May 18, 2020
Interaction of colors

Interaction of colors is a book written by Josef Albers in 1963. I was not able to find a digital copy of the book to buy, so, I bought the 50th anniversary edition printed book several months ago. I wanted to have a more rigorous approach to working with everyday computer art and using this book as a structure seems like a good place to start.

Practice first approach to learning

(Introduction chapter from Interaction of Colors book)

Many current education systems today advocate the learning of key principles of a subject before moving on to learning the practice or application of those principles. As a lecturer at university, I have used that approach myself. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see the weaknesses of that approach. For example, a student starting a course on programming wants to jump right into writing software. Making such students wait 3 weeks to learn principles of software theory can be frustrating for them.

In the introduction, the author emphasized that the book is definitely a practice first approach to learning. This is similar to the constructionist approach advocated by Seymour Papert for learning maths and programming. For both authors, practice of the subject improves the learner's appreciation for the principles and theory of the subject. Whereas the reverse is less likely to be true. The example mentioned by Albers was that knowledge of acoustics or musical notes does not make someone a musician or composer. But, you can safely bet that a good musician or composer will find it easier to understand music theory.

Color recollection - visual memory

(Chapter 1 from Interaction of Colors book)

Albers points out several difficulties with color usage. One is the lack of concise vocabulary for describing colors. When considering the vast range of possible colors, it is surprising the relatively sparse choice of words for different colors.

Second, the perception of color is dependent on each person, so, it should not be surprising that people will have different ideas about colors even when viewing the same object. Albers used the Coca Cola red logo as an example. Although that logo is widely known, each person will likely have a slightly different idea of which shade of red is used in the logo.

Albers also claimed that visual memory is relatively worse than our other senses. But, I'm not sure if I agree with this point. What comes to mind are the examples of people being to describe crime suspects for an artist and children being able to recognize parental or friendly faces.

Generally, I do agree with his point that color memory is not particularly accurate.

©2020 Chi Nguyen