What follows here confirms how Harley Earl introduced another unique "auto industry first" by launching the Color Studio along with another business area he originally founded: The Interior Design Studio. It's one more fascinating segment of this man's overall story and as you'll see, much of the historical information greatly credits WOMEN for playing an enormous role in the foundation of this new activity in the automotive business world. The Interior Design Studio and Color Studio were both offshoots of Earl's creating the automobile design profession and these two areas naturally became giant steps in setting the forward pace of -- everything automotive -- to come. The modernity of having so many creature comforts and the latest technological gadgetry within your car today are often viewed by auto experts as the last points of differentiation when it comes to purchasing a vehicle. All of it descends directly from early development efforts by Earl.  

At the bottom of this section are many historically innovative newspaper articles that entirely support this incredible story. 

The transcribed text below is from the above shown 1955 press release by GM detailing how the professional "Color Studio" first came to life inside Harley Earl's Interior Design Studio; the two pictures with captions detailed below were part of the vivid information GM released to the media during this time under Harley Earl's rule of all GM's product designs. 


An elaborate Color and Interior Design Studio located in a landscape area on the roof of the General Motors Styling garage at the Technical Center is the product of a color “revolution” in the field of automotive design.

 This special studio also is testimony to the foresight of GM stylists who, nearly 20 years ago, saw the handwriting on the wall – in color.

The exterior colors and interior colors and fabrics of all General Motors cars are decided upon in this studio and the research for Frigidaire’s colored appliances also was carried on there. The use of the color throughout GM to make more attractive, more desirable, more saleable products for the market springs from this studio.

The Color Studio is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows for optimum light balance. Designers select colors from 4,000 choices displayed above.

A total of some 75 designers, color stylists, fabric and plastic experts, clay modelers, engineers and other craftsman make up the personnel of Styling’s Color and Interior Design Studio. Included in this group are five women designers, eminently qualified as automotive interior stylists. These women stylists, each assigned to an automotive interior studio, are playing an increasingly important part in the GM styling picture.  

The color story of GM Styling is an interesting and important one. Development of this extensive color program began in the late 1930’s. Harley J. Earl, GM vice-president in charge of Styling, learned through GM dealerships and his own departmental research that in order to more easily clear their showrooms of old models just before new-model announcement time, many dealers were painting their new cars.

                Reasoning that variety of color choice must be customer preference, Mr. Earl set himself to more closely scrutinizing the situation. Only three or four basic color choices were available to the public at that time and these were conservatively somber.

World War II and the switch from automobiles to defense production delayed the development of Mr. Earl’s color program. But, there was the opportunity to think and plan ahead. After the war, and as automobile production began to climb back towards normal, GM Styling's color program began to blossom.

            In the meantime, paint manufacturers were improving production methods and were developing paints with brightness and gaiety without sacrificing quality and durability. Improved fabrics also were developed to allow attractive and luxurious automobile interiors with fabrics which were durable, washable and colorful.

Surrounding the GM Styling Color Studio is an outdoor roof garden. Artificial heat warms the soil and melts snow in the wintertime.

            Another factor which played an important part in GM’s leadership in color styling was the realization by Mr. Earl that the women’s influence on the automobile market was becoming increasingly important. Engineering progress – power steering, brakes and accessories, as well as automatic transmissions – were making it easier for women to drive automobiles. Resultant styling advances made cars easier to get into and out of and more comfortable to drive.

            The women’s influence and the psychological effects of peace and prosperity called for gay, bright colors.

            In 1949, the Pontiac Catalina reached the market with the interior fabrics and trim color-keyed to the exterior of the car. This was an industry “first” and was immediately followed by most other makes of cars.

            The color “revolution” in the industry had been touched off. In the next five years, color became the automotive stylists’ most important aid. In 1954, Oldsmobile and Buick came out with the brilliant two-tone color treatments, along with the revolutionary Panoramic windshield, and swept the industry. The following year, brilliant two-tone paint jobs were featured on almost every make of car. Some delved into three-tone color jobs.

            During the past two years, the use of color, both inside and outside the cars, has reached a peak which less than a decade ago could hardly have been imagined. Meanwhile, Mr. Earl and his top aides had developed one of the most extensive color studios in the auto industry, if not in the industrial world. The Technical Center, nearing completion during those years, was the chosen home of this studio. Into its design went all the plans which were calculated to mean continued GM leadership in color design.

            Just what GM stylists have in mind for the future use of color in the products they style is known only to them. Whatever they have in mind, however, they have the studio, the facilities, the personnel and the experience to maintain the color leadership they have won in the industry.

            The GM Styling Color and Interior Design Studio actually is an oasis of foliage and lawn area in the center of the Styling building group. This second story garden area is designed so that color samples and fabrics may be inspected under natural lighting conditions. In this way, the designers can see how a car color will look out on the road or parked in a future owner’s yard.

            The glass enclosed studio is located in the center of this verdant roof garden. It is a circular studio, 78 feet in diameter at the outside, and has an inner glass wall 24 feet in diameter. The purpose of the center glass area is to allow daylight viewing conditions when curtains are drawn over the outer wall.

            There are two dominant facilities with the studio. One is a huge Color Selector which holds 3, 888 metal samples of colors and provides an absolute color scale by which all tints, shades and chromatic colors can be identified and graded. There are six sections in the selector, each of which can be rotated at the touch of a button. Within each section are eight vertical columns of color samples which can be easily rotated by hand.

            The second main feature of the studio is a unique Interior Color Matching room. Because lighting conditions area of paramount importance in viewing and comparing pigments, this special room is designed so that absolutely accurate comparisons of colors can be made days, weeks, months or years apart.

            A completely closed form, 14 feet in diameter, this room has an exterior wall of patterned, stainless steel, and an interior wall surface of ribbed white plastic. Overhead are lights which can simulate sunlight or any other light sources. These lights  are controlled by rheostats. By recording the settings and light switch positions used in viewing a given color, an accurate comparison can be made at any later date by setting the same data into the controls.

            In addition to the main studio, Interior and Color Design has five interior studios and an engineering studio in which interiors, instrument panels, seats and other features of the car are developed and designed.

            Other modern facilities calculated to provide the best possible color study and research program in the industry complete the GM Styling Color and Interior Design Studio.  


All of the following newspaper articles clearly support Earl inventing the global auto industry's first: 1.) Interior Design Studio; 2.) Color Revolution 3.) Women Car Designers and this Detroit News story from 1956, directly below, best cements the facts. Two great quotes from this story, "The color revolution had its inception in the mind of Harley J. Earl, GM vice president in charge of styling, in the late '30s and development of the idea was started at once." &  "Earl came to the realization that the influence of women had become a big factor in the marketing of automobiles, forcing their wants and desires into the styling of cars. 

There are many more reports, like these above articles, that further allow us to find out more on the auto world's "modern master."