Stellantis Color and Materials Designer Shares the Story Behind Gobi Paint Color
Proof that inspiration strikes in strange and unusual places.
La Shirl Turner, head of advanced color and materials for the brands of Stellantis, is responsible for the look and feel of many of the models you see on the roads today. She oversees all the color materials on the vehicles, including the exterior paint, wheels and trim, headliner, carpet, leather, and other upholsteries and trims.
As a paint color aficionado, I have an appreciation for both color and creative color names. Jeep has especially interesting monikers with hues like Mojito, an eye-arresting green; Punk’n, which is an orange-ish solid color with glass flakes that wink in sunlight; and the deep metallic maroon Snazzberry. Others like Hella Yella or Hellraisin are not only fun to say, they evoke images of passengers sticking their arms out the window to pump a fist to some hardcore music.
“The most fun of our job is naming paint colors and other materials,” Turner says. “We work as a team to come up with color names: it’s almost like a jam session and there is a lot of laughter. We also meet with brand teams and it’s a family affair.”
As creative people find, a flash of brilliance might strike in the middle of the night or even in the middle of dinner. As an example, Head of Jeep Design Mark Allen sent Turner a photo of a pot of gravy he was making for Thanskgiving. It became the inspiration for the light tan Gobi color that debuted on the Wrangler in 2017.
Turner herself grew up in Detroit and she says she was always drawing and sketching, and she learned to weave at a young age. In her hometown, she was surrounded by car culture, and she was attracted by car magazine covers. Even so, for a while she thought she’d be a painter or go into fashion design; as a kid, she once commandeered a box of garbage bags to create a set of dresses for her sister. Turner attended the College for Creative Studies (where her boss Ralph Gilles is an alum too), and her paths merged when she took automotive classes and focused on her primary love for textiles.
“I’ve always loved Jeep and have always been a Wrangler girl at heart,” Turner told me. “But you know, for me It’s about the materials and textures. Once I found out that I could join my passion for materials with automotive that makes my job almost like Christmas every day. It’s a lot of hard work, don’t get me wrong, but we love what we do.”
Most recently, Turner worked on the new Wagoneer, where she continues to explore new ideas, colors, and textures.
“I can honestly say that working on that project was truly special,” she says. “We got to enter color spaces we hadn’t touched on before. We always have black interiors or gray, and this allowed us to look into new color spaces like Sea Salt, which is a pretty light gray. And Tupelo is one of our more unique color spaces; it’s inspired by honey and in the tan family with chromo. It’s really luxurious.”
In terms of trends, Turner sees buyers looking at colors that are calm and focused on well-being. It’s not just about the impactful reds and blues, she says.
Is the color of gravy soothing? I’m thinking Sea Salt and Tupelo honey sounds much better.
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