Josef Albers

In this lecture we will learn about Josef Albers’, his work on color theory, and how to best use it in interaction design


Josef Albers

Josef Albers

B. 1888, BOTTROP, GERMANY; D. 1976, NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT

Josef Albers was born March 19, 1888, in Bottrop, Germany. From 1905 to 1908, he studied to become a teacher in Büren and then taught in Westphalian primary schools from 1908 to 1913.

After attending the Königliche Kunstschule in Berlin from 1913 to 1915, he was certified as an art teacher. Albers studied art in Essen and Munich before entering the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1920.

There, he initially concentrated on glass painting and in 1929, as a journeyman, he reorganized the glass workshop. In 1923, he began to teach the Vorkurs, a basic design course. When the Bauhaus moved to Dessau in 1925, he became a professor. In addition to working in glass and metal, he designed furniture and typography.

After the Bauhaus was forced to close in 1933, Albers emigrated to the United States. That same year, he became head of the art department at the newly established, experimental Black Mountain College, near Asheville, North Carolina.

Albers continued to teach at Black Mountain until 1949. In 1935, he took the first of many trips to Mexico, and in 1936 was given his first solo show in New York at J. B. Neumann’s New Art Circle. He became a United States citizen in 1939. In 1949, Albers began his Homage to the Square series.

He lectured and taught at various colleges and universities throughout the United States and from 1950 to 1958 served as head of the design department at Yale University, New Haven.

In addition to painting, printmaking, and executing murals and architectural commissions, Albers published poetry, articles, and books on art.

Thus, as a theoretician and teacher, he was an important influence on generations of young artists. A major Albers exhibition, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, traveled in South America, Mexico, and the United States from 1965 to 1967, and a retrospective of his work was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1971. Albers lived and worked in New Haven until his death there on March 25, 1976.

Guggenheim Online Collection: Josef Albers


Josef Albers teaching at Yale by John Cohen, ca. 1955 Silent film, 11:33

Rob Roy Kelly

Rob Roy Kelly was a graphic designer and design educator based in Tempe, Arizona. His teachings and published material offers an interesting, and more personal understanding of Albers’ work.

I took the Color course at Yale with Josef Albers and Sy Sillman. This course was the single most influential experience I had in graduate school. I understood the course objectives and it conditioned me to recognize visual values, not only in color, but also in other art and design courses. Color class met for three hours twice a week and there was an enormous amount of outside work expected

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Some Highlights:

  1. Hue refers to one color; color refers to one or several hues; color and hue can be interchangeable, while chroma refers to all color including shades, tints and tones.
  2. Intensity, saturation or brilliance are interchangeable terms. Refers to higher or lower in degrees of vividness. Diluted or undiluted color or pigmentation.
  3. Shades are hue plus black.
  4. Tints are hue plus white.
  5. Tone is hue plus grays.
  6. Analogous colors or those that are adjacent on the color wheel.
  7. Chromatic refers to all hues, shades, tints and tones.
  8. Achromatic refers to the entire spectrum of gray with white at one end and black at the other.
  9. Chromatics have an achromatic equivalent called value.

Exercise

Use HTML and CSS to place, and overlap at least 3 color squares on a page. Use the shapes to create an interaction based on color.

The top of the page should have a verbal explanation of the color decisions using the words shades, tints, tone, hue or analogous colors.

Publish the page on your website.

Resources: