Couleur is on view at WantedDesign Brooklyn on the Factor Floor, part of the IC Design Festival by WantedDesign during NYCxDesign. Couleur features teh work of three French designers, examining the use of color in their work. Pernelle Poyet, winner of the Hublot Design Prize, reflects on the role of color in her designs.
I started working with color in 2011, while I was an intern in a design studio specialized in exhibition design. I was working on a project the way I usually did: starting from the space’s blueprint, I divided the exhibition rooms in zones according to different functions, then made 3D models that I exported in contour drawings made of sharp black lines.
It’s only when it was time for making the project’s presentation pages that I finally wondered: «Which colors should I use ?» I realized I was absolutely incapable of choosing meaningful colors for this space that I had left completely white until then.
From that moment, everything that had always seemed natural for me wasn’t anymore. Not only had I realized that I was never really using color in itself in my projects, but also that I had never questioned my design tools.
Between the traditional line drawings and black & white blueprints and perspectives, and even the 3D-modeling software that are based on these very same drawing norms: I had ended up considering color as subsidiary.
It became an obsession.
I started wanting to understand color in order to use it, to master it. To do so, I read eve- rything I could find on the subject, from Pliny the Elder to Carlos Cruz Diez, to Aristotle, Paul Klee, or even Gœthe. I couldn’t find any answer, any definite method: it only opened a field of new questionings.
I was especially struck by Gœthe’s Theory of Colors, because itdeals with color’s pheno- menon and lived experiences.
I then started using new tools, changing my own design method, combing writing with drawing in the wider sense as well as with volume.
Now that I’ve been working on the subject for 7 years, I would say color is for me much more than an embellishment finish. It «speaks» and is a support for the object and its shape, its volume and its proportions.
It’s not central for me to know if an object will be blue, yellow or green. Nor to decide of which blue, which yellow or which green specifically it should be. It matters, of course, but it’s not something I feel I can explain. I would rather tell how the project was born, what was my inspiration, my train of thought, my projections. But I could never say: «This project is green or blue because…»
The hue (this type of green, that type of yellow or blue) matters as much as the material itself: its transparency/translucency/matteness, how it captures light or how many tints or reflections it shows. For me, it all works as a whole.
Because it both comes before words as well as it is embedded within a culture (may it be in global History, in linguistics or on a more personal scale), color has the power to be a reminder of a memory, a feeling,even uncertain or blurry. In that way, it carries a meaning.
I believe this is how more people can then relate to my objects: they become a support for the viewers to project their own sensations and memories.
In my projects, I often start with my own experience of the object I work on, with a me- mory. In the same way, for the color-matter, I often start with very obvious or even prosaic choices. I wish one day I could reach the subtlety, the life, the shades and the reflections of a flower petal. I wish I could recreate this sensation of a living matter, like the sky’s eva- nescent immensity, the oceans’ unfathomable depth, or a lake’s ever changing luminous color.
Ettore Sottsass wrote in 1992 this beautiful text (entitled «Colors»), whose precision and beauty I could never equal:
« […] it depends on what you want to say, on the meanings you want to give to colors, on the stories you want to tell, on the quotes you question, on times and literary spaces, on nostalgias that weigh down on you…
[…] The idea of color, the colors themselves keep escaping in all directions; they slip away in slow motion the way words do, like poetry you can’t get, or like beautiful tales. Co- lors flee and never stop; it’s impossible to say color n°225, since we never know if n°225 is close to the window or not, if the light that filters through the window comes from winter’s fog of from the bright white summer sun, if it’s the light of Cambodian trees or
of the Thar Desert. I acknowledge that some people – slightly indefinite – give numbers to colors. It can be useful, for a quick and rough explanation. For words, dictionaries and grammar books exist to explain how words change depending on the way they’re grou- ped, or when a word has several meanings. Syntaxes explain how to assemble words to express ideas, as well as encyclopedias and all these books that deal with words. But we very well know that none of these deal with literature, the same way numbers and vague names – that can be more poetic that numbers – given to colors don’t form a painting.»
In order to catch even the slightest form of life of a manufactured or industrial object, it
is capital to take an interest in knowing the material, the available making process and their respective possibilities. It is essential for being able to twist their common use and to get other nuances, variations and possible subtleties. This is the key moment: when the primary intention adapts and evolves according to reality’s constraints.
Working on color is expensive, a price that grows with the number of hues and with the quality level that is expected. But color is worth these costs.
Since we live around them and with them, why wouldn’t objects all have one same plain color ? Why couldn’t they only be perceived differently depending on the light and the time of the day ?
In partnership with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and its partner Foundation FACE
Launched in 2016, OUI Design aims to foster creative exchange in design between France and the U.S. It is the first program initiated by the French Embassy to support fruitful and durable partnerships between design professionals on both sides of the Atlantic.
WantedDesign will be again a main partner for the third edition of Oui Design. Through a diverse program comprised of workshops, exhibitions, and talks, Oui Design will feature collaborative projects exploring new modes of production, at the intersection of design, art, and crafts.