Behind the Blog: Design Seeds

Monday April 30th 2012, AT 11:39AM   7 Comments;

It takes just a simple online search to realize there are as many design blogs as there are individual ideas. Good design, however, starts with the basics and for anyone who loves color, one website is simply inspirational.

Design Seeds is welcoming, thoughtful, and irresistible — a place where everyday moments are deconstructed into a world of color. Each post features an inspiration board of a single stunning photo of a familiar object or place, accompanied by a related color palette of individually-mixed color swatches.

The site is the creation of Jessica Colaluca, a former industrial designer who now shares her love of color as one of Design’s most popular voices. Design Seeds receives 100,000 page views a day or an estimated three million page views every month.

Notably, Jessica also curates her site with the highest integrity as each photo is purchased and not reblogged. In addition, downloadable e-books allow users to hold several themed inspiration boards in their hands at once while their purchase helps to support the website.

Delish was thrilled with the chance to ask the talented and generous Jessica about Design Seeds, her own inspirations, and how she creates one of the most beautiful places on the web.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Could you share a bit about your background, and why Madison is now your home?

Jessica Colaluca: I am originally from the metro Detroit area and lived in New England for about eight years. Although work was the reason for coming to Wisconsin, we decided we wanted to make Madison home even though the jobs that brought us here were not the right fit. We absolutely love raising our daughter [Ruby Joy] here as Madison has an amazing community and quality of life.

Do you remember when you were first became aware of color?

JC: My passion for color reaches back to my earliest memories of playing with colored markers as if they were action figures, and melting crayons into little hue sculptures.

What was your path from art school to a successful career in automotive design?

JC: I am fortunate to come from a family where my siblings have successful creative careers, and my parents were extremely supportive of our getting the best educations possible. I learned early on the importance of selecting the best college or university for your desired profession. I wanted to study Industrial Design with a major in automotive. In the early nineties, having an automotive degree (beyond a BFA in industrial design) was difficult to get and opened up a fantastic opportunity. Center for Creative Studies (CCS) had the leading program for automotive design and although I had a desire to move away from my hometown, CCS was undeniably the best choice for education. It was an excellent decision, and I am grateful to have had exposure to know how to choose the right school.

Was your awareness of color changed by your experience in art school?

JC: No, it was not. Color is something I have always had a passion for and is unfortunately not a strong component in design education. Beyond color theory, there is not strong curriculum in most programs for color and trend’s significance in design. That said, my love for color was what inspired me to study glassblowing through school as I was fascinated by how color and light were part of such a fascinating and challenging craft.

How did your experience as a designer at Ford, Reebok and Timberland influence how you used or viewed color?

JC: I discovered color could be my profession while at Ford, and I requested a transfer from the studios (where I was designing cars) to the color and material department. I would travel the world and attend trend shows like Premiere Vision, visit textile suppliers, and material showrooms. It was a very exciting and pivotal moment in my career. I discovered who Lei Edelkoort was and would [pour over] the View on Color publications. Her vision resonated with me at the time, and it became my aspiration to one day be able to share my color and trend vision on a larger scale beyond working within a brand.

More recently while at Timberland, I led design for the Women’s urban footwear category for six years. My responsibilities included constructing the seasonal palettes and material selection for across the collection. My approach in Design Seeds is very similar to how I began the color story for each seasonal collection.

What inspired you to start Design Seeds, and what is the origin of the name?

JC: I went “on my own” in spring of 2009 and started my design consultancy. Working from home much of the time was initially disorientating after 15 years working in design studios. It was a feeling of isolation that inspired me to begin blogging in May 2009.

With the name of my consultancy being Seed, and I had a stamp for client mailings made that says “design seeds enclosed.” When I signed up for Blogger and it came time to fill in the blog name, it was that stamp on my desk that inspired the name … Design Seeds. The concept of the Design Seeds blog is based on my early color journals from when I worked at Ford in the color & trim department in the mid nineties. I love and know color, and I thought it would be a cool “experiment” to create my color journaling online through a blog.

Is there a certain tone you seek to set? Design Seeds seems to radiate with a calm confidence. Part of that seems to come from the credibility you bring, not only with your background as a designer, but also your integrity as you always purchase photographs and neither re-blog nor include sponsored posts.

JC: The whole intent of Design Seeds is serendipitous discovery. I wanted to keep it very pure and flexible so a diversity of readers can dig in and explore through their own approach and end purpose. I thought back to why I love View on Color back in the mid-ninties, and it was because it was intuitive and completely open ended while being dense with inspiration.

