Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius


2 August 2017

Before heading over to New Designers a couple of the team attended Breathing Colour at The Design Museum, which took us on a journey from day to night exploring how colour changes throughout the day.

Jongerius explains the exhibition is about revealing the true potential of colours by giving colours the space to breathe through the use of light. She also explains that the exhibition is about making people question colour and creating a visual experience rather than a scientific one.

Breathing colour aimed to challenge the use of colour charts in the design industry, and ask consumers whether they would prefer the use of “unstable” colours that would change throughout the day, as apposed to uniform ones.

“The colour recipes that industrial designers like me must rely on are produced by companies who strive for stability and uniformity. However, instability can enrich products and improve our experiences of them.”

-Hella Jongerius


The exhibit started with huge draped cloths, illuminated underneath were prismatic shapes that interacted with light, this represented morning as it was bright and airy. There were also translucent shapes suspended in the air which created reflections on the wall, the shapes consisted of multiple layers of fresh pastel colours representing morning. 


As you moved through to noon the colours were bolder and more opaque, portrayed through paintings, tapestries and physical objects.

One of the most interesting parts of the exhibit was the “Colour Catchers;” grey multifaceted shapes that looked a completely different colour depending on the lighting and the colours surrounding them. The folded surfaces of the shapes allowed Jongerius to create new tones of the same colour just by using shadows.


Finally, there was a dark room representing the evening, which focused on how a lack of light can change the appearance of colours, creating depth until a colour has been completely consumed by darkness.

The walls were painted black using a specially crafted paint created by Joungerius; she created 16 different shades of black without using carbon as she believes it can make colours appear flat.

The exhibit was both beautiful and informative, highlighting what an important role light plays in our perception of colour. It also encouraged viewers to question standardised colours in the design industry. Colour is such an important aspect to design although unstable colours are not something that are commonly considered; but with Hella Jongerius as Director of Colour and Surfaces for Vitra, we might see the use of unstandardised colours becoming more common in the future.