Tag Archives: Albers Square


When I think of exactitude, I think about grammar and syntax. These are the foundation of every language, from natural languages, such as English and Japanese, to formal languages, such as computer programming languages. Right now, I’m taking a Java programming class. I’ve never been more exact than when I’m working on a project in Java. Unlike humans, computers take language very literally and do not interpret meaning based on context.

For example, if I were to type the sentence

i luv ice cream its gr8

you would be able to understand it perfectly, even though it’s not grammatically correct. If, however, I were to type something with similar syntactical errors into a computer program, I’d be awash in error messages. I’d have to type something more formal, like this:

I love ice cream. It’s great.

See what I mean? Fortunately, despite their inability to interpret context clues, computer languages are extraordinarily powerful. I used Java to write a program that draws Albers squares, which we learned about in Graphic Design: The New Basics. 

This is what the code looks like:

import java.awt.Color;

public class albers
/*This program creates Albers squares. I’m an English major, and I got the
idea for this project from one of my English classes, where we’re learning about Josef Albers.
The program takes 9 command line arguments, which correspond to the RGB values for 3
separate colors. Enter the RGB values (separated by spaces) for your three colors, then run the program
to produce your Albers squares. Have fun!

Ex. java albers 255 0 0 0 0 255 0 0 0 255
will give you a square with red, green, and blue components.

A complete list of colors can be found at:
public static void main (String[] args)
//command line args–RGB values for 3 Albers square colors
String red1 = args[0];
String green1 = args[1];
String blue1 = args[2];
String red2 = args[3];
String green2 = args[4];
String blue2 = args[5];
String red3 = args[6];
String green3 = args[7];
String blue3 = args[8];

//convert RGB values into color variables
int redVal1 = Integer.parseInt(args[0]);
int greenVal1 = Integer.parseInt(args[1]);
int blueVal1 = Integer.parseInt(args[2]);
int redVal2 = Integer.parseInt(args[3]);
int greenVal2 = Integer.parseInt(args[4]);
int blueVal2 = Integer.parseInt(args[5]);
int redVal3 = Integer.parseInt(args[6]);
int greenVal3 = Integer.parseInt(args[7]);
int blueVal3 = Integer.parseInt(args[8]);

//available colors

Color color1 = new Color (redVal1, greenVal1, blueVal1);
Color color2 = new Color (redVal2, greenVal2, blueVal2);
Color color3 = new Color (redVal3, greenVal3, blueVal3);

StdDraw.setCanvasSize (800,800);

//first Albers square

//second Albers square

To an untrained eye, it may seem very technical and abstruse, but the point is that the syntax must be flawlessly exact for the program to run.


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"I prefer to see with closed eyes." --Josef Albers

“I prefer to see with closed eyes.” –Josef Albers

Color and visibility go hand in hand when it comes to creating art and literature. The picture above shows a sequence of Albers squares, which were developed by Josef Albers as part of his scientific study of colors and the relationships between them.

Lupton and Philips state that “Color can convey a mood, describe reality, or codify information. Words like “gloomy,” “drab,” and “glittering” each bring to mind a general climate of colors, a palette of relationships. Designers use color to make some things stand out (warning signs) and to make other things disappear (camouflage). Color serves to differentiate and connect, to highlight and to hide.”

This is precisely what Albers desired to illustrate through his study of color. Originally, the use of color in graphic design was considered fantastic, while black and white designs were seen as realistic. A good example of this is the movie The Wizard of Oz: during the “real” parts of the movie when Dorothy is in Kansas, the film is shot in black and white, but once she reaches Oz, the film switches to Technicolor to denote magic and fantasy. Over time, these modes of representation switched places. Color came to denote realism, while black and white is now employed to place an artwork in a particular historical period (think of how the movie Schindler’s List is shot in black and white) or to create an aesthetic effect.

The minimalist color scheme in my body creates contrast, and the starkness of the artwork parallels Jackson’s honest, forthright language. Her choice of colors helps to set the tone for the work even before we have begun reading her story. Once again, it is the image, rather than the word, which enters the imagination first.

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