Invitation
A Color Study by Raw Color

It’s not unusual for a designer to become synonymous with a single project. Think of Konstantin Grcic’s galactic-looking Chair_One, or Stefan Sagmeister’s AIGA poster carved into his flesh with an X-Acto knife. For Christoph Brach and Daniera ter Haar, it’s more like eponymous: A project called Raw Color gave their studio its name (though the project’s since become known as 100% SAP so as to avoid confusion) and it has consumed them by varying degrees since they graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2007.

In the fall of that year, Raw Color was invited to create an installation for the exhibition NAT: Designing Nature, at their alma mater’s MU Gallery. They silk-screened a pattern in special absorbent fiber onto a sheet of paper, ran a few raw beets through a juicer, and waited as the liquid seeped slowly through the fibers, in effect printing the pattern with a dark red “ink.” That winter, they were invited to take the project a step further, setting up shop in the kitchen of the now-defunct Amsterdam-based design incubator Platform21. There, they created a coded Pantone-like system with vegetable dyes, extracting intense aquatic blues from the juicing of a red cabbage, say, or a dove gray from a white beetroot, and combining vegetables to create new colors and shades. When they realized the three strongest pigments — red cabbage, beetroot, and pumpkin — were remarkably similar to Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow, they filled the cartridges of a Canon printer with the natural dyes and in a performance created a series of striped inkjet prints. Most recently, Brach and ter Haar were contacted by a Dutch fashion label asking if the duo could use their vegetable tints to dye textiles for an upcoming collection.

What connects each stage of the 100% SAP project — and what unites Raw Color’s work in general — is a steadfast devotion to the exuberant exploration of color. “White isn’t wrong,” says ter Haar, “but it does mean you don’t have to make a specific choice.” Their work incorporates fashion, photography, styling, and graphics, and as Brach points out, “Color is a really nice connection between those disciplines. We use it almost as a material, and it’s transformative the way it can make something seem hard or light or heavy.”

When we visited Raw Color’s studio last fall, we fell in love with the duo’s polychromatic portfolio, and we invited them to create a special series for Sight Unseen, open to interpretation but somehow exploring for us their love for color. They came back with a series of still-lifes — the first four images in this slideshow — that offer insights into the essence of each hue. Brach explains: “Our whole studio is filled with inspirational objects we’ve never really used. For this photo series, we tried to tell stories and reveal the nature of certain colors through these set-ups.”

RC_greens

"Green is a story about balance. There are so many shades, and this one's so specific. It's finding the right composition."

RC_reds

"Red is the color of tension and explosion. We had this blown up balloon and the plastic fork is on the verge of popping it."

RC_skin

"For the skin shades, we used vegetables and eggs to show the vulnerability of the color."

RC_clay

"And brown is a story about the unpolished roughness of nature."

RC_studio1

Inside Raw Color's studio.

RC_studio

A selection of their graphics work lines the wall.

RC_thisisbasic

Images from Raw Color's "This is Basic" exhibition.

RC_wendy

One of a series of ads for a group exhibition during 2009's Dutch Design Week.

RC_lotty

For the ads, Brach and ter Haar photographed each participant as a human sculpture.

RC_project

Images from the 100% SAP project.

RC_pantone

Brach and ter Haar now use their vegetable-dyed "Pantone chips" as business cards.

RC_hybrid

A visual representation of one of their hybrid hues.