To celebrate the opening of Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color (May 11, 2018-January 13, 2019), Object of the Day this month will feature colorful objects from the exhibition.

The book Colour Based on Nature, created by Dutch graphic designer Irma Boom, analyzes the color landscape of eighty UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage and nature sites and renders them through abstract color diagrams. These sites span the globe, ranging from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to the Jungfrau in Switzerland. The book provides an inspirational exploration in using color, instead of words, to evoke and celebrate the spirit of a place. Colour Based on Nature was commissioned and published in 2012 by Thomas Eyck, creator of the Dutch design label t.e., which produces contemporary design products based on the work of one to two designers annually.

One color diagram from each of the seven continents in the book was chosen to be translated into intensely hued wallpaper, providing a larger-scale reflection on the beauty of colors representative of each of the environmental locations. These multicolor wallpapers, rendered in an array of uniquely striped patterns, were developed in close cooperation with Eijffinger, the Netherlands-based wallpaper brand founded in 1875, and are digitally printed on a newly developed non-woven paper material. This sidewall pattern, known as t.e.124, was inspired by the alluring colors of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park located on the island of Hawaii, which is also home to two of the most active volcanoes in the world. There is a graceful harmony between the width of the stripes and the subtle shades of color. The pattern is not predictable, which creates a sense of intrigue between the blending and arrangement of the lines, while the watery blues, cool purples and warm rust shades are specific to the colorful landscapes found on the Hawaiian island. The visual communication of color in both the book and the wallpaper highlight Irma Boom’s immense talent and demonstrate why she is considered one of the leading graphic designers in the world today.

This object will be on view in Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color beginning May 11.


Kara Nichols is a graduate student in the History of Design & Curatorial Studies master’s program offered jointly by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and Parsons School of Design. She served as the Curatorial Capstone Fellow for Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color.

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