Freshman Album Debut (An Intro to Color Theory)

Contributor:

Washington State University 

PROJECT INFORMATION FOR EDUCATORS

Where?

Course level 

2D Foundations

Why?

Conversation points for instructors

Color is a foundational element of Art + Design. This project is an impactful color theory project that stays with them though out the rest of the semester. This is typically the first or second project of the semester for my 2D students. Their familiarity to music offers an easy entry point to diving into more complex color schemes and color interactions. The various expectations listed provide structure while allowing them to challenge themselves to explore a multi-part design challenge.

This project can offered in person or online.  Digital or analog work is accepted in all of my classes which is even more relevant when students can't be F2F.  This project challenges not just their understanding of color, but their ability to multi-task and think strategically. Time management rewards them with colorful, impressive outcomes. I gain getting to knowing more about them through discussions of music taste; they gain by sticking with the assignment and juggling the design process early on. This project builds stamina and creates connections.

Acknowledgements:

Stacy Isenbarger. This project was developed collaboratively while I was an instructor in grad school at the University of Idaho.  What we did then was based on her earlier version; It has since turned into a project that I continue to evolve and change every year. 

PROJECT INFORMATION FOR STUDENTS

What?

Project Prompt / Challenge

This is a multi-part assignment where you will:

  • explore space, discord, tonal progression, and harmony though intelligent color application 

  • present the transformative & informative potential of color and color relativity (and font)

  • showcase your understanding of complex color phenomena (and layout)

  • integrate principles of design and color in order to inform audience about musical implications and build dynamic visual interest

How?

Strategy

Part 1: ALBUM COVERS

You've been asked to design the album cover of an unknown band (you will name the band or musician & decide what genre of music) making their freshman debut.  They wish to present themselves to their audience through smart color interactions & content choices that can best sell each album.  They want listeners/ viewers to have a dynamic sensory experience while listening to their album and need their album cover to provide entry into the unique auditory sensation.  To stress this sensation, they don't want their name on the cover; your imagery must speak for them.

In your attempt to explore possibilities for this final album image, you will first determine how you will divide up the picture plane with a dynamic layout that will appeal to your intended audience through several sketches and experiments.  Then explore color application possibilities to this layout through these intentional color applications structures on six 4in x 4in covers and one final 10in x 10in cover.

Cover 1: Distance + Space (not in terms of galaxies/NASA/etc) created with one color as emphasis 

Cover 2: Color Harmony 

Cover 3: Tonal Progression 

Cover 4: Color Discord

Cover 5: Borrowing a color scheme from another well-known artwork (you choose and discuss)

Cover 6: Tetrad/Triad/ or another complex scheme (you choose and discuss)

COVER 7: You will take what you’ve learned from all the creative explorations and then apply visual successes into one final album cover that is 10in x 10in. The fusion of these explorations is up to you, but you are expected to create a complex, well thought out color experience through this in-depth process. 

NO BLACK OUTLINES SHOULD BE USED IN THE COVERS THAT YOU CREATE.  REMEMBER THAT COLOR FUSIONS WILL BE RELATIVE TO THE RELATIONSHIPS YOU BUILD IN YOUR COMPOSITION. FOCUS ON THESE VISUAL DYNAMICS AS YOU EXPLORE THE VARIED POSSIBILITIES OF COLOR.  

 

PART 2: POSTER

Carrying forward the focus on the visual dynamics and possibilities of color interactions you've explored making your album covers, you are now asked to create the event poster for the concert + album release party. This poster will be 12in x 18in.  Your image design can be representational or abstract as you are trying to attract us to the music and event.  Please challenge yourself by considering your intended audience.  What will resonate with them? What imagery and font will give them a sense of this unknown band?  Get them intrigued!  Get them there!

Include the following on your event poster:

  • Musician / Band Name

  • Album Title

  • Venue

  • Date & Time

And perhaps other information to build intrigue... (tour name, ticket cost, special guests, invite only? new year's or holiday show? unplugged/acoustic show?) Get creative but have a solid plan for getting type/text on this poster. (trace paper, transfer paper, by-hand, cutting out printed text and collaging them to the surface, etc.)

*** THIS POSTER CAN BE DON IN ANY "STYLE" YOU WISH***

(representational, semi-abstract, non-objective abstraction, etc.)

IT IS UP TO YOU TO MAKE IT MAKE SENSE VISUALLY AND CONCEPTUALLY.

Keep things organized!  Plan ahead!  Research!

Keep in mind that your cover designs can't rely on text.

Materials:

Paint, colored pencil, pastel, and/or colored papers/collage elements on Mixed Media Paper. (Instructor will supply paper final work after process sketches.). You may work digitally if you'd like but please bring your own resources to do so in class

Timeline:

3 weeks from intro to final critique 

FURTHER SUPPORT INFORMATION

Student Examples:

Additional Tips:

All supportive docs, PowerPoint presentations, student work, examples, etc are available in this

GOOGLE DRIVE link: 

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1BxGBxUH1WHoogG-w6AG6rYnUBw_dqHrx?usp=sharing 

I splice the lengthy PowerPoints presentations with hands on demos and group discussions about how they connects sounds with color, shape, line space, rhythm, and movement.  Early on, I play short 30 sec. clips of a range of music and ask students to think about color combinations that come to mind when they hear each track. We talk favorite songs, lyrics, instruments, memorable color combos, transitions of song, etc. I have them bring a print out or share digitally a favorite album design or poster and we discuss those too during the weeks.

Due to the many steps in this process, they struggle at first, but once we have good energy in the room and we loosen up through conversation, they get to work with one thing at time, they begin to find a flow and the magic starts to happen!  In the end, many won't have 8 solid, strong pieces, but they will have some wins.  Discussing their weaker images in crit is a lighter blow to their confidence early in the term since they have comparative wins to also stand proudly beside. Time management discussions often follow and I didn't have to start them; they do this self assessment for themselves. 

 

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