Colorforms

Just before joining Cooper-Hewitt (C-H) I clocked a lot of time on its newly revealed collections portion of its website. Searching the database of more than 115,000 objects using the "random" search function became my favorite method of choice. I felt as if I were mining for treasure, with each attempt sure to land on a prize.  The random function gives the user the thrill similar to say, throwing dice at a craps table, but better--there is an unknown, an element of surprise, and there's always a pay off. (I'm not a gambler but can appreciate the allure.) 

The random button, however, has been recently trumped. Our C-H systems-master Aaron, developed an equally as exciting and satisfying tool. Color. If you haven’t already tried it, stop everything and give it a go—I guarantee you’ll be hooked. http://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/colors/. Aaron explains the method to his process,


“Objects with images now have up to five representative colors attached to them. The colors have been selected by our robotic eye machines who scour each image in small chunks to create color averages. These have then been harvested and “snapped” to the grid of 115 different colors — derived from the CSS3 palette and naming conventions."

It's like having you own interactive, luscious color chip book.  I was curious about whether others were as quickly sucked in as I was by color browsing. Checking our metrics I found that for the month of February, searching by color was a very popular pastime. What were the most popular colors searched? Here is the top ten list in ascending order:


10.
 Cobalt Blue

9. Hot Pink

8. Turquoise


Sometimes this happens!


7. Green

 

6. Green-Blue

 


5.
 Corally-Red


4.
  Orange


3.
 Yellow


2.
 Orange-Red

 


1.
 And the most search color hue in February was . . . Shocking Red

 

This search-by-color capability is dazzling—one of the things I adore is the cross-departmental selection. As you see, the results “randomly” group drawings, textiles, furniture, posters, handbags, matchsafes, statues, wallpapers, boxes, and more. Got to admit, search-by-color does provide a new way of seeing. The color sort ends up telling stories about our collection different than those historical bits living in the objects’ metadata. Searching in ways other than by designer, geography, and so on is tremendously cool because it not only encourages viewing the collection but gives C-H's archive a super alive and ever-changing essence.