Episode 5

Optical Optimism: Color + Love

Hewlett Packard, Toyota, Herman Miller and many other companies call Laura Guido-Clark when they need an expert consultant on color, materials and finishes for their products. Laura takes us on her design journey, to discover the humanity and science of color which lifts and empowers individuals and communities and explores the connection between color and love. Listen in to hear Laura share the Optical Optimism so dearly needed today.

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Well, first, I just think color and love go together. I just don't even know how to speak about color without speaking about love. But for me, I always think that there are things in your life that reveal themselves to you about what you're meant to do and what your journey is about. And for me, it's this medium and it's not about my personal work, but more empowering other people to use color for their personal journey. Laura Guido-Clark, CEO, Love Good Color PBC


CCB (One Workplace): [00:00:00] This is CCB from the ONEder podcast. And I would love to welcome you all to an interesting conversation that we're going to hold today with our friend Laura Guido-Clark. In the way that we conduct these conversations, I like to give a little framework to say at One Workplace, we've been thinking a lot about design for connection. And that's connection in the broadest sense. Connection that generates communication. Connection that creates relationships to everything that we can possibly imagine. So we left ourselves wide open for research and discovery. And so we've invited Laura Guido-Clark to join us because she has such a wonderful—and I was going to say colorful, but I'm not going to do that—history in her career path within the design world. So, Laura, I don't want to describe you. I would love for you to give us a brief introduction to Laura Guido-Clark and then we'll start asking some questions.

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:00:00] Oh, a brief introduction! Well, I would just say that if I would describe my career path, it is one where... The reason I chose design (I actually had a double major in pre-med and interior design) and the reason I chose design was to do exactly what you said. It was to create emotional connection. And I believe that empathy is a huge driver. And in being a doctor or a designer, it is really so big a part of why, I believe we can make the changes that we make and why the work that we do really matters. And then once I was introduced to color, I realized that there was a deep sense of humanity in color, that color actually can bring us together because it is this language that is always communicating to us and it always has a way of connecting to us very soulfully. It isn't just visually. It's just so much deeper than that.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:02:23] So moving from a design degree into color consulting, how did you navigate that path?

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:02:37] I lived in Detroit and then I moved to San Francisco. I always like to say that Detroit taught me to find the potential in everything. I deeply love Detroit. And when I moved here, what I realized was that this was the land of new ideas and that people expect us to have new ideas here because they're so welcoming. People are so welcoming of, you know, your new idea. They love to try things and to experiment. And I found it to be so open that I decided that I could go from being someone who worked in customer service to someone who could design textiles. I just believed I could do that because I learned everything about what people wanted. And so I believed I could create something, you know, that they needed. And so that was the beginning of my career. It was a huge, big thing for my career to just open my studio and to really begin to work with clients. And I was very lucky that one client would hire me and then another would hear about it. And it was very organic. So I felt very excited that I could actually parlay the thing I love the most, which was the color materials and finishes into a career.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:04:04] So that career, as we slightly mentioned but we'd love to delve into it a little bit deeper, has morphed, has pivoted always with a focus on color. And talk a little bit, if you would, about your time with Deepa, who is a known quantity here in the Bay Area. But you can add a little richness to folks who may or may not be aware of her.

