University of Illinois at Chicago / College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts / School of Design

Spring 2014

Color is one of the most powerful tools for designers. It can convey attitudes and feelings or subtle messages and has an immediate effect on the viewer.

This course will help you sharpen and train your eye to recognize, describe, define, replicate, and memorize color in everyday experience, especially in communication design.

Color, in a way unlike any other subject in visual communication, is very complex and frequently misunderstood. Color, which has physical, psychological, and/or learned behavioral attributes, can shape effective visual communication.

As an artist or a graphic designer, your must first gain a fundamental understanding of the logic of color structure. The best way to gain this knowledge is to experience color by mixing it as well as defining and organizing color. Your next step is to apply your knowledge to design projects and to evaluate the visual effects and meaning of color. The overall goal is to enhance your ability to choose the right colors for your projects in order to achieve visual balance or tension and to create more meaningful messages.

The course is divided into two sections:
Color Theory, Color Basics focuses on the history and evolution of color, its organization, relationship, interaction and arrangement. Next to assignments using found color samples you’ll paint color exercises in acrylics using the teachings of historically prominent color theo- rists like Albert Munsell, Johannes Itten, and Josef Albers.

Applied Color focuses on the printed medium and the computer screen. You will need to make conscious color choices to visualize and communicate a certain message/idea. You will work on various color projects in Adobe Illustrator. You’ll also learn how to keep color appearance consistent throughout different media.



After completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Understand the evolution of color theory
  •  Learn color terminology/volcabulary and how to communicate/define color
  •  Be sensitive to the psychological effects of color
  •  Develop your eye for color through experience by trial and error from color exercises
  •  Learn various color systems and the ways they are applied today
  •  Become familiar with historically prominent color teachers (Munsell, Itten, and Albers) who taught the visual, psychological, and interaction of color
  •  Identify and define the 3-dimensional structure of color (hue, value, and chroma)
  •  Identify and see Itten’s seven contrasts of color and how they are applied to different media
  •  Explore similarities and differences among the relationship and interaction of color
  • Create color harmony (monochromatic, analogous, complementary, split complementary, and triadic) in a color composition
  • See how simultaneous contrast can affect color perception
  • Understand various occurrences and uses of color in nature, art, architecture, fashion/textiles, film, interior design, graphic design, web design, photography, displays, publications, and digital printing

Attendance and Grading
You are expected to conduct yourself courteously and professionally. Here are some guidelines to follow:
Work attentively and seriously. Maintain your concentration and focus as you work through all the exercises. The simple and repetitive exercises form the foundation of your future career as a professional. There will be lectures and lessons during the class period. Arrive to class on time and stay for the entire class period. As a professional courtesy, if you cannot come to class or have to leave early, notify me before class. If you miss a class, please notify me about the reason of the absence. Bring all the materials as well as the required book to every class. If you are absent for 3 or more classes, your grade will be reevaluated. You are responsible for getting the class handouts and instructions from one of your classmates. Notify your classmates to pick up materials and explain the instructions to you.

There will be 1 exam throughout the course. The midterm will consist of questions from the lectures, the handouts, and the required text, Designer’s Color Manual. Study guides will be distributed and used for review for the midterm.

Your responsibility will be to save your work and compile it in an organized folder as your final portfolio or color theory book. If the final portfolio or color theory book is incomplete, the final grade will be dropped to a lower grade.

Growth from class to class is based on concept, working process, problem solving, presentation, participation and motivation.
A = Consistent and substantial growth and excellent work.
Excellent work consistently goes above and beyond what is required. B = Above average and consistent growth and above average work.
C = Average growth and average work.
D = Dissatisfactory growth, incomplete work.
E = Unacceptable growth, incomplete work.

If you have any concerns about the class or if you need to see me outside of class, e-mail to me to schedule an appointment.

Suggested Reading
Throughout the course, we will be discussing information from these books.  Books are not required to purchase.

Interaction of Color
Josef Albers

The Elements of Color
Johannes Itten Faber Birren

The Munsell Color System, A Language for Color
Joy Turner Luke

Color Design Workbook:
A Real World Guide to Using Color in Graphic Design

by Adams Morioka

Color Management
A Comprehensive Guide for Graphic Designers
by John Drew, Sarah Meyer

Design Elements, Color Fundamentals: A Graphic Style Manual for Understanding How Color Affects Design
by Aaris Sherin

Guide to Communicating with Color
by Leatrice Eiseman

Basic Principles of Design 4
by Manfred Maier

Color: Light, Sight, Sense
by Moritz Zwimpfer

Ordering Colors, Playing with Colors
by Moritz Zwimpfer

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