The designs in this slideshow were created by students Esther, Hana, Hava, Mathilde, Mia, Nefaur and Roger, in the online class Principles of Visual Language: Form and Color, January–April 2017.
In Form and Color, students explore ways to create engaging and memorable two-dimensional design. Using accessible materials and simple techniques, both handmade and digital, they experiment with design principles and color theory, including: figure and ground; unity of form; contrasts (geometric & organic forms, shape, size, direction, texture); unit/super-unit/pattern; visual hierarchy, harmony, rhythm and narrative; the seven color contrasts; color illusion and color expression.
The goal of this course is for each student to develop a creative toolkit of ideas and techniques, to embrace a unique awareness of form and color, and strengthen design skills. The lectures and assignments encourage students to adopt a a disciplined, yet playful, creative process.
Form and Color is led by instructor Richard Mehl. The class is fully online and asynchronous. Students participate in weekly modules according to their own schedule. Assignments are submitted using VoiceThread, a learning platform that allows students to see the work of their classmates, and add voice or text comments. In addition to peer review, students receive weekly detailed comments from the instructor.
The work in this collection was created during the Fall session of the online class Principles of Visual Language: Form & Color. Many thanks to students Khadijah, Mirna, Lizzie, Laura, Lauren, Audrey, Jennifer and Kening for their hard work and dedication—the success of the class belongs to them.
The Fall session was our first using VoiceThread, an interactive platform that gives students the means to upload images with written or voice comments about their own work, and comment on the work of their classmates. The students in the Fall session took full advantage of this new feature, especially voice commenting—by mid-point in the course, they were discussing the work using the language of design. VoiceThread has added great value to the course—we can now more fully embrace Josef Albers' teaching philosophy of practice followed by theory.
Homage to David Bowie, a cut-paper stop motion animation created by students in my SVA PreCollege class Unconventional Advertising, July 2016.
Still frame by student Clara K. "Life on Mars" performed by Seu Jorge. Photographed and lovingly edited by Anthony Carhuayo. Thanks to my dedicated student animators: Clara K, Erica L, Samantha P, Alana G, Riva W, Julie T and Jenny Z for their excellent work!
These compositions were recently created by students in the online class Principles of Visual Language: Form and Color. The image grid is arranged in reverse chronological order, beginning with final projects, and concluding with the first assignments of the semester—tangrams.
Many thanks to my talented students—Barney, Alexandra, Molly, Sarah, Ben, Alice, Lily, Jackson, Kris, Daniela, Gabriella, Nancy, Aditi, Mitra, Donald, Helen and Sethi—for their good work and dedication to the study of design!
Tape drawing: a collaborative assignment created in approximately 30 minutes by students in my Wednesday Visual Language class.
The goals of the assignment:
- collaboration—build upon the work of your partners
- unity of form—create a composition entirely of triangular shapes
- contrast of size and shape—create a variety of different triangles...different sizes, different shapes
- color contrast—use colors to create visual hierarchy...lines that appear to emerge and recede
Many thanks to my students—Gisell, Bairu, Rad, Pierre, Steven, Kayla, Cindy, Min, Sarah, Emily, Alice, James, Thomas, Jessica, Sujin, Gaeun, Debbie, Tut, Milaci, Matthew, Sahir, Brandon, Tamara, Woo Jae.
These projects were recently created in my online class Principles of Visual Language: Form + Color. They represent the ten assignments from the class, arranged from last to first.
Many thanks to my students—Luana Pompiani, Amanda Johnston-Fisher, Jennie Eberwein-Agert, Allison Erdman, David Johnson, Kentaro Oi, Shannon Palmer, Rosalyn Somsak, and Melissa Major for their good work!
Principles of Visual Language: Form and Color
is now available as an online course through SVA Continuing Education.
In this course, we explore ways of creating engaging and memorable two-dimensional design. Students are encouraged to adopt a disciplined yet playful creative process. Using accessible materials and simple techniques, both hand-made and digital, we experiment with the principles of two-dimensional design and color theory, including:
- Figure and ground
- Unity of form
- Contrast of form
- Geometric and organic forms
- Contrast of shape
- Contrast of size
- Contrast of direction
- Contrast of texture
- Visual hierarchy
- Visual harmony
- Visual rhythm
- Visual narrative
- The seven color contrasts
- Color illusion
- Color expression
The goals for every student in this class are:
- To learn the basic principles of two-dimensional design and color theory
- Develop a creative toolkit of ideas and techniques
- Embrace a unique awareness of form and color
- Practice and strengthen design skills
- Explore ways of learning through experimentation and play
These grayscale collages were created in September by Visual Language students. The assignment objective is to explore geometric shapes—rectangles, triangles, circles—and freeform/organic shapes, in combination with contrasting areas of light and dark, and varieties of visual texture. This assignment encourages an awareness of the compositional principles of visual hierarchy and figure/ground.
The following color compositions, expressions of complementary and split-complementary contrasts, were created by current first-year students in my Principles of Visual Language classes. Students explore a variety of complementary and split-complementary colors, first with gouache paint, then with Color-aid paper, and finally with found materials.
