#4: Design Basics from a Hairdresser

I had the opportunity recently to be a hair model for a highly reputable salon in town. They brought in some very influential cut and color experts from Portland (Ryan & DeAnnalyn, tealsalon.com) to show some of their techniques to a group of local hairdressers. As I sat with foils in my hair,  waiting for the lightener to take effect, I started to listen to the colorist explain her process and I heard a few design “buzz” words that caught my attention. So I decided to stop browsing Twitter and put my phone down.

 She was using words like “flow”, “contrast”, “eye movement”, “focal point”, “color palettes” … I decided to use the opportunity to take my own advice and learn some creative ideas from someone outside of the world of graphic design.
There are artistic virtuosos in many different fields, and learning how to learn from them is crucial to growing as a designer.
It’s important to seek inspiration from as many sources as you can and to be aware of those everyday creative epiphanies that will happen. I’m pleasantly surprised so many times in my day-to-day life at how many things I can draw from, especially when I’m not actively looking for them. Case in point, sitting in the chair at a hair salon. Some of the things I was reminded of as I sat there, was how often I can sometimes forget to consciously execute the “basics” of graphic design. After working in the design industry for as long as I have, I take for granted the things I know. I find myself searching for “new” techniques or ideas all the while forgetting that all I  need to create something truly great is to remember to design using the basics (principles of design, color theory, etc.). As I listened to DeAnnalyn explain the process of choosing hair colors for a model, I realized that she was going back to basics. She was talking about making sure that you choose colors that will create balance with the model’s haircut and face shape and that will accentuate and flatter her facial features. She expressed the absolute necessity of knowing color theory before choosing hair color; whether it was corrective coloring, gray coverage, or simply an updated look that the client/model wanted, it was crucial to keep in mind the color of skin, eyes, and knowing what colors will be complementary (buzz word). She described how certain colors will cause the eye to move around and that one must try to use color so that the eye never gets caught up on a particular area.
These buzz words represent concepts that are some of the foundations of graphic design. Balance, eye movement (hierarchy), and color theory, are of the basics, some of the most important. I was so inspired and motivated by the truly unique perspective on color that DeAnnalyn was demonstrating. I would say that after I had the privilege of not only listening to her thoughts on creative hair color but also getting my own color done by her (and a haircut by her equally talented husband), that I saw her more as a hair design artist. Her knowledge and creativity went well above just knowing how to mix a bowl of chemicals to try to match whatever swatch you chose from a book.
Her insight and awareness of every step of her process and having a reason behind every decision she made, is what allows her to be at an entirely different level in the beauty business; she, is a professional of the highest degree. This is the other area I was able to be reminded of that day in the salon, that being a professional requires knowledge.
It reinforces my stance on the difference between being a technician and being a professional, be it graphic designer or hairdresser. I regret to admit that when I walked into the salon that morning, that I never even considered that I might be reminded of some great creative concepts just by actively listening to someone in a field who most would have considered to be outside the creative industries.
It is vital that if we call ourselves “professional graphic designers”, that we are constantly learning from other fields. Look in unexpected places for creative inspiration and look for ways that you can connect those things with your design style. Design is a wonderful world, I hope you’ll join me here. Because design matters.
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