I don’t have a favourite color | Vitra |Book by Hella Jongerius

18 mei 2016

I don’t have a favourite color

a book by Hella Jongerius | Vitra

Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

 

Wow. I don’t know where to start actually. I got this big chance to interview Hella Jongerius, Dutch designer and color specialist, at Casa Vitra during the Milan design week. She is my color hero. She does what I love…. Working with color, designing around color, testing and selecting color ranges… My dream job.

 

Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

 

Ever since I was little I was drawn to color. But not just colored objects. Mostly paint color strips, or the color codes on the milk cartons and other prints. And of course colors in textiles. Again, not just the textile itself, but especially the yarns, the selvedges, the loose threads, the warp and wefts. I loved picking up the magnifying glass and study the clothes I was wearing… And still, to this day I love color arrangements. Just never had the courage to make it my profession. Although, I am an interior color specialist, and graduated on the subject color concepts and trends. So, I think you can imagine that getting the chance to talk to Hella Jongerius was one of my wishes.

Detail of stitched letters on canvas | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

Detail of stitched letters on canvas | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

 

The evening of the Casa Vitra opening, I received the very exclusive book ” I don’t have a favorite colour” by Hella Jongerius for Vitra. It is beautiful. And: She signed it for me!

In the book, Hella tells about her passion for color and textiles. Although, textiles was something she was determined not to study, when she started at the design school in 1988. Crazy how things turn around, isn’t it. The books shows how she experiments and selects the colors for Vitra.

 

Color wheel | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

Color wheel | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

 

One of the first designs she did for Vitra is the Polder Sofa. It’s one of my favorite Sofas. In this design, the concept of color is dominating, being inspired by the Dutch Polder landscape, which mainly consist of rectangle surfaces in a wide range of greens. Beautiful concept.

For Vitra Hella divided the colors into 4 main groups: The Reds, the Greens, the Lights and the Darks. During the Milan design week, Vitra launched the new book at Casa Vitra and at that unique location the interview with Hella Jongerious took place. It was a double interview with journalist Eline Haentjens from Belgium.

Enjoy!

 

Color Wheel | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

Color Wheel | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

 

Can you tell something about the new book: “I don’t have a favorite color”

For over 10 years, I’ve been working with color for Vitra. After these 10 years of research, we figured it would be great to combine all this work in a book. I’m not working as a stylist with color, but more as an author, a color-designer, and color-researcher. Besides working for Vitra, where my work is mostly functional, I also do my own color research. For instance, the black metal oxides project for glazings for vases and a study about daylight and color. That knowledge has always been mixed with the work for Vitra. My first project and design for Vitra was the Polder Sofa. This collaboration has developed and became a long-term commitment in which we build the line of colors and materials for Vitra.

 

Color Wheel | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

Color Wheel | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

 

Color is obviously very important to you. Which position takes color in the design process?

That depends on the product I’m designing or working on. In textiles such as upholsteries, color is the last thing you do. But if you start with weaving research, or if you making small samples to study a particular structure, you always do this in black and white. Just look at the small samples we have here at the Casa Vitra exhibition here in Milan. In these black and white testing samples, you can quickly see what percentage of one color and of the other color is best and what the effect will be before you actually color the textiles. Color is something that is always in my mind while I’m designing, but you do not color the actual design in this stage. The final color collection is only composed at the very end of the process when all tests are done. It’s way too expensive to do everything in color when you are still in the sample stage. And even at the end of the line, there is still a lot of testing in color. Like in colors for plastics for chairs or for carpets. Even then, you can come to the conclusion that a certain color does not work well on a design, or does not get through testing. Then you have to start all over again. If you pull out an, for say orange color, then the connection in the total color-line is no longer a match. In a way, color is interwoven into the design process, but it’s also something you need to do later, because otherwise the process is too expensive, it is just not efficient.

 

Stitched letters on canvas  | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

Stitched letters on canvas | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

 

Elaborating on what you are saying: besides the new Vitra developments and designs, many designs are “classic designs’. You also develop the renewal of colors for these classic designs. How do you handle that? You have to deal with the originals, your own and Vitra’s vision and the current “Zeitgeist”.

I will first look in the archives: what has been done in the past, what has the designer done, what was his vision. And of course, we have a nice Vitra museum where all the archives are. I make a study of the design and the original colors, we talk to relatives of the designer if possible and research it’s heritage. Then I make a suggestion. Surely it is an interpretation of mine of the design, with my statement and sign on it. I don’t believe in objectivity. I’m not “matching” the new colors with what used to be the originals. My own handwriting will be in it. I very much believe in that: The new color line only gets a high quality with this new handwriting. And I do this purely on intuition.

