Learning from the Masters 2


Color for Designers: Exploration, Theory, & Application


Lesson Info

Learning from the Masters 2

So this is a great expression drawing with scissors and you will have scissors here is of course you have pencils to uh what do you think of that phrase drawing with scissors? What comes to mind when you think of that shapes cutting out shapes and um it's a way of thinking about lines right except with a very different kind of tool yeah and the outcome tends to be a little bit different just because of how the scissors is employed it's a very different kind of a process so it typically lends itself to irregularity um accidents serendipity things that you wouldn't necessarily try to do you find yourself doing just because it's the scissors and it's very very awkward in some way some people are really good with him uh I tend to be good with certain kinds of things with scissors, but it definitely has a very specific uh uh usage and feel when you're using it as a tool for drawing now this phrase running with scissors is matisse's own phrase for what he made in his later life I've mentione...

d this show that sad moment in new york that came to momo from the tate in london and it's a show of the work that dream a tease well, how many of you are you familiar with on raymond cheese? A little bit um you've probably seen his work even if the name doesn't necessarily ring a bell and this is even if you're a home certainly if you're at home you could do a google search for matisse and if you add the word cutouts c ut o u t s um that's actually what he called his later work he was a painter for most of his life and then later on he became basically uh he was he was ill and he couldn't really get up out of a chair anymore and so he couldn't stand it any stolen paint and so that compelled him to do things with art in a different way and that's when he started using this idea of drawing with scissors uh the work still employed a lot of his ideas about color and form and subject matter but it was all rendered in this way that was very very different than working with paint um and again if you do a google search or if you just go to the museum of modern art side the moment dot com site dot org's sorry um you'll see his work uh matisse she's cut outs inspiration for students and working designers now this looks an awful lot like one of matisse's cut outs but it's not it's actually the work of one of my students and it was actually made not too long ago last friday it was made on the spot in class and the scale is unnecessarily clear here but right down here you can see electrical plug so this piece is about eighty tall and that is actually what matisse springs to us as well is this incredible scale looking at cut paper you guys today have been working with cut paper on a very small scale a lot of it has to do with immediacy and sort of what we have to work with here worked at this scale often not all of his cut outs there are this size but the most magnificent ones the ones that came sort of later in his life are these huge pieces. So I took my students in new york to see the show and they made a serious projects that were informed by matisse's work and what I asked the students to do was express something with cut paper at a monumental size that they loved. And so this is an expression of what it is to be a woman and what it is to be a mother and down here an expression of pain suffering here, an expression of emotional anguish over here an expression of feeling depressed and then appear an expression of motherhood or comfort and then this beautiful form right in the middle. So here we have an expression of perhaps the womb but it's also a figure that encompasses everything everything is wrapping around this figure so you remember the idea of figure in ground looking out powerful that white shape is in the center so that's an essential part of matisse's work and hopefully it'll become an essential part of your work we've been talking about this all along has a very important part of design I gave the example of the fedex logo well this is the same exact thing using both figure and ground to tell your stories color here is very limited and in the work I'm going to show you the colors are very, very limited I asked the students specifically it only work with one color to keep things very, very economical later on when you do the project that is sort of going to be informed by this you can work with multiple colors or you can work with one color a hero color of some kind this student shows blue and we talked about how blue is often a symbolic color of um security and uh balance serenity perhaps I also love the use of line to distinguish these shapes what with the students kind of look like when they're working and can see the scale of the work here so in this case is a siri's of objects rendered in a very symbolic way not unlike the tan grams I don't like some of the forms you guys were working with earlier semi abstract semi representational but everything here is pretty clearly understood a lamp, a woman, a ring, a book as flying a bunny, some nature a tree leaves coming off of a tree vase hat cup shoe this is actually a representation of sowing and is the most abstract element within this cluster for me it's supposed to be a needle and thread and of course how do you abstract at this scale a needle and thread this was the students attempt at doing that it's a beautiful use of shape very simple the spaces in between are very considered and great expression of contrasts of size another key principle of design this was a collaborative projects of students work together to hang the pieces this person's expression of something they love with tennis and the color was informed by her first tennis racket I love this piece it's everyone's kind of working together and there it is does that remind you of what's the first thing you think when you look at it like a like a skyscraper in like a month or something like that monorail anyone else skyscraper was well looking down from the top bar bar yeah so it was in fact a roller coaster so you're very close with the monorail thing and the skyscraper thing is also part of that because when you're on a roller coaster you're up high and you're down low and there's this idea of great velocity great speed but look out the black and the white play together to sell the story this is great just sort of as a building process can anyone see what that is that images yes something that this guy loves I'll pose so nobody know where you can see it ahead arms there's the board there's snow kind of coming off of it so it's very abstract up here the he was actually talking about how he loves the snowboard at night and so these representations of the light that's coming up of the big lights that tend to illuminate the course the slope the beautiful shapes this is about the holiday of I guess the christmas holiday people coming together into a home and I love these little things