TAoN No. 111: A thoughtful #colorcodestory challenge. Plus a new icebreaker, news of my new Fast Company column, and more.
Colored Pinecones by simonrumi , on Flickr. Public domain.
One of the easiest and most accessible ideas referenced in The Art of Noticing is the color walk. It’s just what it sounds like: Take a nice, long walk and keep an eye out for, perhaps, every red you can notice. Simple!
But recently TAoN pal, HILOBROW editor, and my frequent collaborator Joshua Glenn had an idea for a prompt that’s made me think of color in a new way. Maybe a deeper way — linking color and personal meaning. He’s calling the idea COLOR CODE.
The goal is to pay close attention to various specific material manifestations of color in everyday life — a splash of red from the label of an old tomato sauce can that you use to store loose change, say, or the blue handles on a trusty pair of scissors that you use every day.
Josh was inspired to develop this exercise after glancing at a 1965 paperback edition of The Fellowship of the Ring that he’d owned as a child. It wasn’t the front cover that triggered a sensation of meaningfulness, but the green box on the book’s back cover. That particular greenish yellow — barberry yellow? golden gun? — had, he realized, become synonymous, for him, with the escapist high fantasy associated with Tolkien.
Such a vivid example! It’s got me thinking about the very specific colors that spark equally specific meaning for each of us. As Josh says:
If we make ourselves receptive, the colors of artifacts, objects, and other specific phenomena in our lives can evoke all sorts of ideas, values, memories, and emotions.
So the prompt is to be awake to and on the hunt for these specific colors — and, even more fun if you’re up for it, to document and share them:
Show us a color — materialized in object form — and tell us what it means to you! Post an image and your explanation (brief is fine!) to Instagram, using the hashtag #colorcodestory.
We’d love to see what you come up with, and to share those results on HILOBROW.com and TAoN.
The Art of Noticing is Rob Walker’s newsletter about attention, creativity, and staying human. Your support makes it possible.
Noticing is about other people, too. The Icebreaker series aims to help with that. There’s a central collection spot for all the icebreakers to date, here.
Today’s icebreaker is something I overheard randomly. I was listening to an Amazing Radio DJ set from the musician Boyfriend (I'm a big fan). Mostly it’s music, but she always has a guest mid-show. This time one of the guests shared an icebreaker that her organization uses in its training process:
If you were a vending machine, what would you dispense?
For the record, Boyfriend’s guests were two representatives of Plan C, a nonprofit project focused on providing information about at-home abortion pill options. I don’t think this icebreaker has anything to do with that (perfectly admirable, in my view) mission; it’s just a fun and kinda weird icebreaker that works in any context!
In any case, I had intended to do a Missing Word this week, but I liked this icebreaker so much I had to pass it along.
As usual, I’m still working through the disorganized backlog of icebreaker submissions. But as always, I want more:
Please send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or found it elsewhere) to firstname.lastname@example.org
New Missing Word coming soon.
In this Thursday’s subscriber-only edition I’ll be writing about strangers as entertainment.
Last Thursday I wrote about the infraverse — the opposite of the metaverse: “The infraverse is the real world, but scrutinized closely.”
For access to past and future Thursday posts, discussion threads, and other surprises, become a paid subscriber now.
In Other News (new Fast Company column!)
Illustration via Fast Company
I’m excited to announce a new weekly column for Fast Company, Branded. It’s a return to one of my regular subject areas: brands, marketing, consumer culture, etc. I’m excited! I hope you’ll keep an eye on it. The first installment is about Netflix and the surprising triumph of advertising.
Creative Doing is a brand-new book containing “75 prompts for unblocking creativity” from friend of TAoN Herbert Liu. For a taste check a free excerpt on studying what stands out to you in someone else's work. Congrats, Herbert!
“On my first day I literally walk across the city, to the extent it can be done. .. I usually end in a bar, restaurant, church, or all of the above, before taking a bus back. The next day I do another cross town walk, but in a different direction.” Why I Walk: Walking as Learning, from the newsletter Walking The World. (Thanks Ryan!)
Downtown Soulville this week included an extended hat tip to the excellent N.O. R&B singer Curley Moore. Listen here. (Related: Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns reunion - New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 1979, includes Moore; audio only.)
Leikeli47: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert (from 2019)
Okay that’s it!
As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, things we need a word for, and of course your icebreakers: email@example.com. Or use the comments.
—> Or just click the heart symbol. That always makes my day.
And thanks for reading …
All this by Rob Walker PO Box 171, 748 Mehle St., Arabi LA 70032
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