Assignment 4: Tin Man, Show us Your Heart

Estimated time commitment: one hour

(for the love of all that is holy, turn off all your notifications!)


Your reflection/writing question today is to free-write about what lies at the HEART of your work and is driven by your CARING:

“What do I care about most? Where is my HEART most present in this work?”

We see the HEART as most connected to our VISION. Our desire and our dream of the world we are creating with our life and work, that keeps leading us along. So you can also ask:

“What is my HEART’S VISION for my work?” (for me, for my beloveds, for the world…)

These questions are not so different from the other questions you have explored, but something different might come out when explored through the lens of heart, as distinct from mind, or voice.

Now, for the sake of the next part of the assignment, distill your ideas here, down to the words and phrases that embody your hearts desire (or some of it). JOY. BELONGING. FREEDOM. JUSTICE. POWER. REST. BEAUTY. You get the idea! It may seem reductive, but we about to translate into an ABSTRACT FORM - COLOR - so we just need something simple to go with. We’ll let the colors do the rest. Ok, hold onto those for the next steps.


Our design challenge today is about color - that vast, shape-shifting, mysterious, infinite language of - what? What even IS color?

Color only exists in the brains of animals with certain kinds of eyes. Like us. Yep, color is inside of our minds as much as it is outside of us. We are able to detect certain kinds of wavelengths of light with our eyes and brains that are invisible to most other creatures.

I taught color theory in art school, and I tell you, it got really hard to go very far in describing the phenomena of color without getting all mystical and spiritual about it (which you aren’t supposed to do as a university prof, of course).

One thing is for sure: color pulls on us, works on us, emotionally and spiritually. The names we give colors are laughably insufficient to describe the bazillion qualities and phenomena within what we call “color.”

In visual imagery, color plays our heart strings in varied and mysterious ways. Its intuitive. Its emotional. And that’s why we put COLOR with the writing prompts about the HEART.

Many designers will get all technical about what different colors MEAN - but this means nothing, actually, out of context. Red in one place is NEVER red in another place. Color is deeply relational.

So as you work on color today, don’t look for the right answers, the CliffsNotes, the formulas. Look here, says the Tin Woodsman:



Holding your heart’s desire in mind (that word, or words, you distilled from step 1), create some color arrangements.

Here are some ways you can do that (pick one or so):

  • Gather objects in your environment based on your attraction to their color - natural, human-made, you decide - and start arranging them together thinking only of color relationships that make you feel something. Or;

  • Make a Pinterest board just for this assignment, and start collecting images just for their colors, and arranging colors in the board. See what colors you are drawn to and in love with, and see what combinations of colors interest you. Or;

  • If you’ve got collage materials lying around - DON’T MAKE A COLLAGE! Just pull out fragments of paper in different colors and start grouping them, noticing what they do to each other as they get grouped in different ways. Or;

  • Find 5 web sites whose color schemes you love and ask yourself why.

There are a lot of ways to do color research and notice your feelings and response to color; so use one of the suggestions above, or make up your own!


Now, show us some of your color research in the Tactical Imagination Club, and tell us your words.

If you made object arrangements or used collage fragments, take a picture (in bright light) and post for us with your words. If you made Pinterest boards, take a screen shot of your favorite groupings. Once you’ve posted, other folks can tell you their emotional responses to the colors as well, and you can compare and contrast, noticing how color works on you and others. 

Of course, if you would like, you can go change up some colors on your web site based on what you learn today. Or, you might want to continue color experiments like this for a while before delving into your live site. Up to you!


if you want to go further:

Our livestream Q&A’s today are at 11:30am (with Amy) & 5pm (with Jenny).

These times are Eastern Standard Time.