Mini Course in Color
I took the Color course at Yale with Josef Albers and Sy Sillman.
This course was the single most influential experience I had
in graduate school. I understood the course objectives and
it conditioned me to recognize visual values, not only in
color, but also in other art and design courses. Color class
met for three hours twice a week and there was an enormous
amount of outside work expected.
I appreciated most about Albers' approach to color was the
lack of rigidity and his understanding of the relativity of
color. The first thing he did in color class was to ask every
student to go through the color pack, pick out red and lay
it face down on the desk. After a few minutes, Albers asked
the students to hold up red. The variation among students
as to what they thought was red proved to be quite amazing.
This provided a basis for Albers to address students about
color relativity and how no two people see color exactly the
worked with color paper because he wanted students to focus
on color and not have to battle the problems of using a brush
or mixing and applying paint at the same time. The colors
were precise and additional sheets of the same hue and intensity
could be purchased through coded numbers on the back of each
based his problems on simple principles that often had application
far beyond consideration for color. For instance, how much
to how much could apply to drawing, typography, painting or
any other form of visual expression. Albers' problems forced
students to make innumerable decisions, and he realized that
eye sensitivity to color and learning resulted from having
to make all these decisions. Albers clearly recognized the
searching process itself to be more important to learning
than the end results.
has been interesting for me to compare notes with other graduates
of Albers color classes who went on to teach color. Few of
us adhered strictly to Albers, and we moved in different directions.
never had a separate class in color. My teaching of color
has been limited to taking one hour a week from Basic Design.
To do this, I restricted myself to about four or five exercises,
color interaction, boundaries, visual mixture and how much
to how much. We did the leaf exercises as part of free studies.
The one hour was used to critique student work and present
new problems. When problems were not satisfactorily done by
a majority of students, we did them over and over until the
problems were understood and results were reasonably consistent.
All the work was done outside of class time. After the theoretical
problems, students worked on free studies using the four principles.
myself, I stressed color over shape, composition and sensitivity
for amounts in the use of color. I found that near the end
of the term when students had used all their favorite colors,
they worked with what was left of their color pack which were
colors they normally would not use. Some of the most interesting
color studies came from this stage of the course. One of the
true values of the Albers color course is that it forces students
to use colors that under other circumstances they would not
students coming into design education are not visually sensitive,
and I found the color problems the best vehicle for students
developing a discriminating eye for color choice and amount,
composition and better understanding of what constitutes visual
sensitivity which could then be transferred to other courses
such as drawing, design, typography and photography. Sensitivity
itself cannot be taught, but students can be made aware of
it, and they can cultivate their intuitive capabilities. I
think the color boundary and quantity problems are absolutely
essential to the education of every Graphic Designer.
is described here is not so much a color course as it is a
series of problems to make students sensitive to color and
composition, and to further develop eye skills. Graphic Design
students require a much more comprehensive course in color.
is important for students to know the major color systems,
learn color terminology and to be introduced to the physics
of light and color. Students require the experience of mixing
color and learning to apply it with skill. Students should
be aware of how various artists or designers have used color
in the past. Another consideration that is rarely touched
upon but it is pertinent today as design becomes increasingly
international, and that is the relationship between color
and culture. The symbolic associations with color change from
culture to culture. What might be attractive to one culture
might be symbolic of death or misfortune to another.