The Garden of Itten

Johannes Itten (11 Nov 1888 – 25 Mar 1967)

The design world inherited a wondrous legacy from Johannes Itten’s study and use of colour harmonies. Adobe Kuler colour rules are an example of the application of Itten’s colour harmonies. But that’s not what I want to focus in this post.

Itten recognised that design inspiration is derived from intuition and inner awareness. He honed this inner awareness through daily meditation. Itten would encourage his design students at the Bauhaus School of Design to meditate for 20 minutes before beginning practical work. He believed that:

To help a student discover his subjective forms and colours is to help him discover himself… The teacher’s help should be offered sparingly, though certainly with sympathy and love. As a gardener prepares optimal conditions for the growth of his plants, so the educator should provide the child with favorable conditions of mental and physical growth…. Art education involves two problems: to further and strengthen the learner’s individual creative aptitudes, and to teach the general objective rules of nature(1).

– Johannes Itten

At design school we were taught to follow methodology as the silver bullet of idea creation. If Itten were teaching today he would find himself a lone voice in the wilderness.


(1) “The Art of Color” by Johannes Itten