Designer stresses importance of color

Joe Carlson

If Uwe Koos had his way, University classrooms would be more colorful on their outsides and more neutral on their insides.
Koos, a color consultant from a German design company, StoDesign, spent last week teaching a course in the College of Human Ecology on the use of color in architectural design.
Koos said classrooms “should be totally neutral” in color to avoid distracting students’ concentration, but that more hallway space should be devoted to colorful project exhibitions to stimulate creativity.
In his course he also emphasized the psychological and emotional impact colors in architectural design have on people.
“Color affects us in our whole life,” Koos said.
“Some colors can help people feel better,” he said. In hospitals, for example, ceilings are often designed with warmer colors since patients in bed often stare upward for long periods of time.
Koos, who last visited the University in 1991, taught the course “Color for the Designed Environment” June 11-16 with Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel professor Marian-Ortolf Bagley.
StoColor, the architectural color system that Koos designed, is unlike most color systems currently used for design in the United States. The ideas behind Koos’ system were the main focus of the course.
Bagley said he explains the other color design systems so that students can put Koos’ system in context.
Design communications senior Patrick Fischer, who attended Koos’ class, said that he enjoyed it because it was interesting and informative.
“I think he’s a wonderful teacher,” Fischer said. “I’ve learned more from him in four days than I have in six weeks” of regular coursework in the past.
The course was especially enlightening because it was “not just teaching theory, but how to use it,” Fischer said.
“For the students, it’s extremely important to see where they can use the theory,” Koos said, because “in this field, your business card is the building itself.”
Also, the course was effective because students were assigned to write about their work, rather than just practice formal design, Bagley said.
“You learn by writing,” she said. “If you can’t explain it, you don’t understand it.”
Koos said the University is “extremely strong” in design education, and that the worst thing about the course was the short time available. StoColor is a complex system, and to try to explain it in six days was difficult, he said.
StoColor is a color-selection system which combines 15 basic color tones with black, white and gray. Any two of the 390 tones used in StoColor can be combined in ways that will “unify beautifully,” Bagley said.
Design lecturer Carol Waldron explains that StoColor is unique because it is an interrelated system of colors, rather than just a simple array of tones.
Koos’ color system is “the Ben and Jerry’s of the materials industry,” Bagley said.
The system is useful because it “makes it easy for designers to select color combinations” which work well together, Koos said.
StoColor is used much more widely in Europe, where architects and designers treat color as a formal element of design, rather than as an “afterthought,” Bagley said.
American designers sometimes “miss the colorful accents” which could greatly improve their designs, Koos said.
Fischer said, “It’s not that our system is bad, but there could be more creativity.”