CS 92 Revised Project Description (February 24th)

          Our project is the development of "software" designed to help teach and exercise color theory knowledge for Professor Roger Mayer's VA 10 class. Although the course is in fact not entirely devoted to color theory but to the study of art in general, it is both self-evident and stressed by Professor Mayer that the color mixing and color perception comprehension taught in this portion of the course is integral to understanding color in art as a whole.

          This project entails the computerized implementation of color mixing and perception exercises, the first of which is Goethe's Triangle. This triangle, in the form of both a static visual aid as well as an interactive exercise, exhibits the secondary and tertiary mixing of three colors. That is to say, at the three corners of a triangle are three colors to be mixed. The colors in the middle of the triangle represent secondary and tertiary combinations of the corner colors. (This is very difficult to describe without visual aid.) We plan to implement an interactive version of this that allows for any color to be placed at any corner of the triangle, allowing for real-time mixing that shows the student user what colors result from what mixes. In the past, this facet of color has been exhibited through previously made visuals and physical paint exercises. While this is still valuable to the student, a supplementary computer version of the exercise allows for instant color mixes that would have otherwise only come out through tedious painting. The goal of this exercise is to show mixes of color, as well as to allow the student to put his/her own unique colors together to get new (and sometimes surprising) secondary and tertiary colors. To paraphrase Professor Mayer, "With 20 students in a class, you get 20 different interesting triangles." With the computer as a tool, there is the potential for many, many more.

          The second exercise deals with the perception of color against differently colored backgrounds. Two same colors can be made to look vastly different by way of varying background color. This artifact lends itself to several sub-exercises. Again, without visual aid, this is difficult to explain. In summary, the first exercise exhibits the abovementioned aspect, bringing two same colors to look different by way of differing backgrounds. The second exhibits that two different colors can be made to look the same by way of specific differing backgrounds. Lastly, the third and most difficult to verbally explain - so difficult I will not even try - exhibits yet another extrapolation from this basic observation of color perception. It is easy to see how such an exercise can be somewhat difficult to implement without a technological aid. Currently, it is done with pasting colored paper on colored paper. While this successfully achieves the effect, it is (as you might imagine) extremely time-consuming and limited by the colors of the paper. The computer implementation of this exercise allows for instant trials of different colors and different backgrounds leading to a more vast exploration of this facet of color theory. The goal of this exercise is to essentially show and teach that colors do not depend only on themselves, but on the colors that surround them as well.

          Now for the real meat of our project. The greatest dilemma in all this talk of color theory exercises is, "How do you pick the colors?" - the colors that go into the corners of the triangle, the colors that act as backgrounds and foregrounds. It is easy to dismiss this. However, the representation of color is extremely important in the field of color theory. Professor Mayer introduced us to a complex color "tree" of sorts that brought the representation of color into three dimensions. He also suggested a possible FOURTH dimension of color. The moral of the story is that the representation of the color palette for these exercises is not trivial. Whatever method is chosen will add its own skew to the students' view of color. We have yet to settle on a palette, as more discussion with Professor Mayer and increased realization of the boundaries of programming need to take place. This is where much of our effort will be directed.

          The goal of our project as a whole is to introduce students to the presented aspects of color theory and allow them to easily manipulate standard exercises to gain experience in viewing and understanding the complex properties of color.

          We have settled on the medium for our project - java applets and the world wide web. Since VA 10 is a Brown University class, the students will have ample access to capable computers and browsers, making moot many of the issues concerning access to technology faced by some of the other projects. The advantage of distributing the project on the web is the increased opportunity for productive sessions with applets. The success of the exercises described above relies to much extent on time for experimentation - time to observe, examine, and alter the results of different color combinations and mixes. The idea of the applets in general is to allow students unlimited access to the exercises.

          Alongside the applets will be documentation designed to supplement Professor Mayer's teachings and explain the use and intention of the applets. The hypertext environment will allow for examples and visual explanations to make the experience more than a few applets hung out to dry.

          As we move deeper in the project, we intend to see Professor Mayer's color theory teaching style in action and talk to some of the students themselves to gain insight into what they might want from a project of this sort. We will be meeting often - once a week with Professor Mayer and at least once a week as our group. Considering the rather programming-intensive nature of our project, we may also consult with computer science higher-ups to explore our options.

          Looking ahead, we hope to get our project on the web as soon as possible, perhaps even in a premature form. It is a decided advantage that user input during the finishing stages of the project will help polish and refine the product into a form that will be used in the future. The web gives us the ability to have our project out for public constructive critique. We plan on capitalizing on this asset to better our project.

          We have yet to fully grasp the programming obstacles that lie ahead of us. If they are not as vast as we anticipate, we have discussed ideas of perhaps implementing a means of exhibiting and saving students' color creations, something that is easy with paint but not so easy with Java.

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