Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What is Neutral?

Almost any discussion of design or color composition includes "neutral" either as an identifier for a specific color or as a catchall for something that has no loud voice of its own. During previous generations of fashion and architectural design, the term neutral was used to tag the central color around which all others were placed, as in "black is the perfect neutral - anything goes with it" or "ivory is the perfect neutral, you can't go wrong with something so quiet". Neutral has become the spin-word for any color that doesn't scream at the others standing nearby. Neutral has become the vehicle upon which the "excitement colors" ride into a picture and steal the show. In my personal definition of neutral I include any color - period! When you really think about it, we start off with 3 neutrals around which any other color can live with grace and harmony. These three are green, blue, and brown. Odd choices, you may think. Well, not really - blue is sky, green is grass and leaves, brown is dirt or soil, and there is almost no color that we recognize that isn't embodied in a flower somewhere on the planet. Neutrals to me create a sense of harmony so that the colors in any palette don't end up overshadowing one another. Neutrals are the intermission between acts. Neutrals are fresh "tastes" between courses of a meal. Neutrals are the "times out" between clashes of personality and muscle. We use neutrals everyday in our lives. When we take a "breather" to escape the intense concentration of a long discourse or the tediousness of detail work we are actually seeking our mental neutral. It is where we go before we change gears, so to speak. This week I will spend some time elaborating on my concept of "neutral" and where and how it fits into our everyday life - and how it is the "neutral" that can be what makes our everyday "special".

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