Bad colour is like junk food says Hella Jongerius

Dutch designer and Phaidon author argues for a new view of colour in Design Museum show
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Breathing Colour at the Design Museum photo by Virginia McLeod
Breathing Colour at the Design Museum photo by Virginia McLeod

Have you ever bought a table or vase, taken it home, and unpacked it, only to find that it doesn’t look quite the same as it did in the shop or on the screen? Blame the colour, says Hella Jongerius. Or, rather than blame colour’s fickle nature, embrace it.

Breathing Colour, the Dutch-born designer's new exhibition at London’s Design Museum, is partly an investigation into the way pigments form part our daily environment. Divided into three sections - morning, noon and evening – the show displays textiles, ceramics and other objects created by the designer to demonstrate how, outside of strict factory techniques and rigid Pantone schemes, colours can be appreciated in a far more, changeable, dynamic way.

 

Breathing Colour at the Design Museum photo by Virginia McLeod
Breathing Colour at the Design Museum photo by Virginia McLeod

In the evening section, Jongerius has created a black tapestry without resorting to a deadening carbon-black pigment; meanwhile the bright, beaded hangings in the morning section fuse lightness with brightness.

Though they’re shown in a museum environment and ordered according to times of the day, these pieces will look different from moment to moment, Jongerius says, and that’s OK.

It is easier for manufacturers to present an object in a controlled, showroom setting, and suggest that these goods will look exactly the same, once it’s at home. Yet, the industry should resist this temptation to sell consumers an unachievable, colour-coordinated dream, only to supply them with unmatched, and perhaps unmatchable décor, argues Jongerius.

 

Hella Jongerius working on the hanging woven tapestries for Breathing Colour. Image courtesy of Jongeriuslab and the Design Museum
Hella Jongerius working on the hanging woven tapestries for Breathing Colour. Image courtesy of Jongeriuslab and the Design Museum

"If we don't show people what is possible, then we can never buy breathing, daily objects, and I think we miss something, like we missed in food,” the designer said in a recent interview. “Consumers decided they didn't want to eat this salty shit from the fast food industry, so they changed it. I feel responsible as a designer to show consumers what is possible in the industry.”

 

Breathing Colour at the Design Museum photo by Virginia McLeod
Breathing Colour at the Design Museum photo by Virginia McLeod

Perhaps consumers will reflect Jongerius's colourful insights in their buying habits. For more on Hella Jongerius's life, work and outlook get Hella Jongerius: Misfit; Hella also appears in our Do It Yourself book.


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