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:04:32] Yes. So when Deepa first met me, she actually wanted me to be a rep for her. She said, why don't you come and represent my textiles? And I said that I really didn't want to be a rep. I learned a lot from people about what was missing. What I really wanted to do was to go back to what I loved, which was design, and that if she took a chance on me that, you know, I wouldn't really work hard and try to create something that was very relevant. And to her credit. She hired me without, you know, the experience of having a portfolio in textile design. And really, it was a beginning of my career. So then the approach that we took at that time, it was the first collection I did with Beverly Thom, who is still like a sister to me, just love her so much. And we have such a deep friendship and connection. And we started as partners in design. We realized that what we believed was missing in the market was a softness, a way of merging our home and our work together. And that was really the beginning of our very first collection with Deepa. And we were just so excited because what we saw was that it took off and that it resonated for people and that it had a quality of warmth. And I don't think that we as humans will ever not want that, you know. And somehow, we had a very delineated world of contract and residential and we believed actually the boundaries were far more fuzzy. And that's how we addressed it.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:06:24] Well ahead of your time, as we all recognize today, with the movement so strongly of the residential and hospitality feel within the workplace and the blending of all of them. So you talk about your heartfelt commitment to empathy. And when we talk about your design studio, that as a result of one of the choices that you made from a career path standpoint, it says that it specializes in improving the human experience, which through color, materials, finish, and pattern--those are your tools. But could you talk a little bit more about that commitment to the human experience?

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:07:14] Yes. One of the things that I discovered is that we as human beings become deeply focused on an object or a space, and that sometimes it isn't put into context or it isn't always put in context. And what I realized was that what I really wanted to understand was, you know, how people interacted within the space. What were their needs? What were the singular needs? What were the collaborative needs? That there was a much more layered process of design, and particularly in industrial design, where we're designing objects. And so for me, it was really a deeper study. And so I created this trademark process called climatology, where I take readings of social, political, economic, and emotional environments. What I want to do is understand what is happening in the world around us more to understand the human value. What I wanted to address was how human values were changing so that I could be more prescient with how I approached my clients and the work we were doing together, because I believed it had to address that. And that's the level of empathy that I'm talking about and a deeper understanding of a greater context. So for me, that became a far deeper focus than maybe looking at color singularly as something that was in or out or for me, it was much more layered, complex and addressing human values and needs.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:09:03] So there was great success with Laura Guido Clark Design and the consulting that you've done with... You could list your clients, because I think it's actually a fairly impressive variety of folks that you've worked with.

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:09:22] Yeah, I get a little shy. But, well, Fortune 500 companies that we've worked at with from automotive companies like Toyota to Google to Apple to Herman Miller, many different kinds of companies. You know that... Oral B. Anything from something small like a toothbrush to something like a car. And those were lovely challenges, and the thing I found the most is how interconnected they were.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:09:59] Well, they're all used by people.

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:10:01] Exactly. Yeah, yeah. And you can see where one was shifting, how it could influence the other.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:10:10] Well, I think in studying a very cursory overview of the psychology of color, it's pretty fascinating that there isn't as much science as you would think about.

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:10:27] Yeah, there's a lot... well, there's science and there's some neuroscience and we've been really digging deep into those fields. And actually, they say if you are going to master color, that you'd have to understand chemistry, biology, physiology, physics. I mean, there's so much to color. But actually, one of the most simple premises for us to understand color is that it is not just relegated to the visual aspect that we always think of it as. It is actually a wavelength that's penetrated by your skin and therefore color has a physiological response and is so much bigger than we give it credit for. It does not lay on a surface. It goes so deep. And I love that about color.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:11:19] Well, your love of color... I almost want to give you the title of brand ambassador. You're the color ambassador, in a way. With your ability to take that passion and your understanding and introduce it to so many different communities and so many different industries and so many different types of characters, I'm going to say. And here's where I'd love to jump to Project Color Corps and have you explain a little bit about how your strong belief in color and its properties moved into the non-profit world.

