Li Edelkoort, Colour and Creative Thinking in Industry


If you hadn’t noticed I’ve been following the WC (or World Cup for the uninitiated) – not just occasionally clocking the odd match but …well put it this way I have a full size chart spread out on my coffee table complete with coloured pens to chart and fill. So boxes nearly all filled and finals on the horizon I left the summer breeze filled room and the TV alone for a few hours and headed into town to shop (a bit) and then literally drop into a chair at a cafe.

It was one of those summer days where even the most seasoned of mediterranean-ex-pats on sitting down at the same cafe could be heard saying while talking of the business troubles along the Costas…… “this is just like *home* – lovely weather if you don’t have to do anything”.

So the evening drew and I turned on the light in the living room, suddenly to be met with a half hearted buzz but a definite buzz which then buzzed around and around the light for a bit. It was a bee, and had been *resting* on the colourful map of the world cup – poor thing it probably had some weird tired last-chance-saloon reaction to the oranges blues and greens before it landed on the biggest bee trade descriptions calamity of its life.

A spoon of honey later and a waft in the right direction it hopefully got its bearings back and made a bee-type mental note that dwelling on images of Wayne Rooney et all is not the best route to survival (hmmmmm).

But colour has, in general been a bit strange of late. I have thought some of the evening skies have been quite full of almost surreal purple hazes with pinks and strange greyed-out azure blues in with the mix. A sort of summer fog, a dullness in the sky covering the vibrant colours highlighted by the sun.

A friend mentioned that some of Turner’s paintings had, at the time, quite literally captured a surreal sky fuelled by a volcanic eruption that year. So the current ash filled skies sprang to mind.


Chichester Canal 1828 Turner
Chichester Canal : Turner 1828

The year without summer

When the sun is out it is bright and certainly hot, but as soon as a cloud appears the sky seems to have a film of diffused colour, muted but vibrant.

Maybe this unusual phenomenon had something to do with disorientated bee – probably not – but who knows. I can remember a similar summer in the 80’s when Mount St Helen’s erupted, which was equally hot with vibrantly muted shades.

Colour is certainly everywhere, from natural sources; through mineral and organic to synthesized. The whole planet reverberates with this heady mix and nature is absorbing our man made efforts.

Nature seems to have a less contrived approach toward evolving colour as it is intrinsically linked with its own survival. Us humans seem to evolve our uses of colour through evolutionary fashion, or trends in consumption.

You only have to look at the next batch of colour co-ordinated cars for example trend sourced to mix and match with the latest i-app so as to keep up and not clash with the colour of market forces. As far as human consumption goes our use of colour is really market led even if creatively produced. Fashion, design and art also have this going on, fashion perhaps more obviously than art but it’s still there none the less.

So, even at its core creativity has or seems to have an intense link with market forces; the thing that is selling or creating a buzz seems to pave the way for follow on creative use in the field of colour.


Li Edelkoort

Li Edelkoort

links to View on Colour & Bloom : go to the editions/magazines page on her web

Li Edelkoort of View on Colour and Bloom *fame* is and has been a big player in our use of colour. If you subscribe and are in the industry or business of colour prediction she will no doubt be up there on your radar. Li works closely with Education in Design and has produced a range of publications and books documenting and predicting with her ideas.

Her books are, on that basis, a clear head and shoulders above basic predictions as she uses travel and thought, in her own right, as a creative sensibility to assemble collages of articles and interviews with whom she sees as being relevant people and things.

On her travels she uncovers plants and objects that fascinate her and builds up a picture of colour mixed with form and function.

Anna Wintour she is not – on the level that she is influential, well yes. But the methods to her conclusions, which are then taken and rethought out by other creative’s are used as inspirational ideas, which has given her the well earned name as mentor.

Li Edelkoort has been a shining light in an industry which so often gets bogged down with the less creative preoccupations of keeping up with the industry Jones’s. Leading everyone on the consumer –consumption train (hands up who isn’t on one of some description or other) of lacklustre ideas.

I am not saying that she is the queen of creativity – just that in an industry so caught up in what works financially (therefore giving creative ideas a second rating to that of form over function) she stands out.

She has injected inspiration over the years and played a leading role by believing in the necessity to be creative with our thinking before adding it to design. A very important concept especially in these times.


Interview at The Spazio Rossana Orlandi Designhuis Show part of the design academy Eindhoven


She emphasises natural elements being used in design in relation to a cash strapped time – a timely balance, but not a purist or non technological view of product development.

An excerpt from her Trend Union web site, the organisers of which specialise in audio visuals and publications, goes around the world giving lectures and talks.

“Expressing her increasing involvement in art and design, Li also curates exhibitions such as Armour: the fortification of man, in the Netherlands. And an installation as part of Skin Tight: the sensibility of the flesh at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and New York’s Stephen Weiss Studio.”

View on Colour
View On Colour Magazine : Armour edition

Recently she received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Art at Nottingham Trent University, and as one of those hands on with the creative’s at educational level, she was until 2008 chairwoman at Eindhoven’s Design Academy:

Part of an interview in Designboom which I remember from early 2000

“You always consider ethical aspects, do your students carry attention
that freetime is often used in slogans of a conservative rhetoric,
used to hide social problems as unemployment?”

“Of course, very early in our courses we have been working on social problems,

people who have leisure first, which is unemployment, which is streetchildren,
so it keeps coming up all the time, that to have freetime it’s not necessary only positive,
in our institute I think that there is a great feeling, that we must as well design
for minorities, problem groups … and not just working on beautiful chairs and lamps.
for the future we are planning a department on humanitarian design and
I’m looking for sponsors for this course, because it’s very expensive,
we have to send our students to the areas where are these problems.”

Her story is one of inspiration and as far as emulating goes, industrial creativity could go far wrong by not doing so.

One of her other projects is Heartwear:(go to the projects page of her web)

“In 1993, with a group of stylist friends, Li Edelkoort created Heartwear, a non-for-profit association that helps to sustain handcraft knowledge and so, collaborates with artisans to tailor their products for export, without compromising the skill, knowledge, culture and environment of the region involved. Design talent is coupled with marketing insight. Trend forecasting skills are balanced with historical and cultural knowledge.”

And her other projects are closely linked with big industry having clients from Coca Cola, Nissan, Siemens to Camper.

This small detail of creative thinking can so easily be lost or lose its meaning when money issues and social forces start to play a more political role in the outcome of events like global warming, ethical and human rights issues.


Thank gosh she is around and so obviously so, to make that difference clear!.


Wednesday’s post is in the mix……