A new book from Phaidon titled Iro: The Essence of Colour in Japanese Design celebrates iconic pieces of design from the country through the lens of its traditional colour spectrum.

Iro, which translates to colour in Japanese, has played an integral role in the country’s society and culture. Across the book’s 288 pages, a selection of 200 colours have been curated by author Rossella Menegazzo – with each shade illustrated by a specific corresponding design. Those selected, ranging from Nendo’s impossibly thin Jellyfish Vases, to the more robust, but equally recognisable Elephant Stool by Sori Yanagi for Vitra, are explored in short passages, which give context to the design and its colour pairing.

Menegazzo, who is an Associate Professor of the History of East Asian Art at the University of Milan, has used her skills and expertise to select the hues found throughout the book. One of her key sources when it came to research was a 1968 reference catalogue, that presented a universally applicable colour-matching system for the design industries.

“The earliest known written references [to colour] date back to the seventh century,” Phaidon says. “With each period of Japanese rule, new additions and interpretations have been added to the colour spectrum.” Essays throughout the book, which is bound in a traditional Japanese style, dive deeper into this – looking at the ways in which nature has influenced Japanese colour spectrums, but also how different shades were used to indicate rank and social hierarchy through fashion.

Iro: The Essence of Colour in Japanese Design publishes on May 26 for £49.95 GBP (approximately $62.55 USD).

In other design news, the four winners of Jony Ive‘s Terra Carta Design Lab were recently announced.
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