Anyone who knows me well will appreciate that one of my ‘special’ skills is communication. They may also tell you ‘she could talk under water’, ‘talks with her hands’ (knocking the odd glass of wine over) and thinks and speaks ahead too quickly. The assumption of a talker is that they are not always a good listener. This of course is not always true but understandably, talkers can sometimes be misunderstood. We do listen but what we hear often immediately sparks the next question and thought, launching us into the next conversation without taking a breath. I personally find people’s experiences and lives so interesting that there is always another question to ask. However, as I have got older, I do try to slow it all down a bit!

Digital people communicating through tin cans

Communication comes in many forms and for the most part, it is intuitive for all of us. Right from day one we develop our skills to convey to others what we need by using body language, giggles, gurgles and crying. As babies, we rely heavily on sound and visual cues. If a baby happens to be deaf, then the visual senses will be heavily relied upon and, if blind, then what they hear is a large part of understanding and engaging with their world.

If we have sight, this sense often dominates other senses. Even when we are hearing, our eyes watch people talking, helping our brain to process the audio more efficiently. Remember when you were young, you probably heard things like ‘look at the me when you are speaking’ or ‘don’t talk through walls’. The reason being, is that not only is it considered rude, it actually hampers our ability to hear and understand the person speaking to us if we can’t see them.

Baby boy lying on the blanket with many toys around

Colour is the first visual element that our brain engages with. It helps us understand our environment, the dangers and to formulate our ideas. Shapes are enhanced with tonal and colour contrasts. Through my study of colour, I strongly believe in the impact colour can have on our understanding and ability to convey our messages. Following our visual & hearing cues, we then rely on our other senses, such as touch & smell.

As we grow and develop, we will learn the spoken language that surrounds us. Nowadays, many families will have more than one language spoken in the household. Babies who grow up hearing and learning more than one language will naturally become multi-lingual. They may favour one language over the other, but the neural pathways are established at a very early age, giving them the ability to take on additional languages more readily. By the time our children commence their schooling, they are grappling with the complexities of the spoken language and are beginning to read and write. As we all know, it takes years for us to fully form our language ability. For those who experience learning disabilities with speech or reading, it can take a little more effort and a little longer to accomplish fluency. Parents, teachers, friends and colleagues just have to be patient and generous with their help.

The ability to communicate is so important to our mental health, our engagement, our learning, our inclusion and our socialisation. Whatever method or language used to communicate throughout society, it is our individual obligation to do our best to be all-inclusive. We especially appreciate this even more so now that many of us live in multi-cultural communities throughout the world. With the latest of technology, communication is becoming more and more accessible.

Being a talker, a traveller and a person interested in other cultures and countries, I have always wanted to learn other languages and an ambition of mine was to gain a second language, at least at the talking level. Whenever I travel, I always try to learn the basic greetings so I can engage initially with the locals. I personally find formulating the sounds and words tricky and I very rarely get past hello, please and thank you but I do try. Being an Aussie provides lots of entertainment when it comes to accents.

I speak about deafness in this particular article because my cousin (from a baby) has grown up with initial loss of hearing, then deterioration to now complete deafness and has since married someone who is also deaf since birth. When I catch up with the family, my cousin is kept busy being the interpreter and translator for all of us. She is one incredible woman – deaf but so communicative. She speaks English, lip-reads and signs AUSLAN. She acts and works using her skills and manoeuvres between the hearing world and the deaf world with ease. However, this is not the same for everyone. Communication for deaf people (I imagine) can be incredibly difficult and isolating. I understand that learning, socialising, studying and then becoming part of the workforce throws up many challenges. Not everyone, including those who are deaf, has strong and varied communication skills. If you can’t be understood and/or understand what others are saying, then life can be very restrictive for you.

Hands spelling out BSL in British sign language

With exposure and a desire to be able to talk to anyone and everyone, I am about to realise a life long ambition of learning a second language. This year I will be commencing the BSL (British Sign Language) Degree at Heriot-Watt University. It is a degree specialising in interpreting and translating, so all being well, in four years I will be ready to participate in the very exciting times of linking the hearing world to the deaf world by way of language. I understand from one of the professors that it generally takes 7 years to become fluent in BSL. That said, I am well up for the challenges that lay ahead. With many people very aware of the difficulties faced by those with BSL as their first language, much progress is being made to help with accessibility and learning throughout our communities. With the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015, work is being done to further promote the language and accessibility for those who use it. I am so excited to become a part of this on-going development and I hope in the coming years to be able to contribute greatly.

On the other hand, my family and friends are quietly smiling in the thought that some of my future communication will be done in silence. However, with facial expressions and the use of my hands to communicate using BSL, in time I expect to be as chatty as ever.

Long term, I hope to bring my newly learnt communication skills into my colour consultancy business, opening up my services to our very colourful Deaf community in the UK and beyond. Watch this space!

 

#Communication #Language #BSL #Colour

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What are your thoughts on colour trends? 

Marbled blue abstract background. Liquid marble pattern. Marbling acrylic texture

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I was looking through my recently received Mix Magazine by Colour Hive Issue 47 and as I pondered the “Filter Colour Trend”, it made me think about colour trends in general and how we are all influenced by them.

As a designer, I feel obligated to consider industry trends but also, as a consumer, I often feel manipulated. Again, as a designer, I feel I have the confidence to buck the trend and create my own take on it if I so desire but I was wondering how the every day person felt.

A few questions below to consider…

  1. Do you take an interest in the trends each year?
  2. Do you consider what influences the trends?
  3. Would you consider using a trend palette because it is considered the latest fashion?
  4. Would you steer clear of an industry trend, just to be seen to be different?
  5. Do you take elements from a trend palette and make it your own?
  6. Do you like to make changes each year to your decor and update regularly?
  7. Does a colour trend influence all aspects of your life – home, wardrobe, car?

The image above was taken randomly from iStockPhotos and I chose it because the colours represented the Filter Trend brilliantly but with a twist. In the swatch image, I have presented the colours in two groups. The first 8 colours are from the trend palette and the last four colours, referred to as the additional colour palette, I introduced as a result of the image itself. When colours swirl and mix together, there is great scope for additional colours to form.

The message here is that you can use a trend palette for inspiration and perhaps build on that palette with your own additional colours or alternatively you can take just a few colours from the palette to create something quite different from the original trend.

Example 1 

oil on canvas, contrast fragment

fullsizeoutput_133The above example shows how I took the first four colours from the trend palette and then added the new green, taken from the additional colour palette, to highlight the green within the painting. In a decor, using this new colour as your accent, for example in cushions, rugs, throws or accessories, you could make your environment quite individual and fresh.

Example 2

oil on canvas, fragmentfullsizeoutput_132Example 2 uses colours from the original trend palette as well but again, you have a choice to make it your own by highlighting the teal colour.

Remember, bringing colour into your decor can be done simply be introducing art and accessories, rugs and soft furnishings, wall paper and paint. You can add a little or be bold with a lot of colour but either way, the trick is balance, in order to create harmony.

When it comes to using colour in business and personal branding, again, you can follow trends to the letter or you can be inspired and improvise, creating your own version. Doing this and selecting colour palettes to suit the purpose and branding message will help longevity in your decision. Not being on trend completely, means you then don’t appear to be outdated in the future.

Colour can be challenging but it is a vital part of the design jigsaw puzzle, so do give it some thought. Meanwhile, have fun exploring the endless opportunities and if you need some help, I would be delighted to consult on your project.

Speech Bubbles

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Colorful Moroccan style lanternsHave you ever been sitting at work wishing you were somewhere else? Perhaps on the beach, sunbathing with a cocktail? Thinking anywhere would be better than where you are right now.

Along the way, we all have experienced the feeling that we are spending way more time at work than at home and that the balance is out of kilter. Even if you are only working the normal 8 hours a day (if full-time), that in itself is ⅓ of your day being spent at your work place. Many of us love our work and are happy for the most part but for those who find the work environment hot, cold, suppressive, uncomfortable, noisy or chaotic, how productive are you?

If you could write a wish list, what would you ask for from your employer to improve your work experience? Does your boss listen to your suggestions and is open to change?

Many companies try but are so often held back by a closed mindset… “We’ve always had it this way; it’s a waste of money; our customers and clients expect it to be traditional; why change – it has always worked for us in the past“, and so on.  Do any of these comments sound familiar? I wonder – do your customers have the same expectations and perceptions? Have you asked them lately?

The point is – times and expectations have changed and companies are now attracting the next generation of people to the workplace.  The twenty-somethings are a completely different beast to the fifty-somethings!

The up and coming generation are tech savvy, creative, assertive, quite laid back and are used to operating in an instant world.  So, have you thought how you are going to attract new personnel, keep them, get them to conform and follow the past trends, stay focussed and productive and survive the fast pace of technology?

If you are going to get the best out of them, encourage well-being and prevent burn out, the workplace must reflect their needs as talented individuals.

The best place to start is to ask yourself the following:

  1. Have you identified your company’s personality?
  2. How do you want your customer/client to see you?
  3. Are you inspiring, collaborative, problem solving, customer service driven?
  4. Are your personnel happy and productive?
  5. Have you asked what it is that they want or need?

Following a recent visit to Skyscanner at their office in Edinburgh, I discovered that they have asked these questions and in response have developed a colourful, productive innovative design concept for their office interiors globally that reflects their business ethos. Here in Edinburgh, they are 400+ personnel strong. Their retention and productivity rate is high.

Skyscanner staff are creative and their work environment supports and promotes individual talent and teamwork in a very practical and functional way. If it is not working for the individual or the team as a whole, it is unlikely to be working for their business, so they change it.

As soon as I stepped into the reception area, I was visually bowled over with the warm and creative atmosphere. The workplace is transparent, the colour palette vibrant, promoting energy and the furniture varied and functional. It is all about the staff, their needs, and their experience. They have work stations, open-plan areas, closed meeting rooms, zones for quiet coding work or areas for chatty sales discussions. They have breakout pods for one-to-one meetings or stand-up meeting areas for quick sessions when connecting with their overseas colleagues. They have gallery kitchens on each level, a staff cafe, chill out areas with a table tennis table, a fussball table, and an X-Box Station. They have egg chairs for solitary quiet time and more. In short, they have choice.

IMG_9659 IMG_9643 IMG_9640 Skyscanner IMG_9680

 

 

 

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Some of their stand-out design features are:

  • Natural light
  • Ambient light solutions
  • Fabric dividers assisting with zoning and acoustics
  • Treadmill for exercise
  • Flexible seating e.g. lounge chairs for comfort; egg pods for isolation; booths for 1 to 1′s; adjustable chairs for work stations; bean bags for chill out…
  • Cable-free integrated technology

Everyone works on a laptop and moves to the appropriate space for their task.  Designated hot desks for visitors, known as ‘landing decks’, are kept reserved and are made obvious with signage. Currently, they are trialling a new breakout space with a travel theme depicting Marrakech (images below). This progressive attitude really taps into their love for travel, their business, and their employees. ‘Design doesn’t ever stop still and finish’, says the Ewa Mleczko, their office manager.  It is always evolving and needs to be upgraded at times to remain fresh and progressive, aligning itself with the nature of the company.

Marrakech Breakout Room

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The comfortable nature of this room allows staff to break away for small meetings, to host visitors, or to conduct interviews. The eclectic nature of the furniture provides a more homely feel but the colours are still in keeping with the company decor. The room has integrated technology, such as an iPad docking station, laptop wireless connections and a large monitor screen on the wall allowing video conferences to take place, as well as a practical feature of a white board for brainstorming on the opposite wall. The room can be reserved electronically. Once the trial period and an assessment as to the success of the room has been completed, final design tweaks will be made. At the moment, the room is proving to be well used and enjoyed. No doubt, a new theme will refresh this space in time. Design possibilities are endless.

Every business will have its own requirements and personality to explore. The style of Skyscanner might not work for all. However, being a little open to new ways of working could be a positive step for many of us, and tapping into the needs of your personnel will be enlightening.

Question… have you decided where you would rather be? Marrakech perhaps!

Moroccan wall decoration

On that note – let design, colour and light into your environments and energy, enthusiasm and buoyant mental health will be the reward.

Think COLOUR Think BALANCE Think HARMONY

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PlanWith Christmas and New Year celebrations behind us, it is now time to look forward.

Most of us will have resumed our normal routines or will do so soon and many will already be busy planning goals for 2017. Whether you do so formally or not, I am sure you will all be thinking about your business and personal aspirations and how to achieve them.

Whilst you do so, perhaps you might like to consider how design and colour fits into your picture, both at work and at home. I appreciate for most that these topics don’t readily come to mind but consider this. If something is to be tweaked and improved from the year past, what changes would you be looking to make and how does design and colour influence your decisions?

To make a change, you will need to design, plan and execute. Whether it be in your business marketing or branding, your office interiors, your work wardrobe or your home comforts, design and colour will always be a part of the solution.

With regard to your work and home environments, consider the ‘wellness’ of the space you and your fellow colleagues and family inhabit. Below are questions you might like to ask yourself.Help and support concept

BUSINESS

  1. Does your lighting (task & ambient) work for all individuals? Have they been asked?
  2. Is there space to manoeuvre?
  3. Is there adequate storage?
  4. Does the layout (furniture and equipment) work for all?
  5. Does your environment promote happiness, productivity and wellbeing?
  6. Have you considered what disabilities staff may have and how they can be assisted?
  7. Do employees seem well and content or is there a lot of sick leave taken?
  8. Does the business marketing & branding reflect the intended message and image?

HOME

  1. Are you able to relax in your home at the end of a busy day?
  2. Do you find it easy to keep house and clean around the obstacles?
  3. Can you see what you’re doing when undertaking a task like reading or cooking?
  4. Do you have enough storage?
  5. Can you always find what you are looking for or does your space feel cluttered?
  6. Do you have personal areas for all members of the family to escape to?
  7. Are you trying to make room for additional family members or visitors?
  8. Do you have family members needing assistance with mobility?
  9. Does your decor reflect you?
  10. Is living with dementia for a family member a new consideration?

PERSONAL

  1. Are you happy with your personal branding and presentation?
  2. Do you struggle to find something you like to wear?
  3. Are you looking for a change?
  4. Are you starting a new job and not sure how to fit in with company requirements, whilst maintaining your individuality?

If answering these questions leaves you satisfied with your environments and personal presentation, then all seems well and I wish you the best with your endeavours. However, if you feel that improvements can be made and you would like to know more of how colour and design can benefit you, then I would be delighted to assist. To review your circumstances, please contact me to arrange a meeting.

In the meantime, let us look towards 2017 as being a new and positive year ahead, embracing new opportunities that appear, whilst supporting all those around us with their continued endeavours.

Good luck & good health!

 

 

 

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