which are all representations of snowflakes different kinds still simple sparkle and spin the children's book and it's some paul ran did with his wife in nineteen fifty seven I have a copy of that I think it's somewhere I'll dig it up later but I have a few things that we can kind of look at these air the end sheets and right away we get this sense of playfulness and color and here we see the shapes we see the emphasis on both figure and ground as we move through this sparkle in spin is about words and it's a children's book meant to teach children how to use words what words are all about collage all about using cut paper now he's also drawing on pieces which you can feel free to duel so well today I love this piece jester look at that eye, how similar this is to those snowflakes that my student worked on, and this this I love a pair becomes a bunny, and this is the shape that was cut out of that so much ease does this a lot to where he'll take a shape that he's cut away from something and then use the background also in the piece, or maybe exclusively in the piece. So that's a little bit of being open minded to what you have in front of you, you might be cutting out of shape and then recognize that what you've cut out the background is actually the useful part. This is getting to where you guys going to be working. So your assignment now for the next hour or so is to create a composition that is an expression of anti war, an antiwar poster, in a sense. But you're not going to be working that poster size. You're gonna be working small, says paul ran's, anti war peace he actually called a death mask death mask done in nineteen sixty eight. So in response to the vietnam war, you have a beautiful use of color black, white, green, blue, very, very simple cut paper shapes, you can see how this shape is really just cut away from this. And how that black shape actually goes behind the white shape so that these holes are cut out of the white shape we see straight through it is a little bit more that black shape over here and look at this. How beautiful this is. The skull is holding the olive branch right in its teeth. It's a gorgeous piece. I actually have this poster at home and I love looking at it. It inspires me every day and not in a negative way I don't look at it with sort of a sense of oh it's foreboding or anything like that. I'm also a big fan of the cross of a skull and crossbones imagery and so I tend to collect that stuff, but this I find really, really very inspiring. Think about the idea of visual hierarchy. Where do you look first, what's the most important part of this. What would you say? Three. Yeah, also the weight. Yeah, so the green and the white are really playing off of each other, but that green branch in particular really is important, right? He would think that the way it would be really almost more important, but we tend to focus more on the green, perhaps because it's more of a positive form. Yeah, emotionally positive. Okay, so what do you guys think? Antiwar poster working with cut paper you've got some pencils in front of you, their colored pencils and some pieces of paper, so my recommendation is to start sketching on this and you can use your notebooks as well as you prefer to do that come up with some very quick ideas maybe spend ten minutes maybe fifteen minutes just sketching out some very quick ideas if you'd like to use words you can do that you may be cut letters out of paper or tear them out you can employ any of the skills that you've learned so far in this assignment you can employ any of the paper samples that we have um you can even use the colored pencils if you like to I would think though, maybe sticking with paper for now and definitely we're gonna want to glue these things down so think about making compositions that perhaps are more simple than complex, so you can actually do things down but definitely spend some time conceptualizing it try to come up with some ideas that are really expressive of antiwar and colors that are expressive of anti war okay, okay, any questions? Good work thinking about how they're going to approach this like to ask a little bit about paul round because I know in your bio somebody's inspired your enormous and you've worked with so tell us about your connection with him and how he has inspired you through your career well first of all I would say there's a wonderful are archive of his work at uh paul hyphen rand dot calm or dot or guy think it's dot com and if you go there the site has actually been updated and you can see all of his work there and right at the top there's a disclaimer I think that says if you are looking for rand paul this is not the site um but it's kind of funny the connection was uh I barely knew anything about him before I went to graduate school I had seen a few uh articles actually there was a ah champion paper an old paper company I don't know if they're still around or not I don't think they are but they had done a little booklet about paul ran it was very interesting to me and had a few pieces of his work in there so then when I went to graduate school and I found out that he was going to be one of my teachers it just it blew my mind that this guy was actually going to be here and I had our I also knew that he had designed the ibm logo and I was kind of inspired by that as well I didn't know that he was someone who was doing children's book illustration at that time I was really thought of him more as a is a corporate designer is a commercial designer um I didn't know anything about this kind of ah use of cut paper. This book, by the way, is also well, take a look at this later sort of as we go. Um the first assignment that we did with him and graduate school was a layout page layout of one of his essays called design and play instinct and right away, you know that that idea play became apparent to me that is part of his work and that's actually the assignment that turned me on to the tan graham because it was part of that essay, and that s a design of the play instinct is also included at that website. And if you were to google design of the play instinct, you come up with the full text, you be able to read about that as well. Um he was influential in terms of form dealing with simplified forms, this idea of reduction trying to reduce a composition down to a few pieces, it is necessary to take away and take away until you can't take away any more very influential in terms of color, not color theory, just use of color. He loves these kinds of saturated colors. Wait, just look at some of these pieces in the book here, this book I got on ebay, and by the way, if you if you want teo look at some of the stuff that's collectible you can go to ebay and some of these things are really expensive but sometimes you get kind of lucky this has actually got this great inscription over here it says to jeff with love on david's first birthday five twenty five fifty nine beautiful sparkle in stone that piece so what pull ran