IN THE STUDIO OF 5

Neil Mackay | TheColorBureau.com | @neilyarnal

“IN A SENSE, PINK EVOKES THE MOST INFORMATIVE & STRUCTURALLY IMPORTANT YEARS OF MY LIFE. AS A PAINTER AND TRAINED 
COLOR THEORIST, PINK IS NOT A COLOR THAT MAKES ME THINK OF GENDER, RATHER— GOOEY LIFE, DRIPPING WITH PRINCIPLES, KNOWLEDGE AND FORM.”

In 2016, The Color Bureau was born, a brand design and social change concept founded by illustrator, paint slinger and brand designer Neil Mackay.

When first opening the yellow door to Boulder Creative Collective’s space, I was greeted by a few pups and hung paintings that made a pathway to Neil’s creative space with “The Color Bureau” proudly visible by his desk. Paints, canvas and colors were visible from every angle of the room.

“I come from a traditional painting background as you can see,” say Neil. “I studied painting in college and didn’t feel good at color theory. I aced drawing, failed painting, but now I’ve built my career around painting.”

And colors.

During the interview, Neil mixed and shared his favorite color, hues of coral pink and their complements.

“Pink is such a beautiful color for me— it’s a color that I fell in love with in college, as we were exploring figure drawing and the difference between form & function,” says Neil. “Being a classically trained painter, pink is a color that imbues life and meaning into many of my paintings. Because it starts with red and ends with white, the ability to mix yellow and blue intermittently increases the warmth and/or coolness, like that of the nerves below our skin, or the reflective light between our folds.”

After playing with paints, we sat down for a more in-depth interview about how Neil considers design and branding an art form and applying his own brand’s motto: from the inside out.

 

Tell us a little about yourself?

I am an artist, first, a storyteller second and an artistic activist, third. I study people, objects, color, application and thought. The Myers Briggs test describes me as an ‘extroverted campaigner,’ which was news to my introverted ideals. I lead by example, breaking and bending rules one to two sentences at a time.

How did The Color Bureau start?

Take away the products and brands that define us, and we all seek the same necessities. When you’re hungry, don’t go to red and yellow, that’s bad for you. When you’re hungry go to green and Indian yellow, that’s humble and wholesome. Color naturally defines our lives; perhaps it’s time we understand why? Perhaps color defines your entire life? By working together, from the inside, out—color could define much more than an app or a post. It could help socialize us all— so, when did The Color Bureau start? It’s always been here, someone simply needed to define it.

What is one of your favorite projects you’ve worked on so far?

Is it lame to say all of them? Each project presents a new set of challenges and way of thinking. I’ve studied and built complex visual brand systems for apocalypse preppers, an abortion clinic, virtual reality companies. I’ve worked at the global and local level and realized that people just want to connect and make an impact.

What does your process look like when starting a new project?

It all starts with research, but not in the conventional form. I do field research, yes, observing the client or staff at hand, asking question after question to myself. Most times, however, I sit in my favorite local coffee shop, a place that teems with ideas and thought, Boxcar. This environment drips with new and untapped ideation and perspective. How can I apply this public engagement to a gym? A social community? A women’s right movement? My work starts with social sciences and quickly bleeds into a visual understanding— one that forms the function of the wants and needs of a client and their customer.

How would you describe your signature style and use of color?

I actually don’t feel like I have a style, that’s my style. I’m like a creative chameleon, I can blend into any environment I am placed in. I know 25 traditional mediums, application styles and ways of getting there. I taught myself the digital medium to make a buck— brand design simply was the end result of narrative structure and diverse application styles. Style, to me, without sounding to pompous, is boring. Style is one way of thinking, why not learn every way? Color, too.