Courses Color page 2


Someone told me that the basis for the color theories used by Albers came from the writings of Goethe on color. I believe that Knopf published an obscure small book on the color theories of Goethe sometime during the 1960s.

The teachings of Albers have been vastly misunderstood. His color and drawing courses represent to me some of the most effective instruction in terms of student understanding and learning that I have ever encountered. At most American schools today, Albers is identified with the Bauhaus, and is viewed as someone from the distant past who is totally irrelevant to art and design.

Most critics of Albers and the Bauhaus base their opinions on Bauhaus imagery which is now dated. The Bauhaus was about philosophy, objectives, pedagogy and social values and not a particular imagery. The underlying qualities of the Bauhaus are as relevant today as they were during the first decades of the twentieth century. If the Bauhaus were operating today, they would be working with all the new technologies and social conditions of the present, and the imagery would be quite different.

The mini-color course is limited to taking one hour a week from basic design. The course is restricted to four or five exercises, color interaction, boundaries, visual mixture and how much to how much. The balance of the course is devoted to free studies and leaf studies. The one hour is used to critique student work, and to present new exercises. When the work is not satisfactory, it is repeated until a majority of students under stand and overall class results are reasonably consistent. Color is stressed over shape, and composition should not compete with the color. Craft is an important consideration in evaluation of work. All work is expected to be done outside of class time.

Near the end of the term, students have expended all their favorite colors and they begin to work with what is left of the color pack. They then work with colors that normally they would not select, and some of the most interesting color studies come from this stage of the course. One of the greatest benefits of the color course is that it forces students to try colors that under other circumstances they would not consider. Most students coming into design education are not visually sensitive, and the color problems are an excellent vehicle for developing a discriminating eye for color choice, how much to how much, composition and a greater understanding of what constitutes visual sensitivity. This sensitivity usually transfers 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 improve on their intuitive capabilities. Color boundary and quantity problems are absolutely essential to the education of every graphic designer.

What is described here is not so much a color course as it is a series of exercises 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. It 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.


Basic terminology for the course includes the following:
Hue refers to one color; color refers to one or several hues; color and hue can be interchangeable, while chroma refers to all color including shades, tints and tones.

Intensity, saturation or brilliance are interchangeable terms. Refers to higher or lower in degrees of vividness. Diluted or undiluted color or pigmentation.

Shades are hue plus black.

Tints are hue plus white.

Tone is hue plus grays.

Analogous colors or those that are adjacent on the color wheel.

Chromatic refers to all hues, shades, tints and tones.

Achromatic refers to the entire spectrum of gray with white at one end and black at the other.

Chromatics have an achromatic equivalent called value.

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The mini-color course is limited to taking one hour a week from basic design.

The course is restricted to four or five exercises:

color interaction


visual mixture

how much to how much

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