the image above is the output of pulling palettes from nearly a hundred photos of alpine forests, pacific northwest lakes, and southern swamps. I take those photos, pull a range of hex codes from them, lay them out as a row, and blindly choose a palette that 'feels' like the tone I'm looking for.

[final branding colors image]

In this case, the final tone happened to be a mix of cool, muted greens and greys. And because I trust nature's color combinations more than my own eye, I went with it.


Crater Lake


The latest Cypress Design Co. release, Topo 004 — Crater Lake, is a 6" exploration in compact lines. I was also trying to mix a blue green that felt "pacific northwest" to me. It was a fun little one, maybe the right size to fill a hole on a gallery wall or hang on a photo wire.

Playing in the studio

Wye Oak

[The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs]

Lately I've been returning to some old favorites. There's a comfort in listening back to a band's journey through style and recognizing their attempts to depart from their categorized "genre." One of those musical departures that stuck with me is Wye Oak's 2018 The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs. The whole album has been on repeat again.

Call it 'still trying to find your voice' or call it 'being unafraid to be tied down to a single expected style,' I wholly respect the idea that we can change to express our truest emotions at will. Fast forward to their latest release, No Horizon, and Wye Oak's own self written bio proudly states: "Here, in a transitional moment for the band, there is no 'if' about whether or not they'll experiment with the format of their musical output – it's 'how?'.


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