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.

Graphic designer Fanette Mellier (French, b. 1977) has a contemporary practice that frequently highlights process in the printed medium.  Her stunning poster, Specimen, initially appears abstract.  Dominated by repeated patterns of bright colors and black, grey, and white shapes, almost the entire surface area of the poster is filled.  As if taking in a mosaic, the eye is overwhelmed, darting between saturated hues, and the poster’s imposing height (approaching 6 feet tall) adds to the effect.

Upon closer examination, and perhaps immediately to those in graphic design and publishing fields, the poster’s dense imagery is quite familiar: it is made up entirely of color bars, a type of printers’ control marks.  Used to check color accuracy, density and consistency across multiple pages, the bars are printed in various shapes alongside the edge of a proofing document.  At once essential and banal in their role within the print process, these eclectic strips of color are given center stage in Specimen. As Mellier explains , “This space saturation, like an obsessive canvas, presents graphical tools that are a common vocabulary for book[s] makers.”[1] Far from being a necessary tool that resides outside of the main text and image of a printed work, Mellier’s color bars take on an almost ornamental quality when shown in such efflorescence.

This object is currently on view in Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color.


[1] “Charmettes Specimen,” Fannette Mellier Projects, Accessed May 17th 2018.


Caroline O’Connell is the Collections Assistant in the Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design Department at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

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