Color compositions by Bernice Sheung Cho Wong, Jade Babolcsay, Jennifer James,
Misha Hunt, Tara Delucci, Kimberly Wu, Patrick House, Yifan Yang, Stefan Krsmanovic,
Annie Smith, Theo Guillin, Minchai Lee and Eun Seok Park.
"When leaves are collected, pressed, and dried—eventually varnished, even bleached, and sometimes also dyed or painted—they provide a most welcome enrichment to any color paper collection...Colorful leaves suit all ways of play and imagination for all kinds of order and placement...they remain a favorite means of study."
— Josef Albers, Interaction of Color
It's that time of the year.
Check out my latest column on RockPaperInk!
A selection of favorite projects from last year's Visual Language classes...
more to come, check back soon!
These color projects, recently created by my Visual Language students, are based on color experiments originally taught by the painter, designer, writer and teacher, and my hero, Josef Albers http://www.moma.org/collection/artist.php?artist_id=97.
The color illusion assignments that Albers gave us have become icons of the art school experience:
– make one color look like two
– make two colors look alike
– make opaque colors appear transparent
The goal of all the color illusion experiments was, and is, to make us hyperaware of "the relativity of color."
What is "the relativity of color"? Stated simply, the identity of a color depends on its situation: the light values and hue contrasts of the background and adjacent colors; the amounts, shapes, placements and boundaries of the colors. In Interaction of Color, Albers eloquently expresses this essential color theory principle: "a color has many faces," and "what counts is not the what but the how."
Reading, viewing and studying Albers' Interaction of Color, and Johannes Itten's The Art of Color, is an empowering experience for anyone who desires a deeper awareness of art and design. I highly recommend seeking out these books, and if possible, adding them to your physical book collection.
I confess, with great regret, that I gave away my original copy of Itten's The Elements of Color. At the time I didn't recognize its value—by the second year of art school I was committed to black and white photography, and beyond the principle of light/dark contrast, I didn't have much use for color theory. Now, I use my newer edition of The Elements of Color, along with The Art of Color and Interaction of Color, as primary sources of inspiration for all my color classes.
A color has many faces...
one color looks like two, two colors look like one.
The background color "subtracts" itself from the color it surrounds,
causing the surrounded color to appear lighter or darker,
and sometimes changing the appearance of hue.
Opaque colors can appear to be transparent—an illusion of transparency.
The success of the illusion depends on finding a middle color
that convinces us of its authenticity, as the mixture of its parents.
But these colors are not factual mixtures, like colors achieved by mixing paint.
Like their parents, these mixture colors are found, not made.
Albers asks us to "study color mixture in our imagination, that is, so to say, with closed eyes."
The color stripe composition, like a color grid, presents students with the challenge of exploring specific color contrasts. In this assignment, I asked students to explore what Itten called contrast of extension—also referred to as contrast of proportion. This form of color contrast is based on the concept of light values, originally proposed by the 19th century German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Goethe devised a system of color harmony for primary and second colors, in which each color is assigned a numerical value based on its brilliance. Yellow, the color closest to white in brilliance, is assigned the highest light value; violet, the farthest from white in brillance, is the lowest. Red and green are equal in brillance, and equally distant from yellow and violet. Blue is closer in brillance to violet than green, and is assigned a value midway between those colors. Similarly, the brillance of orange is midway between yellow and red.
The numeral light values: yellow = 9, orange = 8, red = 6, violet = 3, blue = 4, green = 6.
In these projects, students used the principle of light values, along with personal color associations, to express concepts related to war and peace. They explored the idea of a stripe composition as a kind of abstract expression—the rhythmic intervals, proportional relationships, and suggestive characteristics of simple parallel forms. The visual structure of a diptych is employed to express the contrasts and connections of war and peace.
In this last example, the designer abandoned the traditional diptych structure and challenges our definition of stripes, to achieve a powerful expression of war and peace.
In these projects, students used the principle of color temperature contrast to create visual narratives that express ideas related to transformation, revelation, metamorphosis, mutation and distortion. Each set of compositions is like a storyboard—keyframes in an imaginary visual story.
Students explore the concept of warm and cool colors: how our sensory associations make complementary colors, like blue-green and red-orange, expressions of temperature change; how one hue can have warm and cool variants; how the principle of contrast of temperature is—like contrast of light/dark and complementary contrast—a powerful and effective tool for creating visual hierarchy.
Here, contrast of temperature also plays a roll in creating visual continuity. In each set, squares of warm and cool contrasting colors form connections between the individual compositions. These connections provide an abstract narrative structure.
In these projects, students explore the relationships of complementary colors: red and green, yellow and violet, orange and blue. They use gouache to experiment with color mixing. They see firsthand the effects of mixing two complements—how the mixtures eventually reach a neutral color that has its own identity, but is harmonious with both parent colors. They also explore complementary colors found in common things—paint chips, paper and wood samples, processed food, things found in nature.
The color grid is an abstraction. It allows the student to focus on a specific principle of color theory—in this case, complementary contrast—and explore how it can be used to achieve dynamic compositions.
I asked students in my Visual Language classes to create color grids that express emotions or sensations based on their memories, and then, create color grids that express the opposite emotions or sensations. Students used Color-aid, found paper, and gouache paint to create color squares. There were no limitations on colors.