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January 12, 2010

New Year's Resolution: Learn More!

Design Expert: Kate Smith

Ten_logo_ copy Kate Smith

Color expert, Kate Smith looks to the New Year as an opportunity to Learn More and today, she shares her tips on how to increase our color knowledge, no matter how much or how little experience you have.

Kate and I met when we were both speakers at House Beautiful's Color Institute event in Florida.  Instantly, there was color karma.  We share a passion for color, learning, and enjoying our professions.  In thinking of this resolution to Learn More, Kate seemed like the perfect expert to share with us how color continues to teach her new lessons.  In her own words, here's Kate Smith's take on Learning More in 2010...

"A new year is a new beginning and the perfect time to learn skills that can improve your life.  Knowledge is king in today’s busy world. When you open up your mind to learning, a more enjoyable life, a more fulfilling career, even a more hearty bank balance can all be yours.  Resolving to learn more is empowering.

With that in mind I have put together a few ideas for learning about color, so that no matter what your level of experience, there is a place for you to get started.


If you have never given much thought to what colors define your style, commit to learn to trust your instincts, and get to know your stylish self.


Take it to the next level by recognizing the value of the "basics", and that there is more to color than meets the eye.  Then, begin exploring the colorful world around you.


Put your color knowledge to use by starting a project, or sharing your ideas with others.


Lastly, resolve to never stop learning about this endlessly fascinating subject.  The great thing about color is that no matter how much you know, there will always be something new to discover.


You Naturally Know How to Put Colors Together

I know from my experiences working with students at many different levels, that we all possess an intuitive ability to work with color.  It may take a bit of excavating to unearth your talent, but believe me it’s in there just waiting to be uncovered.


One way you can help your natural color instincts emerge is to play a little game. It's my colorful version of "Solitaire" meets "Go Fish".  Cut out a variety of solid color swatches from magazines; randomly select two or three, look at them together, and listen to your immediate gut reaction.  Take a moment to notice what it is you like or don't like about te combination of colors.  Try removing a color that doesn't seem quite right and replace it with one that you think looks better.  Repeat these steps and make as many different combinations as you like!



Not the Usual Combination But Its Perfect for a Famous French Champagne Brand

There are no right or wrong combinations, so toss out any color rules you may have heard in the past.  Just tune into that little voice in your head and decide if you find the combination of colors pleasing or not. 

Never underestimate how much you intuitively know and learn to trust your instincts.  Having confidence in your own judgment is the first step towards learning to use color.

The More You Know About Yourself - The Easier It Becomes to Pick Colors

Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” and I say, “Knowing yourself (or your client) is the beginning of all successful design projects.”

The more clearly you get to know your own style, whether for your home, wardrobe or business, the easier it becomes for you to find colors and design elements that work.  On the flip side, when you don’t have a clear vision, you may end up with a lot of things you like individually, but they just don’t come together as part of a beautiful whole.


If you’ve never given this a thought, start by opening your closet. What are the colors you wear that make you feel fabulous?  Do you get more compliments when wearing certain colors or types of clothing?  What colors or styles are predominant in your closet?  Next look around your home.  What elements stand out?  What colors have you chosen to surround yourself with?  How would you describe your favorite rooms?


Find Your Stylish Self

You might also want to keep a color and design journal or file to fill with pictures and examples of colors, color combinations, and things you love; include catalogs, magazine photos, paint and fabric swatches.


Gathering all these things together can help you see what it is that most appeals to you.  To define your color and style preferences, find the similarities in the colors, types of colors (bright, muted, jewel tones, etc.) or style of the items you have saved.  


If a common thread isn’t immediately apparent, then it might help you to jot down a few words that describe the items.  In the same way that you consider certain favorite dishes from your childhood ‘comfort foods’, there may also be certain colors or styles that you’re attracted to because they have a positive emotional connection.


I Discovered the Value of the Basics and I Think That You Should Too 

It’s true that I’ve been fascinated by color my whole life.  While other kids were busy scribbling away with crayons, I was busy arranging mine in color order.  But even with that, I must admit that when I was in college and my professors began talking about why it was important to know color theory, I silently whined in protest -- “No color theory!”  Like most of the students in my class, I was more anxious to dive right in and work with, not just talk about, color.

Take a Spin Around the Color Wheel


It wasn’t until I realized how an understanding of theory could open my mind to the infinite potential of using color -- in ways that I would never have expected -- that the value of learning this information became apparent to me.


When you learn something as simple as why complimentary color combinations -- red/green or blue/orange for example – naturally draw the eye, you realize why these schemes are so often used for logos, advertisements, and even your favorite sports team’s uniforms.  When you delve a bit deeper into color theory, you begin to understand how bringing in just the right third color can make these dynamic combinations even more interesting -- but that is just the beginning.


While some say the value of learning the basics is to have a strong foundation of knowledge; I prefer to think of it as building a solid platform to jump from as you learn to spread your creative wings.  If you’ve never explored color theory, I encourage you to sign up for a class or pick up a good book and take a spin around the color wheel.


There Is More To Color Than Meets the Eye

Certainly color can have strong visual impact, but are you aware that the power of color goes beyond what your eyes can see?  Color reaches deep into our hearts and minds, evoking strong, emotional connections that produce an almost instantaneous reaction. 


Take a Glimpse into the Meaning, Symbolism & Psychology of Color


Understanding all of the ways different hues tap into our emotions could fill volumes; but understanding the general responses we have based on research, historical significance and word association studies, can give you a good taste of this thought provoking aspect of color.


Keep in mind that people from different cultures may react to hues differently, and even your own personal associations can affect how you respond.  The more you learn about the unseen aspects of color, the more you can take advantage of the power they have in design.


Recognize The Powerful Role That Color Plays In Your Life Each And Every Day

From traffic lights, to product branding, to how we describe our emotional state; color has an amazing ability to communicate without ever having to say a word.


One of our favorite things we do on our blog Live In Full Color, is to show our readers that colorful insights and inspiration can be found everywhere we look, every minute of the day.  While you may often think in terms of black and white; in reality, there is no escaping color and the power it has over us.



A Color Palette Inspired a visit to the Rodin Museum in Paris


Begin to notice how color speaks to you -- whether though an advertisement in your favorite magazine; the color of a politician’s tie, or in a secret garden you discovered while on vacation -- you might just find yourself colorfully surprised!


Don’t Just Contemplate – Create!

Reading about techniques, tips, and tools, or looking at how others use color, is a great place to start; but the real learning begins when you apply your newfound knowledge.  Don't be afraid to try your hand at updating the color scheme of your living room or dipping a brush into some watercolors. 


Undertaking a project can be a challenging, yet very motivating, way to get started.  If you’ve never painted a room, why not start by changing the color on the walls in your bedroom?   Or if you want to figure out how to mix color, why not paint a landscape? Sometimes the best way to learn something new is to jump in with both feet.


What Project Could Motivate You To Learn More This Year?

If you don’t have the patience to figure out the steps and learn new skills on the fly look for books or programs to help walk you through the process.  For example, kits like our Color Confidence: Color for Your Home Interior provides a road map and guides homeowners through the process of picking colors for their home.  There are programs like this for just about anything you’d like to learn.


So whether you do it all by yourself or get a little help, starting a project is a great way to fast-forward your color education.  It can allow you to do some things that you used to have to pay someone else to do, or you may simply enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you did it for yourself.


Share Your Passion

When I began the very first blog devoted to color, not many people even knew what a blog was, so it wasn’t about the number of readers, comments, or page impressions.  It was about sharing and connecting with other color lovers; and for me it still is.


Learn by Sharing

Teaching has been another rewarding way for me to share my passion and connect with others.  I enjoy the group learning environment because it can open a whole new world of information for both the student and teacher; exchanging ideas, gaining insights, improving techniques, problem solving and creating great relationships with like-minded people.


