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AIGA/ DESIGN INNOVATION CLUB Tuesday 12-1 in 611

ABOUT COLOR THEORY

In this course, students will explore color theory, including additive and subtractive color. Discussions of color and its relationship to composition, through harmony and contrast, will be explored.

In the first two quarters of their design education, students are enrolled in foundation courses. These courses are meant to create the foundation in technical skills and creative thinking necessary for success in design. Color theory is one of these courses. For the instructor, this means that we must both teach students how to mix paint and why they are mixing paint in the first place. Six months later this would be easier, but in the beginning even obvious tasks must be considered and explained.

The study of color has been a part of the arts since color was first used. Artists choose colors to create mood or symbolism, psychologists study color to determine its effect on behavior, chemists experiment to create novel and more cost-effective pigments. The curriculum of this class must therefore cover multiple theories and applications of something that seems both self evident and all emcompassing. Exercises draw on ideas from the Bauhaus movement to the writings of Oliver Sacks to the color used by cinematographers in film. Each exercise also builds an understanding of how color relates to design on every level.

At the beginning of the quarter time is spent mixing paint to create hues, tints, tones, shades and values. This moves into theories of additive and subtractive color, symbolic color and the influence of color in design and advertising. One particular segment that seems to really reach the students involves a case study written by Oliver Sacks entitled "The Colorblind Painter". In it, a painter loses his color vision and is forced to cope with a black and white world. In the accompanying exercise, students experiment with this value vs. color interchange by creating a color illustration that, when photocopied, either becomes a gray square or reveals a pattern that was not there before. While it is one of the most challenging projects, students eventually understand the relationship between color and value and appreciate the loss felt by the coloblind painter.

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