ColorTherapy: Multiple Choice

ColorTherapy: Multiple Choice

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Maxwell Ryan
Nov 20, 2007


For a fun thing to do
on a grey November day, why don't you go to the Cooper-Hewitt?

On a recent afternoon while playing hooky, I ducked into the National Design Museum and discovered something that warmed the cockles of my heart—Multiple Choice: From Sample to Product. It's a survey of the samples vendors used to sell everything from paint to porcelain to prospective retailers. I wondered through this exhibit with the wonder of a small child.

I've always liked color charts. They're little indexes that stimulate the third eye and break down abstract systems. They suggest choices to be made and encourage acquisition. This show reveals charts for things I didn't really know existed. Here are a few of my small epiphanies…

The pantone color system was developed in 1963, and was the first to provide color unity across all design industries.

It's common knowledge that my taste runs to the "bruise colors"—dark purples, red browns and yellow grays. I vaguely associate this preference with my childhood urban aspirations ca. 1978, but this palette was favored in 1950 as well.

Le Corbusier designed wallpaper; if anyone has other samples, please post.

Cutesy raincoat buttons apparently existed in the 1940s, and I don't like them any more than cutesy raincoat buttons of any other era. These are lovely, I mean the happy face raindrops…

Porcelain glaze manufacturers had there own color charts, printed directly onto a single plate.

And While you're there, designers should take tone of the Piranesi exhibit upstairs. I love his imagination, especially his Scherzi of fantastical places. Oh, that we were Rococo.

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

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