Fine Line

A designer on the spare, clear beauty afforded by black-and-white “reductivism”

Nature is, of course, all about colour. The world around us would be very dreary indeed if it were all black and white, and shades of grey. Colour is life in all its myriad hues.

But having said that, I do find there is a refreshing lack of ambiguity in black and white. Take a clear black line that runs across a flat white surface. It has intent in its movement. We know where that line is going.

As a designer who deals with pattern and colour on a daily basis, I often find myself gravitating to the clarity of black and white when I’m trying to simplify an idea. There’s something reductivist about black and white, it allows me to concentrate on the essence of a form. And I find that calming. From my earliest lessons in drawing with graphite, to the study of composition and the relationship of form with space, my eye was trained in black and white. It was in these lessons that I learnt about maintaining balance and harmony within a white space.

Our last fashion collection was named “Block, Black, White”. It was an investigation into how the traditional wood block can be used to create patterns on a fabric. We explored the plain, uncarved surface of the wood block, and then used it to create flat unadorned surfaces of colour. In our explorations, we also developed surface designs of stripes and blocks. And then, of course, we designed the entire collection in black and white. Simple and elegant, it was the most effective way to demonstrate our concepts. Multi-directional lines ran into stripes, blocks of black created borders and solid surfaces and, to hold it all together, the strong black and white palette.

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David Abraham graduated from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and co-founded the design label Abraham & Thakore in 1992. He is the creative director at the studio. This article was first published in the Indian Quarterly magazine.

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