Bauhaus master Josef Albers’s 1963 art and design bible, The Interaction of Color, has been converted into app form by Yale University Press.

Users can experiment with over 125 color palates and 60 interactive studies, as well as watching more than hours of video footage of Albers in the classroom and contemporary artists discussing his theories.

Concepts like color relativity and vibrating boundaries come to life on the touch screen. "We intervened as little as possible into the graphic design: the font and text column are exactly the same as in the book, and the clean, spacious aesthetic is retained throughout. Users can even double-tap to remove all of the navigation elements entirely, if they like," says Michelle Komie, Senior Editor for Art and Architecture at Yale University Press.

Komie tells Co.Design, "As a book, Interaction of Color has always reached three separate audiences: students, practitioners (artists, designers, etc.), and members of the general public interested in color. We intentionally added content and functionalities to the app that would appeal to all three."

Albers was also an accomplished photographer, printmaker, and poet. The app’s featured artist interviews "really serve as inspiration: the lesson is to be fearless, to jump in and experiment, to move things around and make changes, which is what Albers would have wanted," Komie tells Co.Design.

The app’s developers at design firm Potion first experimented with Albers’s theories using actual paper, scissors, and glue, in order to really absorb his methodology. They then developed a color selecting tool that would have done Albers proud. The color plates are designed to behave like cut paper.

Albers’s most famous painting series, Homage to the Square, is an exploration of spatial and color relationships that uses only solid-colored squares of various sizes superimposed on one another. Albers was an innovator of styles like Op Art and color field painting.

The book is dedicated to Albers’s students, who included artists like Eva Hesse and Robert Rauschenberg. "It shows all of his students’ solutions (the plates were done by Albers’s own students) for students to see, compare, and evaluate," Komie says. The app expands his roster of students into the 21st century and beyond.

Yale University Press worked in tandem with the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation for five years while developing the app.

The app’s selection of colors approximates the pack of Color-Aide paper with which Albers taught his classes. Users can save and export their own favorite palettes.

Click here to preview the new Fast Company

Want to try out the new

If you’d like to return to the previous design, click the yellow button on the lower left corner.


A Bible Of Color Theory Is Now An App

On the 50th anniversary of Josef Albers’s Interaction of Color, Yale University Press has released the work as an interactive teaching tool along the lines of what the Bauhaus master originally intended.

Josef Albers, one of the best-known painters and educators to emerge from the German Bauhaus, wrote Interaction of Color in 1963, and it’s remained an art and design bible ever since. Last week, to commemorate the book’s 50th anniversary, Yale University Press released the Interaction of Color app for the iPad, a modernized, interactive presentation of Albers’s teachings. With fingers instead of paintbrushes and a touch screen instead of paper, users can move and manipulate over 125 color plates in 60 interactive studies. Concepts like color relativity and vibrating boundaries come to life in this $9.99 app, alongside the book’s full text and two hours of video footage.

Michelle Komie, senior editor for art and architecture at Yale University Press, tells Co.Design that the app’s developers at design firm Potion first "used paper, scissors, and glue to complete the exercises as Albers’s students would have done, in order to experience Albers’s process and methodology." The text was then meticulously translated into app form—they even preserved his original typeface and text columns.

"Potion created one of the most beautiful color selecting tools I’ve ever seen," Komie says. "The circle of swatches brings an elegant tactility to the screen, which becomes a workspace that can be littered with trials and errors; where swatches can be adjusted, swapped out, and exchanged." This makes the work process "both beautiful and efficient—true Bauhaus qualities of which we think Josef Albers would be proud."

Best known for his abstract paintings and theory, Albers was also an accomplished printmaker, photographer, typographer, and poet. At the Bauhaus, he often worked in stained glass, sometimes using detritus from the Weimar town dump. After the Nazis shut down the Bauhaus in 1933, Albers moved to the States and eventually became chair of the Yale Art Department, where his students included artists like Eva Hesse and Robert Rauschenberg.

The new app takes his methods beyond the Ivory Tower. Says Komie, "The original 1963 edition of Interaction of Color is an object that very few people will ever have the chance to view and experience. It mostly lives in university and museum special collections. But Albers always intended it to be used as a teaching tool: he wanted its folios spread out on a table, and looked at alongside the text and commentary. This is something that is very difficult to do with a traditional book, which provides a linear experience. The app accomplishes what Josef Albers originally intended."

Albers stated his belief that "exercises toward distinct color effects never are done or over. New and different cases will be discovered time and again." This new and different iteration of his theories adds dimension and interactivity for the digital age, sparking just the kind of discoveries that fueled his life’s work.

Add New Comment