really epitomised for me was the connection between art and design and he really explained very clearly the distinction between graphic design and advertising design that graphic design was in most cases more about providing information and that advertising design in most cases is about persuading people to take action and that distinction was really never fully explained to me until that uh he just talks about that and one of his books my favorite book of his which is called the designers art and he emphasized that in order to be a good designer you have to be an artist first and you have to employ the skills of an artist and so is his influences our matisse and miro and many of the early modernist painters lazy and picasso those are the people he talked about when he was talking about his own influences and the influences that his students should have not necessarily other designers we all tend to do that but to be influenced by other kinds of things painters, photographers, filmmakers, people outside the realm of design bringing those kinds of ideas into our own work and that to me was really encouraging as a photographer and it enabled me to see this bridge between heart to what it is to be an artist which I felt like I had always been to some degree and then to be a designer where there's always a problem to be solved you're working in the service of a client usually have a very defined kind of set of expectations as opposed to being an artist where you define in your own expectations you're defining your own boundaries in your own rules I saw that bridge very clearly when he began to speak about it very influential also very influential in terms of how he taught you never really told us necessarily too say out do things you know this way or that way he would he would set boundaries for us used these colors used this typeface but then he would let go and allow us to experiment. And then of course when we came back and showed him the work he would tear it apart and more or less kind of redesign it in the way that he would read it sign it and from that I learned that a one way of of being a student and one way to learn about design is to try to put your mind to teo put your head in the headspace of that person that designer, that teacher and to try to think like they think which is what I did ultimately and it's always worked for me. You know, I go back and read his books, I'll be inspired by it encourages me to try to think the way he thinks. No, I would never, ever be able to do that, of course ever at that level, but I try and it inspires me and informs my work and enables me to sort of continue to be enthusiastic about design still very much in use today, ibm, abc, westinghouse set ups as well. I think that they're all still very much in use ups is no longer around. Sadly ups the original logo if you look it up, the original paul rand ups logo is a present it's a little box that's as a bow tie and the story goes that that was inspired by his daughter. Looks like a present, something that's being delivered. That logo was redesigned, I believe, about ten years ago to be more of ah, like a web icon, it has the dimensionality, a little bit of a drop shadow and on dh not to take anything from away from the designers who made that, but a lot of people were really saddened by the disappearance of that logo, and I think it compelled a few people to try toe create some kind of a graveyard for good logos you know a place where you can go to look at these things and to honor them in their own way but you're absolutely right. He also designed the logo kind of interesting the logo for steve jobs company after apple in between apple, apple, apple uh computer company was next. Next computers early nineties it only lasted for like three or four years. That sounds like the right night. Yeah, um he designed a proposed local for ford. He signed a lot of things that never really got off the ground either. One things I read in his barclay that which I found very interesting was when he was working he liked to work very much in isolation. He didn't work with the team even though he could, but when he was actually coming up on the concepts he just liked to work entirely intensely and focus he had one assistance in his whole life. Uh a guy whose name I still don't know um and worked out of his house for most parked and went in connecticut. I believe um he actually invited a student's there occasionally to come to chris, but I always got that sense of into and that alice all has been very inspiring for me uh remember once being accused of being this one of my teachers accuse me of being a graphic design cowboy, and I thought immediately, well, it's, because I'm from the midwest, you know, maybe this is that, but no it's about independence, about being someone who works on their own, and I really engaged and sort of embraced that concept, and even to this day, I'm I'm much more comfortable working on my own now, obviously is his logo work is extremely famous, askew explained. He also did a lot of posters. What do you think inspired him? And why did you choose today to do the anti war messaging in this particular exercise? I like the relationship of this work to matisse, and since matisse is on my mind and something that is something it's it's, a very accessible, medium cut paper, I wanted to do an assignment with cut paper today in addition to everything else, because we were working with papers and we have all these beautiful papers, and I knew we'd have a lot of leftovers, which is perfect, because when you do cut paper compositions, you don't go out and buy a bunch of paper, you just kind of use what's in front of you and sometimes it's magazines like randall's in this book where you might just take a page out of aa. Newspaper or magazine and cut that up and use it in different ways. He was very much into this idea of improvisation. Now whatever's in front of you, you just kind of pull in peace and bring together, uh, and not being so consumed with sort of the hunting part of it, but really sort of passionately involved with the materials around you. But yes, a follow up to the things we did this morning with the tan grams and the leaf compositions and the expression of opposites. I thought this would be an ideal place to go. And we are involved at this point in a lot of conflicts around the world is something we're all thinking about constantly, not just the wars, the actual kill, political wars and cultural wars but no, the other kinds of wars there were involved with, you know, this whole thing with the terrible ebola thing that's kind of a war in itself, right? It's ah, war of thinking it's ah, war against fear. So I thought this would be kind of an interesting opportunity. It's also very now it's uh, three emotional for a lot of us. Some of us might know people who are involved as soldiers in the war, and so we have a very personal stake in these kinds of issues

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.