We really like color around here. In fact, whether you’re a new member of Team Topo or you’ve been around a while, our use of color is probably one of the first things you noticed about us. But the blend of colors we use isn’t just an accident; it’s our secret sauce. The hybrid of bright, outdoorsy colors and darker, classic hues is what makes us us and separates us from other outdoor brands.
If you’ve ever looked at our gear and wondered, “Why so much color?” you’re not alone. There are a few reasons we incorporate lots of color into our pieces, and for the first time, we’re breaking them down.
We Like It.
Yep, it’s that simple. Before he started Topo Designs, our Founder, Jedd Rose, worked as a graphic designer. Always an artist, Jedd chose to build color into his brand because it is built into him.
Not Just for the Mountains.
We design for the outdoors, but not exclusively for it. Our gear is built to perform in the outdoors, tough out the elements and look good doing it. But we also want our products to feel just as well-suited to everyday life, so you can get the most out of the things you own without having to buy a different piece for every occasion. Having a mix of bright colors, which transition better to non-outdoor environments than earth tones, plus classic, versatile colors like black, olive, charcoal and navy help facilitate that unique use-anywhere facet of Topo Designs.
A Sign of the Times.
It’s no secret that certain time periods tend to have certain colors associated with them (think: the 80’s neon and you get the idea). We intentionally choose colors and palettes from the eras that inspire our designs in order to preserve the heritage of a given product. Since many of our most iconic packs and bags are based on the shapes and styling of gear from the 1960s, we use the primary colors of that decade in our pieces, and the pieces that are instead based on standard issue gear, we use blacks, olives and grays to reflect their military heritage.
Who Inspires You?
The breadth of our design inspiration is very wide. We look to the outdoor industry, but we don’t just look there. Since we build our gear to be used wherever you go, we look to the design community as a whole. And we aren’t just limited to apparel and everyday carry-type inspiration. We look at interiors, graphic design, photographs and advertisements we love. When Topo Designs began in 2008, many outdoor-focused companies were leaning heavily into earth tones and neutrals, and we wanted to include more color in our DNA. The gist is this: Design is in our name for a reason. We’re influenced by design and the design space, a fact that set us apart from many outdoor brands when we first opened our doors and is continuing to do so to this day.
The When and How of Our Colors.
After we gather our inspiration, our design team researches trends to find what people are most interested in. After we’ve found colors we like, we go on another mission: finding the most saturated versions of those colors. We want our portfolio to be full of products that have colors with presence; ones that echo the intensity we bring to both design and the outdoors.
To make final decisions, we look at what colors work well with the ones already in the line. This makes styling easier; we want to make sure all of our pieces go well together to make your wardrobe as effortless and versatile as possible.
We check things like whether the color is practical for outdoor use, and whether the undertones of the colors match one another. (If they don’t, they’ll be hard to style together.) And, of course, will the color work on a variety of skin tones?
This part of the process has many tweaks and updates; when we pick colors, we have to make sure factors like lighting are consistent and dive into how the colors interact (for example, the blue we chose should make our signature pops of red look brighter).
Breaking Down Our Signature Red and Blue.
According to Jedd, red is “the best color ever.” He likes that something as simple as color can communicate so much — red has a feeling of passion, intensity, timelessness and urgency. Jedd cites the quintessential color combination of red and white decorating everything from Switzerland’s flag to the Red Cross symbol to stop signs, saying, “It’s this epic, long-standing color palette that will never go away.” And sometimes design decisions are emotional ones. When Jedd designed Topo’s map logo and branding, he chose red because it spoke to him the most.
Another Topo Designs signature color is blue. While not as prominent across our branding as red, you will notice many of our products, from bags to apparel, feature rich blue hues. This is for a few reasons. Not only do we love the color, we also recognize the classic associations with it, and feel that blue is one of the easiest colors to wear (without being fussy). The wide appeal is partially based on how well it plays with other colors; if it’s the right shade of blue, it elevates other colors, like black or red. We picked our specific blue because we like its intensity and presence, how it works with our other core colors, and that it’s not a typical blue, especially in the outdoor space.
Since selecting colors is a long and very tricky process, we don’t always get it right the first time. Luckily, we can rely on learnings and feedback from our employees, customers and ambassadors when we start to work on a new season or design.