Written February 28, 2017 by Erica Riker

As a graphic designer in this era, there are endless resources on the internet for us to find inspiration. Using the web for ideas in color, form, layout, and the like is not only fast, it’s also become a reflex, since we’re already in front of the screen pushing points. Just as all office-dwelling folks need to remember to take breaks, go for a walk, and get fresh air, creatives also need to remember to do analog project research — find your inspiration in real life. It’s good for you.

“I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life.”

— Jean-Michel Basquiat

One of the most cathartic parts of my job is working with color, and more specifically constructing palettes. There is an infinite scroll of palettes on sites like Pinterest and Kuler, but the real motivation comes from recognizing palettes in the wild that play together and evoke visceral feelings; colors that move you. I recently discovered the PANTONE Studio app, which helps us bridge this divide between finding color inspiration in real life, and translating that into a digital space.

The Volunteer Park Conservatory was a perfect place to test run the app on a very standard, chilling and rainy Seattle Sunday, with its towering tropical plants, delicate flowers, and most importantly, the cozy warmth you find in a greenhouse.


The PANTONE Studio app allows you to photograph what’s in front of you with a live color meter on screen, catching all of the color in the shot, and grabbing five at a time that read to be working together, and that translate most accurately to swatches from any of their color books.


Once the photo is taken (or pulled from your phones camera roll, with a pre-metered palette), the palette that was metered and captured can be customized by sliding the color spots around on the photo. The live-changing palette at the top allows you to watch how the color variations being adjusted play together with the palette, tailoring it to the mood you had in mind when taking the shot. Selecting the colors in the top palette open a full screen flood of the Pantone swatch, with the full set of color data needed to identify them later for your work.


I can’t stress enough how important it is for creatives, especially those of us working in a largely digital space, to remember to use tangible, natural methods of project research and personal inspiration. This process brings us back to the basics of where color and form come from in digital and print design, and allows us to reset and give a little self-care to our eyes, our brains, and our ever-hungry design hearts.