Exercise: Understanding Colour


Portrait of Johannes Itten, by Paula Stockmar, father of the Farbenkugel, or Colour wheel, wearing one of his self made robes whilst working as a member of staff at the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar 1920.

This particular exercise starts to draw on various strands of professional practice across the graphic design spectrum as well as delving further into DTP software and understanding the role of colour.

As with all exercises the first task to read the brief and consider what actions to take to help deliver the expected outcome. Notes were taken and ideas developed.

Keynotes to help formulate my plan

The first task was to look at each word and break it down to consider its meaning beyond the face value and to consider how these definitions could be realised in colour. The next step was to then divide the 26 ideas proved by the exercise into themes.

This was a relatively straight forward task and the ideas were separated into Harmonious, Neutral and Harsh themes. This also allowed to consider the form that my colour combinations would take.

I then considered colour. As the themes were self-explanatory I opened a series of photo’s from my library where the colour reflected the three themes. These were then pixelated through Affinity Designer and Publisher to provide a 256 colour palette, of which I made several.

I then created a grid, into which I chose palettes that were populated with what I considered to be 40 bright and dark colors. These palettes were further pixelated, again using affinity products, to produce bespoke 256 colour palettes.

Screenshot ContactSheet-001

Screenshots of colour palette development

The resultant colours were then chosen to represent the lighter and darker sides of human nature. This in itself was great fun and let me focus on the clours that I really felt matched what I was aiming to achieve.

Light (L) and Dark (R) palettes

The next phase was to design how the clours would work as contrast and dynamic partners and whether or not similar shades could also be contrasting? The final question was form presentation. How could these combinations be presented?

I decided on using a differing physical form for each idea as below. I would also experience with DTP to utilise certain effects. An inner shadow was adopted for the Harsh themes, whilst an outer glow was adopted for the Harmonious themes. The Neutral theme would be soft on the eye, but different enough to ensure the viewer would not confuse it with the other themes.

Energetic, Vital and Unhappy

Overall a great exercise, not only for experimenting with colour, but also for working with DTP and learning a little more about how to manipulate images to suit a purpose. This work allowed me to consider contrasts and what worked and what didn’t. It also showed me that selecting contrasts isn’t always the easiest task and takes quite a bot of concentration and consideration.

Final tearsheets featuring all the emotions by name

Resources used

Portrait of Johannes Itten, by Paula Stockmar, 1920, available at https://www.bauhaus100.com/the-bauhaus/people/masters-and-teachers/johannes-itten/ (accessed 19/08/2019)

Whitford, F. (1988) Bauhaus. Thames and Hudson. London

Mollica, P. (2013). Walter Foster. CA

Muller-Brockmann, J. (2019) Grid Systems in Graphic Design 13th edn. Niggli, Salenstein.

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