Color Wheels & Concept Wheels

Here's a content development exploration that utilizes color theory, analysis and imagination. We're probably all familiar with the color wheel and the primary colors for pigment: red, yellow, and blue, colors that cannot be mixed. When all are shown together  we may imagine a children's toy. In our culture, they have certain kinds of meaning or connotations as a group.

The colors between the primary colors are secondary colors, created when each two primary colors are mixed. Yellow+blue=green; blue+red=purple; red+yellow=orange.

When colors across from each other on the color wheel are used together, both colors seem to vibrate and come alive (See Josef Albers: color theory). Making collages using only these two complementary colors usually turns out well: orange/blue; red/green; yellow/purple.

What happens when we substitute concepts for the colors? When you put two or more things together you may get a new way of looking at them: that place in between. Like mixing new colors.

Begin by making a list of people, places, objects, values, concepts that are meaningful to you or that just come to mind.

Example list might be:

Circle your top three or the three that call to you. For this example, I'll pick sea, family, cookies. Draw what might normally be a color wheel: a circle with six segments. Place one of your three words in every other segment. Look at the spaces between the words and think about how each pair might mix and overlap to create something new.

But first, explore and analyze one word at a time. What are their characteristics? What are their properties? What are some things we associate with them?

Sea: deep, full of animals, kelp, fish, waves, boats, islands, salty, wet, surf, sand, explore, reefs, whales, sharks, anemones, tubeworms, vents
Cookies: baked, sweet, crunchy, chewy, neighbors, batch, cookie sheet, rolled, dropped, bar, dough, chocolate
Family: love, irritation, together, apart, two or more people or animals, related, responsibility, provide

Sea + Cookies might overlap as: animal crackers; salted caramel; sand bar; seaweed snack; seeking fortune
Cookies + Family might overlap as: new neighbors; max pack; raw
Family + Sea might overlap as: mermaids; whale pod; leaky; deep needs; afloat; drifting apart; warm currents

Choose one of these imaginative mixtures from each list and place them in the segments.
We can make several concept wheels, if we like. These are now our secondary concepts. Just as with colors, we've generated these new concepts by mixing each of the primary concepts. We can also look at their "complementary" concepts and continue the exploration. Now, how can  "cookies" and "leaky" mix? Theoretically, you could continue to divide up the wheel, making tertiary or other concepts.

Any of these could be a catalyst or content for a book.
Sometimes analysis and creativity go hand in hand. 

 To make an actual, rotating paper wheel, see "volvelle" on 123-125 in Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms


Melissa said…
Interesting idea! Love the sense of looking for unexplored connections between primary themes or ideas. I think I might experiment with this using characters to explore tensions and underlying motives. Thanks!