 

Stitched letters on canvas  | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

Stitched letters on canvas | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

 

How do you choose color: that is purely intuitive, or based on history, theory or research? Or is it a mix? Or does everything seize together?

Yes, that’s it. It all seizes together: research, a lot of testing, color viewings, but also intuition.

You are, in my perception, not working with trend colors. Is that right?

That is right. I always wonder what good trend colors are. It’s about the context: where are the colors used? What kind of materials? Is it for a chair or for a wall? In my work, I determine the specific colors for a certain item, which is quite different than predicting colors for a large group so that all materials can be woven. So trend colors are not something I’m concerned with.

 

Stitched letters on canvas  | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

Stitched letters on canvas | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

 

Are there certain elements that people can recognize: that’s a piece by Hella Jongerius?

That’s more something for someone else to say … I can not see how others see my handwriting in color. It is a certain conviction. I have made a certain color structure within Vitra : The reds, the Greens, the Lights and the Darks. Those four groups I use as an organizational structure, but within these groups, all colors are represented. I also think I’m designing the colors for a particular spectrum of design. For furniture, fabrics and carpets. Not all for Vitra, but also for other companies. I do not design colors for clothing or walls. It’s just a piece of the puzzle which I work with.

 

Color samples and stitched letters on canvas  | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

Color samples and stitched letters on canvas | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

 


Is there a particular philosophy or is it all quite intuitive?

It’s all focused on the subject. From there an ideals group of colors is developed. A design always has a surface or needs upholstery. And sometimes if you see the actual color and fabric on a chair, it can still happen that it does not work at all: In that case, the color must be replaced. So, I cannot judge or say, “ This is a particular Jongerius series”.

 

Fabric and color samples | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

Fabric and color samples | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

 

In addition to your color work, you are also working on designs. What is a good design in your opinion?

I think it’s a good design when it touches more than “just a new thing”. When it’s “beyond the new” and “beyond the object”. Like “pushing the envelope”. And that the design has deeper layers, multiple layers within itself. If it touches something in a context, in the world, for the profession, for certain materials. Just creating a new thing, is not good enough …

 

The Reds, The Greens, The Lights and The Darks|  Color| Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

The Reds, The Greens, The Lights and The Darks| Color| Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

 

That shows in your work. The deeper layers make it special.

Yes…. A bigger story than the thing it self.

Is there a design in the Vitra collection that stands out at that level?

On a product level, it’s very difficult to choose one design. I still find it very difficult. I’m not a huge furniture fan. I have to relate with it design-wise, but it’s “just a chair” … I am not actually drawn to it. I think for me the process is far more important. For example, I could not style and furnish a showroom, like Casa Vitra. That’s not my job. My home is also not decorated like a home of a stylist. But when I look around here at the showroom, find it very beautiful. [Show Casa Vitra Milan 2016]

 


Color and textile samples | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

Color and textile samples | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

 

Is there something you want to tell the young designers and students, at the (design) academies?

Well, it’s just very difficult for them I think. What can you as a designer contribute in a world where everything already exists? You can only do that by answering bigger questions on an abstract level. There are now added new disciplines in design land, such as food design. But the everyday things, we all live with, and in the industry, in the ordinary and core business of design, there is still a lot to do. Very few designers go work in the industry, which is also very difficult. I often have young people with me in the studio. But I speak a whole other language then they do. The knowledge “gap” is so big. And the industry is perhaps less sexy to work in. When you’re young, you can do start-ups, you can do a lot along the edges of design. But if you want to work in the industry, that’s is a whole different discipline and not so sexy, but it’s a very important industry.

 

I don't have a favourite colour | Book | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

I don’t have a favourite colour | Book | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

 

Time is up… Other journalists are waiting and we have to finish. Can’t believe the interview is over yet. I had so much more to ask. Luckily there is the book, filled with beautiful pictures and more personal stories about Vitra, Hella Jongerius, design and color… It will be my color bible..!

Thanks Hella, Vitra and Eline. Hope we meet again soon.

 

I don't have a favourite colour | Book | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

I don’t have a favourite colour | Book | Casa Vitra Milan 2016 | Expo colors by Hella Jongerius | by C-More

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