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An Interview with Rose Gonnella and Max Friedman on Design Fundamentals: Notes on Color Theory

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Peachpit tries (and mostly fails) to get straight answers from Rose Gonnella and Max Friedman, co-authors of the gorgeous and witty new book, Design Fundamentals: Notes on Color Theory.

Peachpit: The design of your book is absolutely fantastic!

Rose: Thank you.

Max: Oh cool. Hahaha, aaaaah, Rose should not get equal credit for designing the book because…

Rose: Oh really Maximus Decimated Meridius? Well, I had a considerable say in the art direction of our book that is for darn sure. And, young Mr. Friedman is lucky I have just submitted grades for the semester.

Peachpit: How and why did you decide to go with this hand written, illustration-based format?

Rose and Max: We went with an illustrated, hand-written book because our editor tortured us into writing it for months on end with tantalizing visions of global stardom, chocolate Martinis, Shirley Temples al la mode, jet-setting book signings, all the pizza we could eat (that would be American Flatbread on Hudson Street, NYC), and a team of the finest marketing people on the planet (that would be, “what planet are we on?”).  In the end, the truth is that despite the Martinis and Shirleys, we could not come to an agreement on which of the 3,000,000 available typefaces to use, so we looked under our nose at Max’s hand written notebook and illustrations and decided to scan it. The end.

Peachpit: What are your backgrounds? How did you each get interested in art, design and color theory?

Rose and Max: Max has red hair. Rose is named after a colorful flower. Next question.

Peachpit: I would think that anyone interested in art, design, or just a fun read would love this book, but who did you have in mind as you were writing and designing it?

Rose and Max: People interested in art, design and a fun read. Also, Max has a dog; he thought that Bark would like to chew on it. And both Rose and Max come from big families who wanted bragging rights (wasn’t their name on the book as well?). Therefore, we had to either write the book so our families could read it, then show it off to the jealous cousins on the other side of the family, or die.

Peachpit: What aspects of color theory are most challenging for people to grasp?

Rose and Max: Gasp, they responded in flabbergasted awe, how could anyone think that the entire study of color was not a challenge much like climbing Everest in a blizzard, or rowing in canoe across the Atlantic without a cell phone, or having dinner with the in-laws whose son (or daughter) did not write or hand illustrate a book. We shudder to think of the challenge of the latter – bring on Everest!

Peachpit:  Would you…

Rose:  Max, I think they want us to be serious for a minute here.

Max: They can have 14.3 serious seconds.

Rose: Color is maddeningly capricious, fugitive, and subject to a myriad of individual uses and interpretations. The challenge is accepting that color is unpredictable—which is why we study theories. There are no magic formulas.

Max: That was 15 seconds.

Rose: Sorry.

Peachpit: Has the way you teach color theory changed with the dominance of web-based vs. print design?

Rose: Neither Max nor I are into dominance of any kind. We are equal opportunity creators.

Peachpit: Which designers inspire you?

Rose: Come on now, didn’t you even look at the illustrations in the book?

Max: Oh, just tell them.

Rose: There are artists and there are designers—Paul Klee, Josef Albers, Paula Scher...

Max: Rembrandt!, and Carl A. Vaggio.

Rose: Aaaaah…that would be Caravaggio, also ancient Egyptians, and Paul Rand, James Turrell, Louise Fili, Vincent Van Gogh, Bob Dylan, Milton Glaser, Gail Anderson, Vampire Weekend, Luba Lukova, Pierre Bonnard—no particular order and all inspiring—there are thousands of inspiring creatives in the world…

Max: and Steichen, Stieglitz, Cunningham—the great photographers—and Wes Anderson, can’t forget the awesome color and light of his film, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Peachpit: Tell us about this guy:

Rose: Max has pleaded the fifth.  He is Max's grandfather's second cousin on his mother's side, twice removed, and three times divorced. Our mascot, Roy G. Biv.

Peachpit: What’s your favorite color, and why?

Rose and Max: If this is Wednesday, our favor color is pale azure with the slightest hint of violetta-rose at the edges of our mind, but then again, maybe (and if it were Friday) our favorite color would be lime green, burnt Osage orange, with a south of France burgundy shade echoing from deep within our soul. On the other hand, when Max sees a red door, he wants to paint it black.

Peachpit: What do you hope people get out of your book?

Rose and Max: A definitive choice for their favorite color.

Peachpit: Notes on Color Theory is the first in a series. What else is coming?

Rose: Did our editor say we had other books coming? Max, did we sign contracts? Well, Rose didn’t sign for Rose. Max did you sign my name without my knowing?

Max: I did not! Quit accusing me. I saw Christopher Navetta with a pile of paperwork talking with our editor but no one told me about other books. A series? We had better pick out a typeface, how about Times New Roman?

Rose: Yeah, stop trying to be funny Max. Seriously, we can use Century Schoolbook (get it??).

Max: Your sense of humor Rose, stopped evolving in the 18th Century. Let’s use Archer.

Rose: Oh yeah, who's paying the wad for Archer?

Max: Okay. Scrap Archer.

[Editor’s Note <loud sigh>: Max and Rose will be publishing other books and videos with us in the near future, including Design Fundamentals: Notes on Color Theory: Learn by Video, Design Fundamentals: Notes on Typography, and Design Fundamentals: Notes on Visual Elements and Principles of Composition.]

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