Vibrating Colours

Vibrating Colours

“A thing is never seen as it really is” – Josef Albers

The idea of vibrating colour comes from a 1960’s style, which was a blend of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Josef Albers was the first to help launch the vibrating colour trend, that would go on to represent many graphic design concepts. Albers was a course leader and head of the design platform at Yale university where he held ‘interaction of colour’ classes.

Victor Moscoso was one of the founding fathers of vibrating colours, and was someone who studied under Josef Albers at Yale university. Moscoso was a fan of Albers’ famous colour aid paper exercises to the “futility of learning algebra in high school”

Albers had a theory that colour changes in direct relation to its surroundings and the condition of the viewer. Albers never mixed his colours, and they were painted straight from the tube of paint to the canvas.

One of Albers’ ideas is clearly demonstrated within this one piece of work.

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This is example of Albers’ theory, staring at the black dot in the center of the square with large yellow circles, and then after a minute, switching to look at the other square creates the illusion that there are yellow diamonds on the page. This is another example of how Albers’ showed the power of colour, and that “A thing is never really seen as it is”.


Interaction of Color- Josef Albers (1963)

This design is on Josef Albers’ book, showing his works and explanations of how colour has a huge impact on our lives. Placing such a iconic piece of his work on the front cover of his book allows a step into what the book is going to be about, and shows Albers’ theory come to life.

Joseph Albers appeared to believe that two of the same colour can be made to appear two different colours, and this is something which intrigued him immensely. For example, the two squares within the image shown are from the same strip of paper. Both colours are the same, but any normal human eye fails to see the two squares as the same colour.

This piece of work is Albers’ most successful works of art. It demonstrates a clear example of his theory within one image, and helps the audience to understand how the human eye sees colour. Josef Albers has used the concept of Vibrating Colours to use on the front of his book titled ‘Interaction of colour’ The piece appears just as a few rectangles and squares of circles, and I feel is therefor not too interesting for the person who looks at the cover of this book. However, Albers was famous for his theory, and using one of his most seen works of art suggests it would grab the attention of a lot of people, as it is incredibly recognizable.

This piece of work conveys Albers message quite clearly, as the two orange squares do not appear the same colour. However, as they are not explained on this book cover, for someone who does not know about Albers’ theory, the message would not be clear at all. Before researching this concept, this image just appeared simply as rectangles of colour. However, perhaps the idea of not revealing too much on this book cover makes the book more tempting to read, as you would then develop an understanding of this theory. In addition, revealing too much on the front of the book may make the book pointless itself, as there would be less to write about.

Additionally, Albers believed that one should not use vibrating colours. Victor Moscoso felt this was a rule that needed to be broken, and the vibrating colours movement took off.


Moscoso, V (2/3 1967) Avalon Ballroom Available at:

This piece of work is an example of a poster produced by Victor Moscoso. It features very bright, vibrating colours and has small black text at the bottom of the page.

The designer has used the concept of vibrating colours very thoroughly in this piece and has carefully thought about which colours would work to create a vibrating colour illusion. Apart from the small writing at the bottom, the designer has used vibrating colours for every aspect in this design to show which parts of the poster the audience should be focused on.

From a distance, the red typography which surrounds the circles on this poster appear to look almost like sun rays. I feel that this is a flaw in the design as this text is most likely important to understanding what the poster is advertising/about, but is instead quite difficult to read. The blue background helps these circular shapes to show up, but again is no help in showing the text to be readable. This is one way that vibrating colours is ineffective for displaying the message of this poster, as I have no idea what it is about, and cannot read the text because of the vibrant colour scheme.

However, the successes of the piece is also the colour scheme, as despite its negative points, makes the poster memorable and visible from a distance. The colours are bright and almost dazzle the eyes, which give this poster happy/joyful connotations.

In my opinion, I don’t particularly like this piece, partly due to my lack of understanding of it, and also because I cannot read the writing. I feel that the writing is an important part, and if it were less important, i would probably have not been on the poster at all. Therefore, not being able to read it I feel is a major fault in the design, and if this were changed, the poster would be dramatically improved.


Moscoso, V (1966) NEON ROSE #2 [Poster] Available at:

Victor Moscoso took two colours at opposite ends of the colour wheel when he began to work with vibrating colours. An example of this is taking red and green, as they both have the same intensity, and the same level of dark to light. This overall meant the eye does not know which one to focus on, and instead sees the colours as vibrating. Posters in the 1960’s were generally quite bright and colourful. However Victor Moscoso took these colours to a new level by producing some of the brightest works in this time period.

Victor Moscoso has taken the idea of vibrating colours to the extreme in this particular piece of his work. The whole poster is produced in vibrating colours which creates a bright, and funky appearance. To continue, the designer has used this concept in a way of advertising ‘THE MILLER BLUES BAND’ and perhaps used these vibrating colours to mimic the sound waves coming from the music of the band.

The concept has been used to convey the message of the band in fact through this idea of sound waves. The Vibrating colours almost make the lines seem as if they are some sort of illusion, perhaps suggesting that the music is hypnotic or therapeutic, or maybe even extraordinary.

This idea I have inferred about sound waves is demonstrated through the lines that seem to hug the person shown in the middle of the poster. They show the person is in harmony with the music and this is one of the main successes of the piece. I feel that this is a success as it connotes the idea that the woman is in a calming atmosphere or at one with the music. Just from simple lines using these colours it is inferred that this poster is for a band, as we already know this through the writing it seems fairly obvious, however I feel that even without the text at the top of the page, it would be clear to see what this poster was advertising, and this is all down to the vibrating colours.

The negative parts of this poster I feel are the pink colours features on the woman as they wouldn’t be visible from a distance. This however may be because it would distract the eyes from the vibrating colours, and instead focus on the woman, because she is in the center of the page. This shows how Moscoso has used this concept cleverly to divert the attention from what is in the middle of the page, and it is the vibrating colours he seems to want the audience to focus on.

Overall I like this piece as I feel it is a very successful way of grabbing the audience’s attention, as due to the concept, this poster is extremely hard to miss, even from a greater distance.

Source: Helen, S and Vienne, V (2012) 100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design, London, Laurence King Publishing Ltd.


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