Images demonstrating the experience of simultaneous contrast in the natural environment. As complementary colors, both the red and green “fight for equal attention, thereby enhancing the perceived saturation of each. The red tree in the photograph becomes more vibrantly red while making the green appear equally intense. This is the same principle used by marketing experts in packaging.
The hospital and experienced the process as one undergone by a typical patient. Selected aspects of what they discovered began to shape and influence the design in a meaningful way.48
Establishing a Protocol for Phenomenological Investigations
Experiential learning must not be interpreted as the private pursuit of knowledge by a single person or any one designer: such individual experience does not offer universal lessons. Rather, experiential learning calls for the collective gathering of data that can be employed to design objects and spaces for all people but remains flexible enough to be customized for each individual. Thus far, only disparate studies of visual phenomena have been carried out by artists and designers. Developing the necessary depth of understanding requires a more rigorous investigation of perception.
Phenomenology is the “study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view through an experience “directed toward an object by virtue of its content or meaning (which represents the object) together with appropriate enabling conditions.49 Two centuries of investigation into the formal effects of color provide one example of the kind of phenomenological research that is further needed in design. From Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to Johannes Itten to Josef Albers to the present, color has been the subject of rigorous
And systematic exploration. Goethe’s 1772 essay about the effects of color, “The Experiment as Mediator between Subject and Object, recognizes that because the conditions of an experiment fluctuate, the relationship between the viewer and the object that is being viewed necessarily fluctuates as well.50 In his 1810 blog Theory of Colors, Goethe goes on to describe the experience of color: “color is an elementary phenomenon in nature adapted to the sense of vision; a phenomenon which, like all others, exhibits itself by separation and contrast, by con-mixture and union, by augmentation and neutralization, by communication and dissolution: under these general terms its nature may be best comprehended.51 Thus, in his research Goethe attempted to arrive at a general understanding of the varieties of color perception rather than a single overarching explanation.
Physicists Neil Ribe and Friedrich Steinle explain his experiments as follows: “Goethe systematically varied the experimental conditions – the shape, size, color, and orientation of the images viewed; the refracting angle of the prism; and the distance of the prism from the Figure – to determine how they influenced what he saw.52 This method of exploratory scientific investigation is less favored today, especially in comparison to the physical investigations begun by Newton that have formed the backbone of our understanding of the physics of light considered as a distinct phenomenon from human perception. Goethe’s method, however, is no less valid as a means of scientific investigation. Ribe and Steinle have argued its relevance and viability:
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