Expression of Color & Opposites - Part 1


Color for Designers: Exploration, Theory, & Application


Lesson Info

Expression of Color & Opposites - Part 1

Color expression we're building up I don't know if you've noticed we're moving from theory into practice that's the point of today's work so we started with ten grams and leaf collages where you deal with geometric shapes and organic shapes and now we gave you an assignment and uh a little while after I go through a few slides here we'll ask you to go around and talk a little bit about your concepts for this idea of expressing to different things with color and shape and you'll be able to use the colored pieces of paper that we have here the color raid even the tan graham shapes and even the leaves if you want to if you find that they're useful for expressing your two opposites so I like to use this as an example of a color expression it's the lgbt flag um which has six colors and it is indeed a powerful symbol and it's very simple and very easy to remember and initially when that flag was designed it had eight colors and they were tied to a very specific meaning so pink sexuality red ...

for life orange for healing yellow for some might green for nature of course arch was blue green harmony blue and spirit purple violet and it's been simplified since and now we have the flag that is six colors three primaries the three secondaries arranged in this spectrum just like the rainbow and in that way it's this great symbol of diversity and pride of identity and I actually love this it's so simple every year in the summer we see these flags all around new york city and here obviously also and when they're flying and flora lee and the colors work together in this really kind of beautiful way and we go from a very geometric kind of construction just stripes and just something that's very organic so the flag itself is this great expression of geometric and organic form the season's project thes for some projects that my students have done uh using color to express personal relationships to the four seasons and kind of going back to you the very first exercises you did earlier in the workshop using colored grids to express ideas here really thinking about color is an expressive element so it was very easy and actually this assignment goes back to you on a certain again and he had his students work with colored grids to express their relationships to the seasons and most of us can think about colors relating to seasons maybe it has to do with holidays maybe it has to do with feelings I've had students work on this project and in some cases the results are completely monochromatic because they might be about moods. Sometimes the shapes are organic because of the four seasons there tend to be always four compositions sometimes collage elements coming into play and you see a little bit of transparency here this is actual transparency because the piece was made with pieces of tissue paper contrast of shape, large planes in contrast a line elements and here we get into very expressive kinds of forms where the form itself becomes expressive and so it's a combination of form and color it's expressing these ideas especially shapes and expression colors so that's what I want you to think about today how do you use shape and color to express ideas? And you guys are working on expressions of opposites, so we're going to have a dipstick structure a two part structure to compositions that work as one like this is a great expression of cool or frigid very very crystalline kind of shapes and then warm I'm like a lava lamp melting shapes we also see transparency I love this peace this is all just manipulated paper a little folds curled up pieces of paper expressing separation and togetherness specials of opposites so that's your assignment um we're going to kind of go around start with christine actually you're going to be working on the computer and everyone else will be working with cut paper and perhaps leaves but what is your concept for today? I actually saw it is the hot and cold yeah, yeah that gave me a really good idea yeah, like oh, I could do that but hot and cold and any particular idea related to hot and cold um I remember I was talking about it earlier I was thinking about the symbols that we use to you know, to say hot or cold like um fire or a snowflake I was like, how important like how do people see color versus the cymbals? Like if I made blue fire and a red snowflake with that like with people being well, wait a minute or would they be like no, I know that red is hot and room is cold and I just wanted to play with that idea I love that idea of even expressing opposites within the opposite. Yeah, so, yeah, expressing fire with blue is it possible? Yeah. So that's a very playful, very experimental approach. This is a perfect opportunity for you to try that out. So there's no, we don't have any set agenda here. You know, when I think about play and experimentation, success and failure you know, we don't like to use that word success and failure, but how do you learn unless you actually fall down a few times? You have to do that, all right? Yeah, so I mean it's a concept? Did anyone else have the same idea of hot and cold okay I want to play with the idea of private versus public nice that would be kind of interesting tow I don't we'll have to figure out I guess how expressive but thinking about ideas around like a public figure