Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Book of Color

Working with and thinking about color is often a 2 dimensional on-screen exercise. When Colour Studio is working to design color for an architectural elevation or  on a floor plan our  creative staff has spent hours staring at sliders and numbers  tweaking and adjusting. Color starts out looking like this:

But artist Tauba Auerbach has inflated that flat field in to the RGB Colorspace Atlas.The atlas is several 8 in cube hard bound books which, when the pages are turned, fades through each color axis. The atlas contains every printable color.

The RGB Colorspace Atlas | Image by Brittany Schall

The Atlas makes tangible and manually accessible something we usually only experience with our eyes and the intermediary of color theory. These objects transform color in to a physical presence in space. Replacing the obsession with indexical color numbers like the hex code fdfcf3  the atlas relies on an older slower form of discovery: browsing.   Designboom describes the details of the collaboration:
"American artist Tauba Auerbach presents the 8 x 8 x 8-inch hard-back cubes illustrating the RGB color scheme in a page-by-page medium. A digital offset print on paper with airbrushed cloth cover and book edges create a colorful reference volume of all the colors in existence. the special binding was co-designed by the artist herself in collaboration with Daniel E. Kelm, and were printed at Wide Awake Garage, an independent bookbinder."

RGB COLORSPACE ATLAS - Blue Axis from Jonathan Turner on Vimeo.
This is a simulation of one volume in a set of three books by Tauba Auerbach.
each volume / 3632 pages
Animation by Jonathan Turner

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pink and Blue

South Korean Artist JeongMee Yoon's The Pink and Blue Projects
One day last week, when brainstorming ideas about gender and color, the question arose : "Why pink and blue?" We have heard the saying so many times it becomes ingrained. Pink is for girls and blue is for boys. But where did that idea come from and when?

 According to Smithsonian Magazines Jeanne Maglaty, "Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before World War I—and even then, it took time for popular culture to sort things out." Because "pink was once a color associated with masculinity, considered to be a watered down red and held the power associated with that color".  When gendered color for babies started,  the roles were switched. . The Mary Sue, a blog on girl geek culture, found this gem that appeared in the June 1918 issue of Earnshaw's Infants’ Department, a trade publication:
“The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

Today's pink/blue assignments were not solidified until the 1940s when , and it could easily have gone the other way. Childerns clothes started out far more gender and color neutral. Jo B. Paoletti, a historian at the University of Maryland and author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls From the Boys in America has studied the history of childern's clothing for 30 years.
"It’s really a story of what happened to neutral clothing. For centuries... children wore dainty white dresses up to age 6. [It was] a matter of practicality—you dress your baby in white dresses and diapers; white cotton can be bleached"
Color Prefrances via KISSmetrics

But perhaps ironically when asked women almost never chose pink as their favorite color. This graphic was made using data from a study done in 2003. It compared the color preferences for various demographic using 232 people from 22 countries. The graphs are strikingly similar with one exception: 23% of women chose purple as their favorite color. If instead of using the tired pink and blue distinction we went with each genders color preferences boys would still be wearing blue and girls would be wearing blue with purple socks.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Thursday, September 6, 2012

History of the Color Wheel

Via Flickr Hive Mind

There are a plethora of beautiful and inventive color wheels online. They are a magnet for creative thinking because of the instant recognition in different formats, like for example the circle of felted acorns above. But what is a color wheel and where did they come from?
Newtons Color Circle via Wikimedia Commons

A color wheel is essentially a visual organization of hues. "Color circles have been used to describe associations of colors from medieval times, but the first known example of the representation of hue in the form of a wheel, or circle, is traced to Sir Isaac Newton; whose keen mind was for some time focused on the nature of light and color." (via Lines and Colors). Newton was the first person to prove that white light was made up of colored light. He used two prisms to refract white light in to a rainbow and then re-consolidate the rainbow back in to white light. His color circle was first published in his book Opticks in 1704. His color wheel was unlike modern color wheels as he maintained the proportions of the spectrum.

"[Newton] divided his colour wheel in musical proportions round the circumference... Each segment was given a spectral colour, starting from red at DE, through orange, yellow, green, blew [sic], indigo, to violet... The centre of the circle, at O, was presumed to be white. Newton went on to describe how a non-spectral colour, such as z, could be described by its distance from O and the corresponding spectral colour, Y." A color quality that today we call saturation.

But the idea of organizing color was more than a scientific curiosity. It had real economic repercussions. "Locating and describing the natural order of color would also have a clear significance for eighteenth-century color-based manufacturers. Knowledge of the number of basic colors would suggest how best to create others. The economic benefits of a limited palette demonstrated in color-making practices—notably textile dyeing and printing, and enamel painting—would thus be extended further." (Via Sarah Lowengard) But color palettes, "primary" colors and color names differed between professions, manufacturers, and countries. Colors identifications even differed depending on materials: paint or fabric? light or dye?

Since the color circle was first used it has been criticized for its total lack of subtractive color mixing, the fact the it doesn't match up with the spectrum, and that it distorts color theory and instead aims for visual symmetry. Modern scientific classifications of color have moved to chromaticity diagrams., many of which can be seen over at this Wiki list. Which while more accurate have failed to inspire many creative re-makings.
 For a very well researched and in-depth history of this color system please read Sarah Lowengards The creation of Color in Eighteenth-century Europe. The writing is pleasant and interesting.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio