Now Reading
The Lasting Appeal of ‘A Dictionary of Color Combinations’

The Lasting Appeal of ‘A Dictionary of Color Combinations’

Sanzo Wada's book of contemporary colour research for designers around the globe.

Klein's Journal

There are many things I regret doing in my life: thinking I could pull off bleach blonde hair, going to law school for a year, and not learning French. But the main thing I think I regret is not knowing how to draw or, really, anything about graphic design.

Now that I work more in the publishing and magazine world, I’m slowly but surely training my eye for details. This is quite the step for me, considering I made my last business cards on a free Iphone app and Microsoft Paint (they didn’t look bad – I swear!). It has taken a bit of studying, but I believe I have the tools to start to not just appreciate design, but to understand it. 

This is due largely thanks to the book, A Dictionary of Color Combinations. A compact book, it is a distillation of six volumes written by Japanese artist Sanzo Wada between 1933 and 1934. These books were intended to educate a wider, Western audience on the Japanese approach to color theory and design philosophy that pervades much of Japanese culture. By the end of the six volumes, Wada had captured over one thousand combinations, some in stark contrasting patterns and some subtle hues that were more complementary to one another.

Sanzo Wada (1883-1967) was an artist, teacher, costume and kimono designer during a turbulent time in avant-garde Japanese art and cinema. Wada was ahead of his time in developing traditional and Western influenced colour combinations, helping to lay the foundations for contemporary colour research.

It was this source material which then became consolidated into what is now A Dictionary of Color Combinations. In this pocket-sized book, one can find over 300 combinations, giving neophytes like me a deeper appreciation for emotional responses one is able to convey through the smallest of gradient differences in design. With charts, patterns, and hues laid out in an easy-to-read format, the colors transcend language and cultural barriers to get to the heart of what art really is about: a human connection.

See Also

I find myself flipping through this book at my desk in between work calls and assignments. When I am online shopping or putting together a presentation for a new client, I reach for this book for an education. Smaller than a Penguin paperback, it’s found its way into my breast pocket and the side compartment of my work bag. While I’m still learning, it’s Wada’s keen eye that keeps me motivated to keep it up. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll graduate to Adobe Illustrator. Until then, a boy can dream while flipping pages of this Dictionary

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

©2023 Klein's Journal Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy