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  • Writer's pictureNikita Vyas

Susan Mathen

founder susan

My name is Susan. I am a Colour Strategist & the Founder of Hue & Why.

Prior to this I have been a Strategy Planner in advertising for over 10 years and my last stint was at Grey, Singapore as the Regional Strategy Lead on Pantene for the ASEAN markets. An alumni from SRCC and MICA, Colour Strategy was not the most obvious choice for me. But I stumbled upon it, I guess.

In 2009, while I was working in Ogilvy, Bangalore, I took a sabbatical and did a beautiful one year course in Arts Management in DakshinaChitra, Chennai where I got fascinated with the world of colour semiotics. Since then I have been trying to understand what colours mean in cultures, what people associate with different colours, what consumers understand from brand colours, how we as people react to colours in interiors, etc.

Was it your dream to become an entrepreneur?

Honestly, I did not dream of becoming an entrepreneur. But I think I dreamt of doing something closer to the world of the arts, culture and psychology. I read about the concept of logos and mythos long back. Logos is the world of the logical and mythos is the world of the mythical (in simplest terms), I wanted a world where these two can be explored together.

Please tell us about Hue & Why…

Hue & Why is precisely what the name suggests – it is all about the why behind colours.. We believe that colours, like words, have meanings, and the more you are able to grasp these meanings, the better stories you can craft using colours. In other words, using the logic of colours, to create some magic. We are a colour strategy & design outfit, but we do not want to box ourselves in and say that we do only certain kind of projects. Some of the most interesting projects we have undertaken are those that we had no clue we would get into, when we began this journey. We study colour trends, research colour in culture and take part in colour forecasting events. We apply our colour knowledge to different worlds – branding, design, paintings, cultural tours, interiors, fashion and even wedding décor.

I am the Colour Strategist (in charge of the logic) and my husband, George Abraham (who was a Creative Director in advertising for several years and a Fine Arts graduate), is the Creative Director in charge of design and aesthetics at Hue & Why.

How did you come up with the name Hue & Why?

We spent a lot of time and energy on this exercise. We made a list of possible areas we would be focusing on, listed down keywords, discussed what certain words would imply or evoke, arrived at a list of words we should avoid. We invited our close friends and family to suggest names and then made a shortlist of the same, checked for website/social media handles availability, did a quick dipstick with a few people to check what they understood from those names, rated them on recall value and generally spent time with the names. After ranking the names on many parameters, we had a clear winner – Hue & Why. This name was actually my brother’s suggestion.

Please tell us about your milestone journey, hurdles, etc.

We are still quite nascent in our journey, so I cannot really claim any major milestones. Being invited to present our colour trends and palettes at the International Colour Forecasting Workshop in Singapore was definitely a high point. Hue & Why studies cultural trends and translates the same into colour palettes.

We also consider the one-of-a kind curated art show (based on colour palettes) that we are currently having – ‘Blue Latte: Narratives of Today, in Colour’ – a milestone. It took a lot of effort and we are really happy that we were able to pull it off. The show is on from 1st – 30th November at White Walls Gallery in Kochi. It is accompanied by talks and workshops as well.

A few other ventures that have been quite well received: our colour based heritage walks (again something that has never been done before, and which has been greatly appreciated by the participants), curator’s session on colours, colour lectures (we are collaborating with Kerala Museum on this in Jan/Feb 2018) and colour workshops (for students and professionals).

Of course, we do branding, design and decor projects too. One of our personal favourites, is the wedding colour theme/palette creation exercises which we do with wedding planners. We are looking at having a few products based on colour palettes soon.

I think we had two major challenges.

One was to actually make the decision to do this. And this was really difficult, given we had to give up the security of monthly salaries and be ok with an extremely uncertain future. The other was the fact that Colour as a field of study/specialisation is very niche. Getting people to understand what we do is in itself a very difficult proposition. It is only after that, that we can think of getting projects 🙂 But well, its too early to say anything as yet.

How is Hue & Why different from other brands available?

I like this question. 🙂 I don’t know of any other Colour Strategy ventures in India. Jokes apart, it is different as the focus is always on colour. Our starting point is the logic behind colour. Colour is usually seen as an intuitive, creative aspect. We bring a more logical angle to this world.

How would you describe your journey with Hue & Why so far?

It has been full of surprises. We have met some really lovely people. We have embarked on some really interesting projects. We have been surprised by how much we can push ourselves. We have got help from the most unexpected sources. We have been pleasantly surprised at the immense support we got from some of our friends and family. We have also been surprised at not being supported by people who we were very sure would help us :).

Hue & Why surprises people too. They seem genuinely fascinated by the concept. It seems to grow on them. Initially they do not get it, but once they get it, they almost react like why has this not been explored as yet?

What was the best and the worst advice you got when you began your journey?

Best advice: To have a financial backup which will ensure you can survive for a certain period of time while you start your new venture.

Worst advice: Being told to reconsider living and working in Singapore, as I might regret giving it up for Hue & Why.

If someone inspired by your story wanted a piece of advice from you, what would it be?

  1. Prepare and plan

  2. Be realistic

  3. Begin

  4. Hope for the best

  5. Be open to course correct

  6. Take breaks, be inspired and stay happy

Do you believe in dreams?

I guess so. I believe in some sort of destiny. That it’s all written somewhere. That there are signs that happen, and it’s up to you to see those signs and manouevre your life accordingly. I think we might not know what exactly we want to do, but we have a vague idea, and we work towards it, unknowingly. And when the time is right, we just need to act.

Facebook – @hueandwhy

Instagram – @hueandwhy


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