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Laura Guido-Clark’s mostly white strategizing space, where she decides what she loves—or hates.
Flor tiles Guido-Clark designed for the company.
Colored covers for Kodak digital cameras.
Guido-Clark’s drawers of color chips.
Style Counsel: Being objective
Laura Guido-Clark explains why our possessions make us feel the way we do.
Joanne Furio | Photo: Laura Flippen | December 28, 2011
Have you noticed that patterns have nudged their way onto kitchen appliances? Or that your relationship with your car has gotten, well, more intimate? Berkeley-based design consultant Laura Guido-Clark has. She’s the go-to person when companies like Toyota, Samsung, and Mattel want to make their products more emotive, colorful, and appealing. Using her trademark mix of hard science and intuition, she has helped Flor become a purveyor of chic flooring, sought after by design aficionados, and worked with Kodak to bring color to the exterior covers of its digital cameras. Her latest endeavor, the nonprofit Project Color Corps, reflects her lifelong belief that “color can make people feel better about everyday life.” Here, Guido-Clark reveals how products are working harder than ever to be loved by you. lgcdesign.com
What, exactly, do you do? I call myself an experience consultant. Although I do a lot with color, I don’t really care if blue is in or not. I’m trying to rethink our relationship to objects and environments. Otherwise, we’re just living with a bunch of things that are meaningless.
So how do you facilitate the dialogue between you and an object? I remind electronics designers that technology needs to be more aware of the humanistic quality in everything.
I just bought a Kia Soul after seeing it on the highway and immediately being attracted to its shape. You are seeing more of that rounded, more sculptural form in cars like the Soul and the Fiat 500. There’s sensuality, a feeling that you want to engage with the car.
You have a lot of yellow-green around your studio—the same color as my car. It’s a gorgeous color. So fresh! That and pink are the new neutrals.
What about the iPhone? It’s metal or plastic, and yet everyone gets a rubbery case for it. Shouldn’t it just be designed that way? The beauty of the iPhone is the perfection in the object itself. That would be lost if it came with a rubber case. I don’t have a case on mine, but the purple one you have adds your personality to that great design.
When you helped Design Within Reach create its bedding, you treated the bed as a room. Do people really spend that much time there? Yes, because of that iPhone. All of a sudden you can do all these things in bed that you previously had to do sitting up or in a specific place in the house.
The flat sheets you created for DWR have a padded edge. Why? Softness is especially important in bed, because it’s comforting. Where else do you lay your face against something? Bedding has to create a more sensual experience than the upholstery on your sofa.
Speaking of upholstery, what will we be seeing more of? Linen. Look at the new Restoration Hardware upholstery—lots of linen. CB2 and Room & Board are also bringing it in. Europeans have known about it for a long time. Americans are just now embracing it, not just as upholstery but as bedding, too.
What’s the appeal? The feel, the freshness of it, but also that you can see how beautifully it’s woven. That connection to craft is really important.
What other medium is fashion-forward? Ceramics. You see ceramic materials everywhere: on building facades, watches, electronics, and interior walls that are patterned and textured. These materials feel human and yet cool to the touch. It’s a surface you want to run your hands over.
What does the future of major appliances look like? More color and pattern. Smeg is a perfect example—its refrigerators come in 10 colors. The Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese are doing simple patterns on their large appliances—like florals.
Why are Americans pattern-phobic in the kitchen? We see appliances as long-term investments, and our outlook is a bit more serious. That’s why we embrace the professionalism of stainless steel.
In the bathroom, white has been the classic ever since the invention of indoor plumbing. What other colors convey clean? Blue and a fresh green. A lot of it has to do with things from nature that feel fresh and invoke overall emotive feelings, which is why it’s hard to imagine black toothpaste. Although I just bought a black toothbrush at the Ace Hotel in New York. It’s so simple, the finish is beautiful, and it feels smaller and more intimate in your hand.
Why do you pay so much attention to color? Within 90 seconds of viewing an object or environment, you base up to 90 percent of your subconscious judgment on color alone.
What are your plans for Project Color Corps? Painting the E.C. Reems Academy of Technology and Arts K–8 charter school in Oakland this summer. In order to teach children self-respect, we must give them environments that are optimistic and hopeful.
You also plan “Random Acts of Color”—like a Critical Mass for the palette. We wrapped a tree near Ohlone Greenway in El Cerrito with old 45s that we painted and linked together like a necklace. Suddenly this overlooked space was improved.