Natural Awareness of Color & Playing


Color for Designers: Exploration, Theory, & Application


Lesson Info

Natural Awareness of Color & Playing

Through observation we develop a natural awareness of color and this is something that we all do. We start to see flowers and these pictures by the way were all taken out on the eastern end of long island during one of the wonderful summers out there and way start to see these things and we could become accustomed to certain kinds of color combinations this beautiful reddish orange red orange against the blue sky one of my favorite color combinations is blue and orange and red orange like this in particular with the blue sky and look at how beautiful that is and with the green coming in bottom over there with those great flowers the pedals very very light violet or a light purple and with the yellow inside the tomato the tomato is really a fantastic representation of a segment of the color wheel we see orange, red, yellow, yellow, orange, green so literally that's half of the color wheel there in that one tomato down here we have some yellow and some green really beautiful over there w...

ith the jack by this beautiful purple light purple with a little bit of green and yellow in the background and then of course the monarch butterfly which is our version of the orange is so beautiful sitting on that nice orange flower with experience we learned the names and associations of colors is again something we all do fire trucks are red grass is green barney is purple school bus banana, big bird water these things are all very familiar to us and we all learned these associations and those associations become very important to us in terms of our identification with this color this just happened throughout our life will be a new associate. Ideas, objects, things with color signs target the heart willy wonka uh, the diversity flag ibm recycle smiley face to help an awareness of color shape by our day today experiences. But for us as designers, as people interested in design, we need to go further. We need to distinguish ourselves and we do this by looking for knowledge by looking at colors and trying to understand what colors are doing, what colors look good together and why this is one of the studies we do in my classes. We look at famous works of art and we try to figure out what colors are going on. We develop an eye for color you guys gonna be doing things like this today, working with colors so playing and learning, um I did a book called playing with color and it is really about this idea of understanding the process of learning through play and what do we mean by play? Uh, plays really experimentation it's not knowing what an outcome is going to be if you think about a game uh, any kind of a game we might play? We don't know what's going to happen. We just know what the boundaries are, what the rules are, uh, what the expectations might be, but we really don't know the outcome. And that's a good way to think about art and design is not to really have a sense of where it's going to end up. We have idea of where it's going. We have ideas about boundaries and perhaps rules. I love this quote. Play is the highest form of research. Einstein and that's really is true. How could you become mohr invested in a subject matter or in an idea then by plane with it by experimenting with it by opening yourself up to all the possibilities, these little square pieces of paper, uh, are used to explore color possibilities. Color relationships. You guys are going to be working with things that are very similar plays vital to the education of artists and designers of all ages. Typical classroom. Any pictures? So what would you describe that kind of artwork on the wall with the colors? Because we're gonna be covering that. I believe we are going to cover that. Those air tan grande has for the most part and then we'll come back to this later you know it's an interesting idea some of us I actually never did can grams and I was a kid but some of you may have done ten grams um what we come back to that when you play we are experimenting often with a set of boundaries and rules I'm gonna be talking a lot about this guy paul rant some of you may know him uh he's uh uh died in the mid nineties I believe he was one of my teachers in graduate school and introduced me to this whole concept of playing and experimenting and he listed all these ideas these factors that are part of play but also part of the design process motivation, competition challenge stimulus goal promise anticipation interest curiosity curiosity skill observation analysis perception judgment improvisation improvisation so important coordination timing, concentration obstruction discretion, discrimination economy very important patients restraint, exploitation, excitement, enjoyment of discovery reward in fulfillment all ideas that are part of play also part of work this wonderful quote without play there would be no picasso capitalized his name without play there is no experimentation. Experimentation is the quest for answers that's a quote from paul rand and an interview with steve keller ten grams so a tan graham how many of you are familiar with ten grams anyone hear you are a little bit I think it's ah it's a collection of shapes us in a square broken into a exaggerate but none of you had little blocks that were maybe when I show you an example of this um one of the keys is making the most with the least so a tan graham is in fact a square that's been divided into seven pieces five triangles square or diamond shape and a parallelogram and this is a very old idea it's been around for thousands of years. Perhaps I think invented in china, and the idea is to cut these pieces out of paper or do it digitally. And we're going to be experiencing menting with it both ways ultimately and moving them around to create different kinds of compositions and through that process, getting use this idea of geometric form those air the moving parts there, and so we're going to be working with that, cutting pieces of paper up and moving them around, we start to work with them in ways that they become compositions. Sometimes the compositions are very literal, sometimes they're symbolic, sometimes they're abstract here's a suggestion of structure or stability there's a suggestion of movement in each case it allows us also to explore color and to think about how color can be used in a geometric composition as figures and as ground very beautiful little doggie reminds me of my dog you know they're a great expression of movement here is a tang graham a robot created on the computer cigarette lighter person looks like they're on a motorcycle or without the motorcycle someone skating down there so the tan graham is a way of creating symbols and for anyone who's interested in designing symbols or icons this is a great place to start it's a great exercise just for learning about simple composition and delivering messages in a very simple way grids and stripes again we're going to be covering these ideas in class when we work with grids and stripes we're gonna be talking about color contrasts and this is the realm of johanna sutton and one of the things that it brings to us is this idea of the seven color contrasts and here we have five of those seven listed contrast of light and dark probably the most accessible of all color contrasts you think about light colors we think about dark colors we think about light variants of a color and dark variants of a color and a variant is just a one particular idea of a color so light green dark green, warm and cool a warm color meaning that it's positioned on the color wheel in the area of the orange and reds and yellows cool opposite side of the color wheel blues, purples, some greens vivid and dull that's really saturation color can be very strong, very vivid could be dull de saturated complementary colors. We talked about that and proportion this idea that you can use colors in certain proportional relationships where you develop a sense of importance. So what color can be something that stands out or blends in that's what the grids look like you guys ever done anything like this? Put colors together and grids when you're working with color palettes it's really interesting to do this is very simple exercise you can put together any kind of a grid this happens to be thirty six units six by six and despite cutting out squares with a square punch or by hand if you want to do that but a square punch is very, very easy very quickly. If you have samples of color which you can get through calorie packs or perhaps even just going to a paint store, you can cut these things out and put them together and very quickly come up with some really interesting ideas is an expression of contrasts, of temperature, of warm and cool. Sometimes people paint their grids with wet media, an expression of light and dark, another expression of light and dark by the way black and white and greys are colors we're going to be talking about those as colors even though we don't necessarily associate these with say the pure colors like red and green and blue thes air still expressions of color. Contrast of light and dark. Sometimes we make them out of found materials. Another thing we're gonna be talking about in the workshop, isse found objects, found materials so here the colors are cut out of magazines, little graze ring texture into it. You could create beautiful arrays and composition, just based on contrast of light and dark, with the addition here of contrasts of texture and look at the compositional strategy. We have this dark area and then a lighter area. So we create a gradation from dark to light as we move from this area out. Another example of contrast, of light and dark. And here the compositional strategy is also very, very similar to last. One latest area in the center, darker on the outside contrast of light and dark. Also great, very calculated, very strategic design strategy where they goes great asian moves from a medium green to a very light green and then progressing up to this corner to the darkest green contrast of light and dark, a painted grid contrast of light and dark, with a little bit of warm and cool thrown in, so we see some of the blues. I can hear it being a very pure blue but then we have these others over here which are almost more blue violet into go purple slightly warmer blue so even blue can have warm and cool variants here's a nice expression of color temperature warm and cool now sometimes with this contrast contrast a warm and cool we actually since the color so when we look at this we sense warm and cool here we see a color system when you're working on grids you could be very strategic. You can try to come up with a plan and the longer we look at this and where we see how clearly it's devised the centre green, green, green, red, red, red, blue right in the centre and as we move out there's a system a little bit of a clear assistant here with gradations of warm too cool we take a lot of our cues from nature complementary colors red and green, red and green is perhaps the most evidence of all the compliments that we find in nature although sunsets blue and orange, a grid based on red and green so there we have warm and cool variants of red cool a variance moving toward purple the warmer variants moving toward orange also of green green is a great example of warm and cool here yellow, green, yellow, green more of a standard green and then blue greens so blue greens can be cool greens can also be warm variations of red and green also variations of saturation dull, vivid contrast of temperature warm and cool contrasts a saturation vivid and dull so we have very vivid yellow duller darker yellow very vivid purple a lighter color purple so when we talk about saturation vivid and dull we have to understand that color can be light and vivid or light and dull or dark and vivid or dark and dull we're looking at proportion it's actually a theory uh that color's used in certain proportional relationships very specific relationships in the case of yellow and purple it's one two three so one part yellow uh combined with three parts of purple will create a sense of balance so here when we look at this composition equal numbers of red and green squares and more blue and no one color stands out they're all kind of equally important so I look at that and we're not really focusing too much in anyone color sometimes we use found materials to make these grids krish pieces of a lime a leaf parts of a coconut skin beautiful contrast ingrid with variations of saturation painted grids made with a very very thin wash these are expressions of opposites and something we're gonna be talking about later in the workshop he's a split complementary colors a very interesting color set so usually when we're talking about complementary colors, we're talking about two colors, but we can also have a split complimentary color where we're talking about three colors they perform a very similar function will be talking about this later as well. Contrast of light in dark contrasts of vivid and dull complimentary contrast yellow and purple contrast of light and dark, vivid and dull. Is there dip ticks compositions that work together to form a single unit? And I love this idea of using color chips made out of colored paper to create a grid but then trying to replicate that with found materials and something we're going to be working on later contrasts of saturation so we look at each one of these colors the primaries red, yellow and blue and then this down here this cloud of cool chromatic gray down here and each one we have light and dark we have a little bit of vivid and dull these what are called concertina sze uh folded panels that work together to tell stories of narratives in a sense journeys from one side to the other that began to suggest changes in color. I have a question about that actually richard jumping here this one's coming richard say in terms of vivid and dull would you say that muted is the same as it is neutered refused? Yep, we love simple answers by the way, this is all the work of my students on dh it's great to see these examples we owe our our thanks to them for creating these things these great examples that tell us about color that teaches about color and in these concertina is we're really talking about transitions in this case transitions of warm too cool so these are all very experimental it's all about play taking a series of color squares grid's applying them to a cube hanging it in the woods uh this is very interesting. A friend of mine has a collection of uh, bandanas and we did this really interesting experiment just by folding them up and here we have contrast of texture also contrast a warm and cool literally all the colors of the color wheel are represented here stripes so along with grids we often work with stripes is a very different kind of compositional model but allows us to explore color and yet a different way warm and cool expressions of opposites those are actually the same colors just use differently in different proportions. One excess expression of warm was an expression of cool this is interesting. This is actually a serious of colors that are expressions of music, something I'm interested in and something I experimented with a lot and uh one of my former students made this project for my book and took a drill the color system in which twelve notes of the musical scale are each assigned a color and then he took song in this case a hard day's night and tried to create the colors syriza strike compositions based on the vocals, the base and I believe drums no, I'm sorry guitar, bass and vocals I think so each path of color describes one of those parts of the song it's an interesting way of coming up with a beautiful work of art and we look at this and we don't necessarily associate it with a song becomes something else and so transcends its original idea finally arranging colors on your bookshelf using found objects you can think of books as stripes of color and so this is something that a lot of people do it's a fun thing to do with your own books at home rather than arranging them by topic you arrange them by color of the spine sometimes taken off the jacket and it's an interesting idea some designers actually think that this is a really good system for arranging books if you think about how books are designed typically a designer will you guys air had experience with book design? You might say, well, I'm going to choose a particular color for the cover based on the content of the book and so simply by looking at the cover, you might get a sense of the content of the book it's. A different way of color coding, right, but also just very beautiful and fun.

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.