Interaction of Color

In visual perception a color is almost never seen as it really is – as it physically is.
This fact makes color the most relative medium in art.

You may often hear that certain colours, say on buttons, are more effective when it comes to conversion rates but a reading of Josef Albers’ Interaction of Colour makes you understand just how relative colour is.

“Color”, according to Albers, who studied and subsequently taught at the Bauhaus, “deceives continually” and it’s this that forms the basis of his hypothesis – colour isn’t immutable instead it’s defined by its context and once we know this we can use it with more intent.

Originally published in 1963 with 150 colour plates, Interaction of Color was an important pedagogical work aimed at instructing artists about colour use and specifically colour’s relativity. Its aim was to teach colour not through theory and systems but by observation and experimentation.

The book came with a series of instructions for overlaying colour slips of paper (waste strips that could be picked up at printers and bookbinders) or placing them beside each other. Slips of paper were less messy, less costly and of course more reusable than mixing paint. The purpose was to let students perceive how some colours dominate when used with others and how in some combinations patterns become more evident.

Two years ago, on the 50th anniversary the book’s publication, an iPad app was released that’s both beautiful and very much in the spirit of Albers’ original piece of work  – probing the student to try for herself and learn through that process.

After all

“Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *