Thinking about Color (WIP)

(WIP) When you build things on the web, you get to choose colors, which is incredible and fun, but can also be a huge challenge.

Choosing colors shares two things with many other difficult decisions: there are a lot of choices, and there’s no direct criteria for evaluating your decisions.

Reducing your choices to some cohesive subset of the 16,777,216 available colors certainly helps. People do this all the time, by selecting from prebuilt pallets, and it’s an effective aid, but also a limiting one.

The second question, evaluating a color choice, is a lot more interesting, and something that’s always bothered me! Knowing when something looks bad is easy, but knowing why isn’t. It’s frustrating to waffle back and forth on color decisions, unsure whether you’re making things better. Color is something that people use a lot of intuition for, and I felt like I didn’t have it.

Interactions of Color This frustration and lack of understanding of color is one of the reasons I picked up the book Interactions of Color by Joesph Albers. I’m glad I did, because while there’s no epiphany or set of rules that will make you into the hex code Henri Matisse, I learned some tools for thinking about how color operates that lend structure and confidence to my decisions.

Albers’s central thesis that color’s power and effects all come from their interactions. The book doesn’t discuss the comparative merits of mint green, or burnt umber. Instead, it focuses on stressing the extreme relativity of the way we experience color, through a series of experiments and optical puzzles.

  • why color paper
  • Intesity
  • 1 becomes 2, 2 become 1, etc
  • color boundaries and distance (vibrating and disapearing)
  • optical mixture
  • weber-fechner law

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


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