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:12:12] One of the things that I started to realize was that I saw my clients benefit greatly from the use of color. The deeper understanding of color and I started thinking about, you know, how historically underfunded neighborhoods never got that. And how... equitable it could be if we could bring color into communities. And I had this dream. I was asked to be a blogger for Fast Company, and I got nervous. I need to be really honest. I was like, oh, my God. I don't even know what I'm going to say. And that night, I had this dream that I was talking to President Obama. And in that dream, he kept talking about hope and change, which he had always talked about. But when we were finished, he kept saying, this is so powerful, this change agent is so powerful. What I realized he was talking about was a can of paint. And it was the very next day that I founded Project Color Corps with this idea that we were going to use color as a medium and a change agent to create optical optimism in communities that oftentimes... the communities are so deeply aware that they never get color and they never get nature. And they've asked us that. Why is it? They understand the inequities of it. And it is, for me, like the most deeply powerful, rewarding work I could ever be doing to work with these communities. These beautiful communities and these children. And to have them understand how they are the change agents. They're the powerful ones. It's really about empowerment because they have beautiful ideas and they get to see their inner beauty surrounding them.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:14:30] And so explain... I know what Project Color Corps is, but not everyone will. So explain actually what happens in Project Color Corps.

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:14:40] So we go into schools or we go and we work with community organizations like the Boys and Girls Club or we've worked with DISH, you know, innovative housing solutions in the Tenderloin. And what we do is we go in and we teach the kids in the communities about color. And we ask them about how they want to feel in their communities and in their environments. And we also talk to them about what their ideas are. And we take them through this entire process in our educational seminar. We go through and we work together, and we create palettes. They vote. It's a very interactive, really wonderful process. And, you know, they take the voting very seriously and then we go into the community and paint. And with volunteers from the community, we change the space. And our engagement is very deep. It probably goes from a period of like nine months to a year in our interaction. But there is a very deep understanding. One of my favorite lines is a little boy came up to me, said, "My school is beautiful because I did it." And that's exactly right. It's because of them that their communities are beautiful. And it is so wonderful to just see that the change that can be implemented. And it's really all about the community,

CCB (One Workplace): [00:16:19] Which is incredibly beautiful. It makes me stop for a moment and just let that rest. And then I think about some of the studies that we've been doing on design for connection and how a lot of the issues of loneliness and social isolation and mental health can be combated by social connection. And how fascinating it is that part of your process breaks down some of those barriers immediately. And then in the longer term it actually broadens its impact. And I wonder if you could talk about what some of the results have been in some of the communities where Project Color Corps has had a project.

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:17:21] Yes, I'm happy to do that. So in all of the projects that we've executed, we have never been attacked in any of our communities. And we have been told that disruptive behavior has been reduced in our engagement. We've been told that the people of the community, the people living around the projects that we've worked on can feel the love spilling out into the streets. We've just been told so many wonderful stories. We get the most beautiful letters from the kids of the community and they write to us and tell us that before maybe they didn't want to go out and play, but now they love to go out and play. And they feel... one of the schools asked if we could create a place where they felt respected. And when I asked them what it meant to feel respected, they said, could we create a place where people want to come and visit them because no one wanted to visit them now. And when we finished the project, they said that they could see why people would come and visit them and that they felt really proud of their school and they felt that it was welcoming and that it would be a place that would encourage people to come. So we have these like very beautiful stories. And we also have the stories where, you know, that haunt me. Like one of the little boys came up to me and asked me if I had a color that could stop violence. And that question really haunts me and always makes me really teary. But we talked about how we could create something that was powerful because they're powerful. That could be a reflection of who they were in their neighborhood. And that that would have an energy to it and something that they could own. And I wish that there was a singular color that could do that, but it allowed us to engage in a conversation that was deeply meaningful. And rich.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:19:40] That is beautiful, and it yes, makes me stop. So I'm going to put a plug in here for anyone who's listening to check out Project Color Corps and volunteer or donate whenever you have the opportunity because it makes such an impact... Across the United States, you've been working, correct, Laura?

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:20:07] Yes. We've just opened chapters in Portland, Chicago and New York. Soon to open other chapters and soon to launch a new initiative that we're really excited about. And I'll keep you posted about that. But yes, because of the generosity of people like you and the design community who has embraced Project Color Corps and volunteered to do design work. Paint companies like Kelly-Moore Paints who step up and donate all the paint and they donate all of the supplies. So, you know, one of the things that I have to say that moves me just as much as moving with the kids are that people inherently are good-hearted and generous. And I'm always so moved by how many people step forward, you know, Two Furnish. Who just, every year they sponsor a non-profit like ‘Chairity’ and they give the money to Project Color Corps each and every year. It just like really moves me. And so I think that even though I started the nonprofit not knowing what it meant to be a nonprofit, I had to learn a lot of things. I have to say that the beauty--not just the physical beauty, but the inherent beauty of human beings has made such a deep impact on me and I always feel that I received far more than I ever give.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:21:47] I would like to move us then to something else that you have to give, that that is a newer venture and that is your Love Good Color. And that's a young'un in your portfolio. So how about you help us understand what's going on at Love Good Color?

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:22:09] Well, first, I just think color and love go together. I just don't even know how to speak about color without speaking about love. But for me, I always think that there are things in your life that reveal themselves to you about what you're meant to do and what your journey is about. And for me, it's this medium and it's not about my personal work, but more empowering other people to use color for their personal journey. It's a passion of mine, whether it's in a community or whether it's teaching designers which... Love Good Color is you know, it's a methodology. It's a new way of teaching color based on emotion and science. It's a sense, but it's taking everything I've learned in my life and sharing it to try to engage people to use color in an impactful and meaningful way. So it's kind of like the sum total of the things that I've been learning along the way and wanting to share.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:23:23] And so what does that look like? Is that classes, is that consulting? Is that...

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:23:30] It's both. It's classes. We're offering classes. And we do them typically, you know, every week. People could go online and sign up for a workshop. And it's three hours and it's been really wonderful. We've had wonderful comments and positive responses from people that are very, very professional. All kinds of designers who talk about how it's shifted the way that they thought about color. And it has to do a lot with like listening and being in the trenches and understanding what I was up against us as a color consultant and trying to make it easier for all of us to navigate that world of color. So it's classes. We're working on digital tools right now. And, you know, it's exciting. I am also doing this thing called First Color Fridays, where I realized, you know, the isolation you are talking about, that a lot of designers are really working alone. And I wanted to just offer, you know, an hour where I would just answer questions that's like totally free. You just call in and if you have questions about color, then I will answer those questions and try to be as helpful as I can so that we can feel connected and that you knew that you weren't working alone. So those have been really wonderful. And I've had some really fascinating questions and it's a nice time for us to kind of connect.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:25:16] Laura, I just have to say, I have known you for years, but you come in and out of my awareness and I apologize because I wish I spent more time. The contributions that you make on a regular basis to, I'm going to say, community. And that community grows and expands with the work that you do. It's so inspirational.

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:25:47] That's so nice of you to say that. Thank you so much. Well, I'm inspired by you and our community, our design community and the generosity. You always step up. And I think what's nice is that we understand how much we're there for each other, even if we haven't seen each other for a while. We have a deep respect and I think that really matters. And I just feel very committed to taking this message of color and impact. You know, the emotional power of color and taking it further as much as I can. That's what I'm really dedicated to doing.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:26:34] Well, I think you've done an amazing job and you will continue. I know that. I want to offer you the opportunity. Is there anything else that you need to share, you feel compelled to share with our listeners today?

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:26:46] Well, I just wanted to share with them that I have made these very interesting observations in our world that, without Covid, I probably couldn't have made before. And for the very first time, I've seen footage of empty cities, and I've been on enough Zoom calls to also see that people bring color to spaces and objects, too. But I'm asking that we think about how color can play a bigger role in our lives. Because I do believe that we need it now more than ever and that we need each other now more than ever. And so I think that this is a vehicle that can bring deep connection and well-being. And so that would be something that I want to share with everyone.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:27:47] Laura Guido Clark, thank you very, very much for spending time with us this afternoon on the ONEder podcast. And we will look forward to seeing more of your color all over the world.

Laura Guido-Clark: [00:28:00] Thank you for having me. I'm so grateful.