While working on a project about the power of celebrity, Canadian product designer, teacher, and writer Todd Falkowsky encountered an intriguing question:
I asked myself whether there was something about, say, Cameron Diaz’s face we could apply to a cellphone or a car that would increase its appeal. I did something similar for the City of Toronto, trying to figure out whether it has a specific colour that could be used by Canadian firms, and it occurred to me that this could be done for all of Canada....
How do we approach and identify essential, commonly agreed upon qualities of place?
I began by taking scores of photographs and employed computer software to pull out the predominant colours of Ottawa and the provincial and territorial capitals. The exact process that worked in Toronto did not necessarily work elsewhere — there is also an intuitive element to it. For each city, I had to centre on what makes it unique, such as prominent landmarks or distinctive features of its built environment. As a result, regional differences emerge: the North tends to be very bright, the Maritimes aquatic, Ottawa pale.
The resulting paint chips--a distillation of each city's local landmarks, geography, and culture--are featured in this month's edition of The Walrus.
From my own travels a number of similarly evocative tones spring to mind--the cozy brick hues of Pittsburgh; the otherworldly neon blue of Lake Louise; the saturated green countryside of County Cork; the tepid pastel colors of houses in Maine. You probably have your own; but then, there's probably also some overlap, that goes beyond what color uniforms the local sports teams play and touches on things like environment, urban form, industry, climate, and light.
The abstraction of the color palettes presents an opportunity to grasp a place and its elusive "feel" at a basic sensory level; not only are these the colors that a place is made of, they are also literally what likely colors the experience of that place, which I find very compelling. (And reminiscent of this, too.) Even better would be a scratch-and-sniff version.