I especially enjoy working with the students that take my Color Confidence: The Crash Course class because they come from all walks of life, many different countries and have varying levels of experience.  This has challenged me to really think about how I explain what I know, and I continue to allow the materials to evolve based on what I learn from my students.


With an entire world of knowledge just a few mouse-clicks away, it is easier than ever before to learn something new, share what you know and find others with similar interest, whether fellow students, professional colleagues or a group of friends.


A Colorful Way to Improve Your Career

As an independent entrepreneur, I think that one of the best reasons for learning is to give your business a boost.   You might be surprised at how much learning something new can improve your business or career, and at the very least, your boss or colleagues might take notice of your initiative. Plus if your new skills directly apply to your work, your company may even cover the cost of your tuition.


Hue Can Improve Your Career

When selecting training for your professional development, I recommend looking for classes that give you tools and skills that show you how to produce measurable results. In our Color Certification Program for Interior Designers, for example, we focus on color skills and knowledge as well as ways of using color to increase revenue opportunities.  The benefit of understanding color is that it can have a positive effect on just about any business.


Enjoy the Colorful Journey -- There Will Always Be More to Learn

For as long as I’ve been interested in color, you might think I’ve learned all there is to know; but that isn’t the case.  Color is a subject that covers a wide breadth and depth of information, so when I say this is an endless topic -- I’m not exaggerating!


With color there are so many areas to explore, ideas to captivate, and connections to discover, there will always be something new and exciting to learn.  I’ve resolved to never stop learning about color, and I hope that I’ve inspired you to do the same."


Jan 12th Answer copy
Congratulations to our winner, Melissa McClain.  

Thanks to Kate Smith of Sensational Color for her words of wisdom when it comes to both color and enjoying the idea of learning more each year!  Color educator and trend forecaster, Kate Smith's passion is color.  Helping people enjoy it--understand it--have fun with it--go wild with it--and use color confidently is her purpose. Above all, Kate is an inspirational person, blending color theory and psychology into entertaining and informative talks and articles that bring color to life.

Today's Bonus:  Hop over to HomeWorkshop.com to download your copy of Kate Smith's Ten Tips on Learning More.


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What to add more in this lovely article post. I think it is very well explained and knowledgeable for me. Keep up the good work and expect more fresh content here. Thanks

I like your post, the fact that your site is a little bit different makes it so interesting, I get fed up of seeing the same old boring recycled stuff all of the time.

Hi Kate!

Good stuff here. I especially like how you chose a palette from that Parisian scene, and how you encourage us that we instinctively do put good colors together.

It's a fascinating subject--so much we can do with color and that we can learn about it.

Thanks to you and Sonu for sharing!

Thanks to everyone for remembering my piece in House Beautiful. I so enjoyed being part of their awesome September 2009 color issue.

Congratulations Melissa! I'm looking forward to having you in the class. I'll send you an email with the details.

Thanks so much to the lovely Sonu for hosting me on her blog and to Kathy for offering the download of my tips. What a fun day it has been.

Colorfully yours,

Kate, I think lots of people want to take that class! Thanks to all of you for your answers.


Good sleuthwork everyone & check in tomorrow for an amazing recipe for fun from Jenn Sbranti!

House Beautiful September 2009
Find your color personality!

House beautiful...what the colors say

House Beautiful was the magazine Kate Smith's comments were posted in and the title of the Comment box
The Best in Color

House Beautiful: The Best in Color: August Week 1 The “I’m in House Beautiful” Edition

The September edition of House Beautiful. the title was "Your Color Personality"

This shouldn't be too difficult to find. You know I can never keep anything a secret. My life is an open book...or maybe I should say blog :-)

This is a 2 part question and we need both answers to be correct so we can give the gift of color to you!

House Beautiful was the magazine Kate's comments were featured in.

House Beautiful was the magazine Kate Smiths comments were posted in.

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