In 2018, our co-founder and head of design, Kevin Dee, wrote a blog post titled, "Color, The Nitty Gritty". In his piece he explored the complex and nuanced process of selecting shell and lining colors, and why we chose Standard Gray for our lining.
The topic of color is an interesting and complex one. Of course, we all have our opinions about what we like or what we think looks good. But there are an astounding number of variables involved in selecting and quantifying a specific color in the realm of industrial design. Things like ambient lighting conditions, angle of viewing, and the presence of adjacent colors are all variables that can change the color appearance of an object. Add to this the fact that the perception of any given color is highly subjective between individual observers (even under identical viewing conditions) and the topic of color gets even more nebulous. For those interested in the topic, Josef Albers’Interaction of Coloris a fascinating read.
When Jack and I look at color for EVERGOODS, it’s fun to draw out a line plan that includes smokey blues and mustard yellows. But very quickly the reality of ordering volume casts its shadow on the decision making. Every fabric, zipper and width of webbing carries a minimum order for the mill to produce it in a color. Assuming these raw material minimums can be met, the cut and sew factory then imposes its own minimums on how many finished units must be ordered of each color or color combo to justify the machine setup and handling that’s required to manufacture a finished product in multiple color-ways. So, unless your company is placing rather large orders, it can be difficult to offer a large color selection to end customers. This is one reason why most everything is available in black. As a relatively small brand, EVERGOODS puts significant effort into delivering a thoughtful product line using as few different raw materials as possible. This kind of operational efficiency makes sense for any size company, but becomes less critical with larger ordering volumes and can be viewed by some as a hindrance to product design.
One of our main color goals for this year’s production was to set a lining color standard for the brand. Having a lighter colored interior has been part of our design since day one. In regard to the interior of our backpacks, it was time to ask, “What should the priorities of a lining color be?”. Other than not looking repulsive, helping the interior of the bag and its contents be more visible ranked highly.
When making design choices like this, whenever practical, I find it extremely valuable to make firsthand observations, even if I think I know what the outcome will be. Often things turn out more or less as you’d expect them to, so it’s tempting to convince yourself that crafting an experiment or going into the field isn’t worth the time and effort. But the benefit of bearing firsthand witness cannot be overstated, and generally pays off with one or two peripheral observations. These interesting little side effects help to flesh out your understanding of the whole, but they’re things you simply wouldn’t have thought of without seeing them.
For example, after gathering a random collection of small objects from pockets and desktops and placing them behind black, white and gray meshes, I found that their exact colors became more difficult to discern. At a glance and obscured through a screen an object will fall into being seen as either a “light thing” or a “dark thing” relative to its surroundings. This gives further strength to the argument for a neutral gray construction as light and dark objects both stand out against it, while objects right in the middle can still fall back on chromatic contrast (being a different color) to aid differentiation.
Standard Grey Layup
Another interesting thing that I noticed is that white mesh obscures the color of objects behind it more than black. This may owe to the fact that white mesh is actually reflecting more light back at your eyes when you’re really just trying to see past it. Like standing in the glare of a car’s headlights, trying to see the driver. This is why most tents use a dark colored bug screen in the windows, it’s easier to see through. Same with the screens in your home or apartment. In the end, we felt that neutral gray gave the most positive results across our evaluation.
So, with the goal of increasing visibility to an unspecified and ever-changing packing list, EVERGOODS has approved the use of Standard Gray for all backpack interiors moving forward.
Once we came to understand the properties of this non-color, we sort of fell in love with it. Standard Gray felt modern and clean without being sterile. It has a versatility that seems to fit into every environment and look right with any outfit. It feels as universal as black, but infinitely more interesting. Jack and I wanted to offer something other than black this year, and we’re proud of our work so far. With the support of every one of our customers to date, we’ve been able to keep product design at the heart of the business. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for taking the color journey with us. Jack and I are committed to keeping a product-driven point of view as we continue to build EVERGOODS.
Now five years later, using the same principles behind Kevin's process in 2018, we applied the beautiful Standard Gray color to our Transit Packing Cube 8L. Used primarily within our backpacks and duffel, TPC8 is now clad in a easy-to-find color for quick plucking and repacking.