Archive for Found color

Rainbow sightings and joy in the natural vs. built environment

6 March 2009

This morning’s joy discovery: a whole site dedicated to pictures of rainbow sightings! There is something so charming about the artist’s desire to establish a collective forum for appreciating these evanescent displays of pure color.

I think the rainbow is one of the truest symbols of joy. Though we know the conditions that produce it, its emergence is always unexpected, and at any age feels somewhat magical. I think this is because it is a visual disruption of the laws that govern our everyday visual experience of the world.

One thing I’ve been wrestling with lately is the way in which joy is so often triggered by natural events and phenomena, both at the macro and micro levels. How then do we create things that bring joy? But it follows that if joy results from a pleasurable disruption of natural laws, then perhaps there is a parallel in the built environment, where joy results from a departure from the laws that govern the designed world. To some extent, these laws are the same. The built environment resides within the natural environment, so both are subject to laws of physics and to the limits of our perceptual capabilities. However, there are conventions that govern the behavior of the built environment, and perhaps unlocking some of these codes will suggest ways to integrate more joyful patterns of design.

Nature never clashes

13 February 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot about color lately, with respect to joy but also just in general. Yesterday in our thesis session we were talking about the spontaneous ways we visualize abstract concepts. Jennie (a designer-friend in my program) is synesthete so she smells colors, while Fred (Blumlein, my advisor), sees time in his brain like a pathway to the horizon, like the time machine function in a mac. This allows him to see all sorts of connections in historical ideas and events that come together more synthetically than chronologically. I couldn’t think of what my spontaneous visualizations were, but this morning it hit me – I see (and sometimes smell) days in terms of color.

It doesn’t happen every day, but sometimes I walk outside and it’s just an orange day. It’s not that the light is orange or anything, but that there’s just something about the day that feels orange. And then I get to the studio and I realize I’m wearing orange, without even realizing I put it on. There’s not even any good or bad to the colors of the days. It’s not like a pink day is happier than a blue day, or a yellow day is more intense than a gray one. It’s just an intangible set of feelings that makes one day feel a certain way. Is that weird? Probably, but fortunately design is pretty accepting of weirdness.

Anyway, back to the subject of this post… In all my thinking about color, I was reminded of something Mark Goetz (my furniture professor) had said last semester. He pointed out that colors in nature never clashed, which I thought was both incredibly obvious and incredibly insightful at the same time. Colors in nature don’t clash, even when, as in the photo of a New Zealand sulfur pool above, they are absurdly odd and intense.

Found color

9 November 2008

At the bottom of the blackberry box…

Found color: J Crew online lookbook

20 October 2008

J Crew’s online lookbook has me oohing and aahing today over the arresting color palettes in the layouts.

Urban abstraction

4 October 2008

The urban environment – particularly New York City – provides ample opportunity to view a landscape pared down to the basic formal elements of line, plane, color, and negative space. It was a striking observation that photographer Randy West made of the horizontal blocks of the city’s gridded streets – that in the dimming light of dusk, this abstraction comes to the forefront. With the forms of skyscrapers silhouetted in in black, the power of the terrain in fact becomes inverted, and the negative shape of the sky takes on a new prominence. New York Times writer Bonnie Yochelson points out that these take on the shapes of “upside-down skyscrapers” which is a beautiful way of calling attention to the powerful presence of  negative space, particularly in our cityscape, which is so assertive in its verticality. It’s also an interesting statement, though, because it reveals our difficulty with processing the idea of negative volume; in fact, we rarely talk about space without talking about ways to fill it – either with physical matter, or with meaning.

This topic has me in its thrall this year because I’m taking a two-part series of courses in Space Analysis. At Pratt, there is phenomenal emphasis on form, such that two semesters of hands-on work in abstract design (or as we call it, 3D) is required for every student in the ID department. After a year of focusing on form, it is a true challenge to train your eye to notice negative volume, which we often think of as invisible, and a void. But by definition, shaping form also means shaping space, and our reactions to the space may be just as powerful but much more difficult to access and verbalize. I love these photos as very immediate reminder of the presence of negative space in our lives, and the way in change our perspective on the world.