you see them maybe an oppressor and newspapers but then like their home in their living room is obviously very private or in our lives thea idea of there are things that I know and I talked about with my friends they might be different things you put on a blogger on twitter on liners like that uh how do you think color plays into that uh I got to figure that out I was thinking that my initial thoughts were publicar it's a little bit more cacophonous there's a lot of different colors or maybe shades hugh's going on whereas private just might be you and maybe your significant others maybe only one color it could also be uh lots of different things going on like earlier you were talking about so much contrast that there's almost no contrast whereas thie in private it could be something where there's may be only only one thing that's this different between the piece so we'll have tto play and figure it out we'll see I love that concept that's really interesting and so much a part of our lives right now because you're right you know private in public I guess it's always been kind of part of people's lives maybe maybe not if you live in the woods who cares? No one sees you right but if if you're especially for someone like you who's dealing with interacted design so you have this thing is a very, very private that happens and yet what's on it sometimes it's very very public it's a great concept um I'm going to do spring and fall going off of this season's yeah. Okay, so for me I think to immediate things that come to mind are just going to be colors obviously and then, uh emotion for me do you have any shapes in mind? Uh not yet, okay, so feel free to explore different things and don't necessarily thanks so much about symbols maybe the shapes themselves are expressive geometric versus organic is a good place to start. And since you're dealing with paul you might consider using leaves or leaf shapes even maybe that's too predictable but maybe there's something to go with you okay? Shame and honor. Wow. First thing that comes to mind the shapes for the shame would be like just black and white stripes like the jail. You know what imprisons us and then honor might be fire. You know what burns through that what what's gonna burn brightly after that that's very interesting it's uh it's very almost you're taking it out on some other sort of a metaphor so um, similar to what we talked about during the break because this has been a constant tug of war for me, the left brain versus the right brain and s o we don't get it or no more order versus art on dh because you know, a lot of this my my brain is going what's with the business this is detective like was a target audience that had to do this right? This is about design and play, so I don't very often and, um, I think originally I was thinking about doing completely different ideas but it's about the integrated brain, so I don't know exactly I'm gonna go part of our conversation was about the importance of play in professional activity and how, you know, I brought up the example of the musician who's paid to play or an athlete who's paid to play and yet that's work for them, right? And it's the same thing for artists and designers were paid to play a sense, and if we don't play, then we're kind of cheating our clients. You know, the people who were doing work for creating service war out of a big portion of what they could get from someone, right? We need to play in order to find ourselves in the work in order to put ourselves into work in order to become passionate about work it's a great concept and very personal as well you're you're dealing with us as we work here nice um I was thinking about man versus machine um does I'm really into technology but I'm also very passionate about human connection in human relationships so so humanistic vs uh kind of ah technological or an industrial component to shone like the love hate relationship yeah I think that's a great concept it's it's certainly something that's uh that's driven a lot of creative art and films and stories and books is the idea of how we as humans integrate into this industrialized and technological world you know it's it's the stuff of science fiction it's constantly something that we're dealing with you know, I'm sure interface designers and product designers are always thinking about that as well. How do you take something that's? Very mechanical and integrated into the human life in typography is a designer you're interested in type and we have humanistic typefaces typefaces that are very much based on uh the impression of a hand like a drawn letter like gary mont has this very sort of hand drawn quality versus a future which is very geometric now steven was simple things like typography you can begin to express this idea of human versus the machine what about color? Um well uh when I think of machinery I think of like grays and silvers and really blocky type shapes it might be kind of interesting to try to do this project uh using one hugh try to find colors within a hue that are very expressive of say that contrast of humanistic versus technological or humanistic versus industrial maybe I'm just sorting these ideas out there it's certainly none of you need to you know my ideas and run with them but if if it can be helpful I mean we're gonna be we've got a little bit of time here so there's time to experiment so thinking about like, for love like connection and harmony and then for hate contrast and con flicked on dh distance there's a thin line between love and hate yeah and have you thought about color relative for that? So for hate I was thinking a lot of strong contrasts um in in light and dark and in in hugh's um and then for love trying to make a shape that's maybe all one hugh or maybe to hughes that work together where the edges are maybe softer on the transitions between the colors sort of blend a little bit more because it's more connected so conflict versus harmony yeah that's an interesting way to think about that because harmony can also be about contrast yeah two opposites somehow working together versus two opposites I'm not working apart yeah, okay, very good so you guys are making dipped ix so be very clear on that idea that you're making two compositions that work together so I would say start with maybe two pieces of paper as grounds and maybe put them side by side and you might find yourself working on one and then the other or you might find yourself working on them simultaneously and making adjustments and so we're not since we're not gluing anything down right away they're blue sticks on the table here which you can glue down if you want to make something permanent feel free to do that sometimes it helps to glue one thing in place just so you have some kind of commitment to the peace this assignment is something that I employ a lot at all the levels of my teaching um I love it because it it really engages us to think about concepts in very distinct ways opposites even if you have an assignment as a designer and your assignment is to promote or summat transmit a particular idea sometimes it's a good idea to think about the opposite of that idea and see what would you do to express the opposite? It might actually inform what you would do to express the idea itself and keep in mind to that that's it it's possible but if you need anything I can certainly get up but you can maybe also get up and move around if you need to and it's a little bit embrace your starting out with two different color backgrounds right off the bat here yeah, I'm thinking this would be the private one because I think of when I think of private I think of you know not as many spotlight's on you um that seem like a place to start yeah also kind of a nice expression very simple expression of night and day yeah, the night tends to be a private time for most of us the day tends to be a public time from you you were talking about some of your inspirations and you talked about some of them today I'd like to know more about your inspiration for all of the work that you've done and where it's come from or what gave you the passion for teaching uh interesting it's another good story how the sheriff okay, viewers would love to hear it so I I was always good at art. I think most designers and artists are like me we were uh not necessarily compelled but encouraged to make art when we were kids and continuing to be encouraged and I had the kind of the great advantage of growing up in in a family of musicians and of my parents were in the floral trade they grew flowers they had a a greenhouse as well as a couple our business and they made floral arrangements for pretty much all the weddings and funerals and the homecomings and the high school prom's in our tiny little town of breckenridge, minnesota population five thousand something or other like that you know? So for me I was always surrounded by color and by form and these materials were always available to me got me into a lot of trouble to because you know, it wasn't a good idea for me to go into the ribbons and the glitters and the kinds of things that styrofoam I love burning styrofoam I don't know what it was it was about that I just I would go in there and start to make weird kind of sculptural shapes by burning styrofoam, playing with ribbons, colors and and of course these were all materials at my parents needed to use in their business and so they didn't necessarily appreciate me using that but they didn't say no either it was kind of nice, you know? I was very encouraged same thing with music it was always whatever you need um so, um that was initial and so when I got to high school, the question was, well, you're good at art, so what you gonna do with that right away he was like, how are you going to turn this into a professional life are going to turn this into a kind of an activity and I immediately thought about my parents as flores and I certainly consider that as an option for me to go into their business uh but I would tell people in high school teach I'll teach art I really liked my high school art teacher he was a ceramicist um I studied ceramics with him and I ended up going to the art school that he studied at and as soon as I got in art school, I started to think I'm not going to be a teacher it's much more if I'm going to be in on the other side of things then decided that I didn't really want to practice professional photography it didn't appeal to me s o I got a job in an interior design company and there they were dealing with color in my task there since I basically just had a b a in art was to put together the presentation boards anyone who's an interior design knows what a presentation board is like a mood board you have carpet samples and wall color samples arranged in a composition that began to tell a story there was a bit of a narrative that was really fun for me