I also appreciate your kind words regarding integrity. I have personally funded Design Seeds for nearly three years. From day one I was sure not to “borrow” anyone else’s work, and purchased copyrights for every image. Original content has been the driving goal in maintaining blog integrity. It took me a long time to integrate my personal blog, and you will notice there is no advertising on it as I repost content to help illustrate my forecasting or color theory posts. I don’t believe it would be right to monetize that. The reason why I have advertisers on the Seeds site is to help recoup the operational costs of Design Seeds.

I would never consider a sponsored post or affiliate program either. There is no place for that in inspiration…it would taint the organic process of color inspiration and forecasting.

In a broader design sense, what do you see as this year’s color for spring?

JC: The year began with a blast of chroma for transitioning into spring. In general, you will see a transition from all the dusty and tinted neutrals such as the romantic blush colors of seasons past. The gray and yellow “moment” from the past few years is also evolving. Pink is coming on strong…I am talking electrified Barbie pink. I believe the “moment” minted aqua is enjoying will only get stronger. I called Calia Green (which is a moss) as color of 2012, and Amethyst Orchid as the emerging color of 2012. I believe both of these are very relevant this spring.

Personally, what is your favorite color? Does it change or has it changed over the years?

JC: My favorite color is Tiffany Blue, and Ruby’s is Turquoise. I remember at her age, mine was hands down Periwinkle. Tiffany Blue has been my favorite color for 20 years now…I have settled on a clear favorite. I wish my choice was a bit more unexpected, but I am simply smitten with it still.

What led you to create your series of e-books?

JC: The idea for the books was inspired by the fact that there are thousands of Design Seeds palettes. I don’t want the site to get to heavy with search operations and archiving. Candidly, the books are also a way to fund the site so I can grow it and pay for servers.

With the popularity of design on the internet, are there any changes in the design industry which you have recently observed or admired?

JC: The industry (in general) was late to adapt. Social media has been the domain of marketing departments. There has always been an “in house” ego that design studios were the center of generating vision and trends. There was previously an attitude that social media was only for enthusiasts and editors, and designers did not need to understand or play there. It was a bit of an ivory tower way of looking at design. This is all changing so rapidly, and many “in the industry” are still getting their head around how to harness this reality.

It is an exciting time, and I am so grateful I transitioned years ago to learn, live, and be part of this new time in design. In regard to large brands and design, I admire J Crew’s 770 Tumblr blog…they are most certainly getting it right.

What advice would you give our readers to best use your inspiration boards in their own interiors and home design?

JC: My advice is to pin or download your favorite palettes. Once you choose your favorite inspiration for your space, carry it with you (physically printed out or on your phone) while you shop. The inspiration is your reality check. Focus staying on target within the palette and feeling of the inspiration image. It is easy to get distracted with many beautiful things, paint colors, and accessories. Save something you fall in love with for another room if it is not consistent with the inspiration palette. I use this process for my personal and professional projects. A person can get easily distracted going through endless material books, but the inspiration keeps you focused and on task.

What has been the biggest surprise since you started Design Seeds?

JC: How many people are passionate about color. Some may love color, but not have the experience or ability to create successful palettes. I am grateful that what I am doing speaks to them, and they can now bring more color into their lives. At the time of doing is interview with you, I receive 100,000 page views a day. Last year at this time, I received barely 1,000 in a day. I am humbled by the wonderful response to Design Seeds.

Finally, why do you feel that color is so inspirational?

JC: Color is no different than music, food or other creative mediums…we are gifted with an intangible emotional response to beautiful aesthetics, and our senses and emotions are lit up by this as a result.

Check it out: Design Seeds

Dawn Mori is a freelance writer based in Southern California. She writes for various regional and national publications and loves to share stories of fascinating people, their work, and their communities. She currently spends her spare time commuting, reading global newspapers online, and making homemade ice cream for family and friends.

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7 Responses to “Behind the Blog: Design Seeds”

  1. Cristi says:

    I love Design Seeds! Her beautiful color combo’s helped me lock my wedding colors down. Jessica is SO sweet! She has even responded to some of my tweets!


  2. Steph H. says:

    I am absolutely fascinated with colour and colour trending/forecasting. Thanks for this great interview!

  3. sheri says:

    Design Seeds is one of the most exquisite sites ever – hands down. Thank you for this wonderful interview!

  4. LOVED reading all the questions and responses! She sounds so fascinating~ thanks for the post!

  5. jkinnisch says:

    Design Seeds is pleasantly both predictable (the daily download at 11:43 is my ahahh! moment just before lunch every day!) and unpredictable (just when I think the images can’t get better they get even better)! Color is a part of everything and Design Seeds is an inspirational part of everything color! Thanks for the lovely interview.

  6. Definitely enjoy my steady email updates on new color palettes from Design Seeds. Great interview and glad to know more of the background and evolution of DS. Keep up the great work!

  7. [...] Confira abaixo trechos da entrevista de Jessica à Delish Magazine. [...]

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