Meet the Artist who Creates Inspiring Colour Palettes from your Images

“I don’t believe there should be rules in creativity, and if there is one, I tend to charge forward with the sole purpose of breaking it. Nature defies formula.” – Jessica Colaluca

For many people, the work of Jessica Colaluca, inventor of Design Seeds, has come to provide endless design inspiration. The digital creative’s work is appreciated by a global audience totalling more than one million followers, whose images she turns into beautiful colour palettes before feeding them back into her online community.

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Photo: Deb Spofford / @inspiringmaterial

Be it colourful flowers, beautiful animals, impressive landscapes or iconic architecture – Jessica identifies the images’ colours and the interplay within and mixes from it a colour palette for anyone to work with. Her ever-growing community loves her for it and this has made Jessica somewhat of a social media expert. If looking at her art is inspiring to you, hearing what she has to say will broaden your mind even more.

Find out what Jessica thinks about inspiration, collaborating with creatives around the globe and the ups and downs of being big on social media.

THE PLUS: To get started, tell us about your love for colours.
Jessica Colaluca:
Colour has been something that I have been enamoured with ever since I began designing professionally and discovered the Colour & Materials department. I fell in love with colour all over again when I was at Ford, and requested a transfer from the car studios into Colour & Trim. It was an incredible education on processes, manufacturing, and helped me develop my own systems for tracking colour and trends. When I moved on from Ford to Reebok, colour became an inherent part of my design process.

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Photo: Elisa Felix / @elisafelixb

TP: Can you tell us about the process of creating colour palettes from images? What are you looking for in the pictures?
Through my career, I have created colour palettes with and without inspiration images. I’ve kept these palettes logged in journals so that as new design briefs crossed my desk, I was ready to go. I fell in love with using an inspiration image to inspire palettes, because they often end up inspiring my projects beyond the colour palette. I am continuously tracking trends and drawn to images that capture a relevant colour space, mood, or aesthetic.

TP: What is the biggest challenge during this process?
I have been creating colour palettes this way for over 20 years, so at this point I have finessed the process to avoid pitfalls. For example, images that have too many colours don’t offer the best inspiration for a utilizable, harmonious palette. I also avoid images with people in them, as their styling can date an image, or they become the period to the end of a sentence.

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Photo: Jessica Colaluca / @designseeds

TP: What else do you avoid when creating?
When I am designing footwear, I don’t look at other footwear for inspiration. New is not
discovered in same. For this same reason, I also don’t use a lot of contemporary interior
images. I am drawn to images that inspire possibilities, versus having something already
beautifully designed in them.

TP: You work closely on the images you derive colour palettes from. Can you gives us
some insight into the emotions and moods you experience during this work?
The process is a highly emotional and intuitive one for me. Not only because I am creating a colour palette to reflect the mood of the photo, but I feel the harmonies of the colours as I mix and finalize them. When the palette creates “the right chord”, I know I’m finished tweaking it. As a result, I can feel my energy being well drained by the end of a session of colour work.

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Photo: Dima and Nadya Gurevich / @sindstudio

TP: You take submissions from your social media followers and create colour palettes
from these. Can you tell us about the inspiration you get from these submissions?
With Design Seeds turning ten this coming spring, the #SeedsColor community tops what I personally feel is a highlight. I am humbled, grateful, and endlessly inspired by the diversity of
global contributors. For all the negativity that is focused about social media and the interwebs, the creative collaboration made possible by accepting images, as well as being able to promote
some incredibly talented peoples’ work, “keeps my tank full.”

TP: How does Design Seeds help the small designers out there?
Being an indie designer or business can feel incredibly isolating at times, and #SeedsColor has become a cool little place that makes it feel much far less so, all while supporting what I believe strongly in: lifting each other up as a creative community.

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Photo: @color_japan

TP: How important is social media for your work?
Social media has always been a critical component to Design Seeds. However, it is important to also understand that you cannot force or pay for organic growth. Social media works for ideas, sites, or brands because of readers liking, pinning, and tweeting the content. For example, in the beta days of Pinterest, people pinning from Design Seeds is what made the site explode.

TP: You have more than 750 thousand followers on Pinterest.
Yes, even though I didn’t start pinning Design Seed until recent years. My pinning my own work is not why social media works for the site, it is because others are engaging with the content on the website and then sharing it. A startling amount of folks have it backwards, in that they are lugging around a megaphone to market themselves on social media. Instead, they should be focused on content creation and giving ways for people to carry that megaphone for them.

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Photo: Gina Giampa Grimm / @ggiampagrimm

TP: So, how can people use social media effectively?
It’s the thousands of people carrying megaphones around social that bring success. There is no holy grail in “The Top 10 Ways To Use Pinterest More Effectively For Your Brand.” Marketers are making a killing selling snake oil regarding social media strategies. Also, social media trends tend to evolve quite dramatically every few years. One platform can explode in popularity, while another disappears completely.

TP: How did this show itself in your social media success?
In the early days, Facebook was responsible for the site’s success, then Pinterest made it literally explode in popularity. Now Instagram is critical in that it is how I connect to inspiration collaborators. What is important to note in this evolution of social media is the current insular nature of it. It is surprising how many of my followers on Instagram do not know that Design Seeds is actually a site and resource. People live captive within the app, and it does not translate outside that digital ecosystem.

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Photo: Judith Sayrach / @in_somnia_

TP: What are the risks of social media for creators?
It frightens me to see so many content creators relying on social media, or a particular network, to share their work instead of owning it on their own sites or spaces. Relying on any platform puts a timestamp on your livelihood. Also, there isn’t currently a relevant social platform that honours original content. All the platforms made their success on incredible content filling its streams, but now they want to keep everyone insulted and feed them ads and collect their data to sell to marketers. I am eagerly awaiting what will be next.

TP: You have over a million followers on social media. Can interacting closely with a large audience like this be overwhelming at times?
Loyal readers and followers of Design Seeds are the very reason for its success. I have taken
an unconventional approach to the site in keeping it indie and eschewing traditional avenues for revenue, so grassroots support has been essential. That said, social media and the community on it has radically changed in the past 10 years. So – yes, it absolutely can be overwhelming. However, I have learned ways to avoid being overwhelmed or burnt out.

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Photo: Judith Sayrach / @in_somnia_

TP: Can you give us an example?
My mobile is always set to “do not disturb” so that I don’t hear notification pings. I have ninety percent of my app notifications turned off, instead visiting each platform or app to check in. Also, when the trend of folks commenting on posts ended a few years back, I turned off comments on the site. You simply cannot be available everywhere.

TP: Is there any colour palette or submission that stuck in your mind particularly?
I shared how I feel harmonies when I create colour palettes, so it is more accurate that certain collaborators, or series of their photos, stand out to me. Judith, Andrea, and Steph are all top of mind in that I feel incredible harmonies in their work, but all are so different from the other: a photographer, graphic designer, and floral designer.

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Photo: Judith Sayrach / @in_somnia_

TP: Tell us about them.
Judith’s (images 7-9) earliest collaboration photos were emotionally overwhelming for me, those will always stand out in my mind. The hues are absolutely gorgeous and otherworldly to me. Andrea’s (images 10-12) work often has a bold and graphic quality. The colours in his images can be both the most exciting, and incredibly challenging. Finally, Steph’s (images 13-15) floral work is absolutely breath-taking and tricky to work with, I love the elusive colours in her images.

TP: Many of the images you publish are photographs shot in natural environments,
featuring flowers and animals. What do you like about this setting?
Nature exceeds most of our imaginations. Many people can become calculated in their colour use, and nature defies formula. I don’t believe there should be rules in creativity, and if there is one, I tend to charge forward with the sole purpose of breaking it. I’m drawn to nature because beyond a colour palette, patterns, textures, and forms can be inspired by it.

TP: Where do you want to take Design Seeds in the future?
I created Design Seeds to be an inspiration tool. My immediate goal is being able to keep the site available as a free resource. I do not track readers, run analytics, or have advertisements on the site. No data is collected or sold. In the past 18 months, I was able to add the popular quarterly seasonal atlas feature in thanks to an incredible sponsor. The business model for Design Seeds is one based on patronage.

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Photo: Andrea Sopranzi / @andrea_sopranzi
Jessica 11 Andrea
Photo: Andrea Sopranzi / @andrea_sopranzi
Jessica 12 Andrea
Photo: Andrea Sopranzi / @andrea_sopranzi
Jessica 13 Steph
Photo: Steph Turpin / @fairynuffflowers
Jessica 14 Steph
Photo: Steph Turpin / @fairynuffflowers
Jessica 15 Steph
Photo: Steph Turpin / @fairynuffflowers