and then along came this opportunity to get involved in architectural sign ege and, uh same company there I was and I found myself working on a series of signs for children's hospital in st paul minnesota uh and it was my first really serious uh, experience with typography and using typography in a very serious way. What could be more serious than finding your way through a hospital and being directed? This was really interesting for me is using my skills as an artist to communicate messages that compelled me to start to think about graduate school because I hadn't had that much training. I had taken a few graphic design classes, but my focus was really photography, and once I started thinking about graduate school and it was like that idea came back, well, why would you go to graduate school? You got a name? If a degree you're now qualified, teach, and so teaching became a bigger option for me. I knew I could do professional graphic design but also said, well, maybe this idea of teaching and the more I experience I had in graduate school with teachers like paul rand and bradbury, thompson and herbert matter, these guys were so great and so interesting and just looked like they're reliving these perfect lives, teaching and working simultaneously, by the way, as our teacher, the expectation is that you are a working designer, it's never about just doing the teaching you always have to bring in something from the outside, but that idea of teaching, so as soon as I got out of graduate school, my first task was to find a teaching job on dh that's kind of how I ended up in this place and then it was like, ok, what do I teach? So I immediately started thinking about finding ways of teaching what I had been taught in graduate school using those assignments the tan gram these ideas, the color studies using the alberts color experiments and eaten and those were my starting points is thinking about the kinds of experiments that I did as a graduate student and how dowe id now deliver those lessons to an undergraduate audience. And initially I was teaching typography uh, it seemed to be something that a lot of people wanted to know something about I happen to be very good at it. Uh, it's something I didn't really understand when I was growing up, my father had grown up in well, he had he had studied printing and had become a bit of a typographer himself and was a lettering artist. And so even though he ran a greenhouse and he and my mother did all of this work with flowers and arrangements and those kinds of things, he was also the guy who painted the signs for the green house, and I would watch him do these letter rings and became very engaged with that, so I knew that typography was something I could do as a teacher. I always integrated that into it uh, that became part of the ideas of the lessons but coming up with these, you know, what do you teach? Many, many, many long nights just wracking my brain and being very, very concerned about the ideas that I was teaching the students? And was I actually passing on something of value? And how do I do this myself? How do I make hold? I not just teach the lessons that have been taught to me verbatim, but maybe make it more personal on dh that was a big challenge for me initially is how to take these kind of very I don't know very well known kinds of lessons that I had been taught in graduate school by the very famous teachers and make them personal and that's been more or less my life. You know, ever since I took a bit of a break from teaching, uh and went, you know, after graduate school kind of straight into teaching. But then after a while of teaching, I think after about eight years, I took a break from it, went out and did just professional practice actually work for a bank and design annual reports got involved in web design for the very first time, not really informed what I did when I came back to teaching, but teaching is, uh it really is itself a learning experience what I love about teaching and anyone who loves art school. By the way, if you were in art school now, you want to stay in art school, become a teacher. You'll be in art school the rest of your life. And that environment is so great. And something I just love. And even to this day, I really don't want to do anything else.

Class Description

Our response to color comes from the place in our brain where trust, loyalty, behavior, and decision occur – every successful project relies on a designer making smart choices about color.

In Color for Designers: Exploration, Theory, & Application, Richard Mehl will give you a foundational understanding of color theory principles and demonstrate how to apply them. Richard has studied alongside design legends, Paul Rand, Bradbury Thompson and Herbert Matter and in this class he’ll share insights gleaned from 12 years of teaching and writing about color in design.

Richard takes an accessible approach to the serious study of color theory for designers. You’ll be exposed to a relevant series of ideas and skills by exploring a range of analog and digital projects. Richard will discuss:

  • Color terminology and meaning
  • How to view color in context
  • Contrast grids and color illusion
  • Tips for creating harmonious color palettes

In Color for Designers: Exploration, Theory, & Application you’ll develop a new awareness and sensitivity to color that will bolster your confidence in your personal and professional design work.