Color Matters Blog
I love interviews with the press because there’s always one challenging question that requires a good answer. Last week, the interviewer asked, “How do you get your color consultation projects?” I replied that half the time, there’s a color disaster underway and someone contacts me. Typically, “the boss” has chosen his or her favorite color for the logo (or the product, packaging, etc.) and a member of the staff senses that there is something terribly wrong with the choice.
The recent controversy surrounding the aboriginal costumes worn by Russian ice dancers Domnina and Shabalin raises questions of cultural theft, authenticity of the steps, and appropriate costumes. Some Australian aboriginal leaders have claimed that the pair’s brown-toned costumes adorned with leaves and white aboriginal-style markings were offensive and far from authentic. On the other hand, the Russian duo’s coach explained that the term "aboriginal" translates from Latin language and means "from the beginning" and that they tried to represent a picture of the time when aboriginal people were in the world - with no reference to any country or custom. Nevertheless, in spite of changing the hue of their original costumes from a dark brown (intended to make their skins look darker) to a paler shade, which better matched the Russians' natural skin tone, the controversy still rages.
"Monkey Butt Red" and "Flaming Fuchsia" made the news recently - at least in the automotive industry. These are the names of colors created by Toyota and Dodge for the debut of their elite sports cars. Consider the possibility that these colors and their names were intended to generate a lot of press.
For nearly two centuries, scholars have been arguing that beige and white were not the true colors of antiquity. The Parthenon in Athens and the Forum in Rome might have been almost gaudy. Unfortunately, such ideas have never influenced Hollywood or many experts. For example, in "Gladiator," when Russell Crowe strides down the streets of ancient Rome, circa A.D. 180, he's backed up by the proper complement of white marble. In almost every view of the past, textbooks included, the ancient world comes off as monochrome.
Where will color go in 2010? What about the next decade? Will we be under the influence of trends or will the timeless powers of color rule? I’m sure you’ll agree that it will be both - and it all depends on many factors. The good thing about trends is that they inject new life into the color wheel. Yes, but what goes around comes around again and that’s my first take on color karma for the next decade.
One of my unfulfilled dreams as a colorist has been to pack as many colors as possible into a painting that breaks the barrier of “it’s too pretty to be considered as serious art.”
When I was working on my M.F.A., the "anti-aesthetic" ruled. The art that was sanctioned by the intelligentsia was far from lovely. Matisse’s famous philosophy - that a painting should be like a comfortable armchair - was taboo. There was no going back to the luxurious color harmonies of Matisse and Monet in the French impressionist era or the lush abstractions of deKooning or Rothko in the mid-twentieth century.
It’s supposed to solve the dilemma of winding up with all those cans of paint in colors that are too bold, too dingy, or not quite right. Both Benjamin Moore's Ben Color Capture and Sherwin-Williams' ColorSnap applications for the iPhone work the same way: Take a picture with your iPhone, zoom in on an area of color that you want to match in paint. Click “match” and the application gives you a range of paint options just like a real paint strip from their catalogue (either Moore or Sherwin). On the plus side, it shows the color’s nearest neighbors, in both lighter and darker shades.
Three weeks ago, I presented a seminar about color in Bermuda. I’ll admit that I’m quite spoiled by living in the color paradise of Hawaii. I’m not easily swept off my feet, but the colors of Bermuda - everything from sand to architecture - were stunning and classy, at that.
Real men wear pink - pink shirts and even pink shorts. In fact the logo on the airport terminal is a pair of pink Bermuda shorts. Aside from wearing apparel, many of the beaches are pink and so are the homes and many of the commercial buildings.
It’s the new red … and it’s the color Toyota chose for the FT-86 sports car. Yes, it really is the red color of a Japanese monkey’s backside and if you can pronounce it, it’s “shoujyouhi” red.
Just when we’re getting used to a new genre of creative – but not always descriptive - color terms, such as "Fiji Weegee Fawn" for nail polish, "Freedom Trail" for paint, and "Peter Pan" for candles, Toyota's reference point for this new hue is beyond bizarre.
Does the web provide an open door for "color experts" to dish out bad advice? Maybe in the dark days before the web, the color wheel was on fire but no one could see it. Whatever the case may be - and on the heels of last week’s Benjamin Moore report - there’s a new one.
The latest bad advice is based on the assumption that the "old rules" about how to use and combine colors are out the window. Here’s the exact quote from an interior design professional:
Wikipedia just announced that they will allow a color-coding for text that has been declared untrustworthy. Orange will be used to highlight unreliable text, with more reliable text given a lighter shade. Text earns "trust" over time, and moves from orange to white.
2009 marks the end of two photographic wonders and the amazing colors they produced. Digital photography has rendered them obsolete.
In June, Eastman Kodak company announced that its Kodachrome film would be no more. This was the slide film that gave us such beautiful bright colors and it's the film Paul Simon idolized in the classic line of a song, "Mama don't take my Kodachrome away."
When I was in art school, a professor commented that my painting looked like a soggy dog. That was a compliment! I was struggling to find my artistic center and had poured turpentine on an oil painting (still wet and workable) and saved the results.
Thirty years of research on individual reactions to colors in the environment has produced contradictory findings. Some research has concluded that people who can "screen out" irrelevant information in their environment are not easily stressed out (or aroused) by warm colors such as pale orange walls, whereas "low-screeners" are more aroused by the same orange walls.
I usually don’t write about my personal experiences with color but a recent encounter with a startling yellow dress is worth the space on this blog. In fact, the dress was such a bright yellow that I felt like kids might try to ride me to school. Okay, it’s a cliche, but school bus yellow is a color that can really be too overwhelming for my fair coloring. Soft creamy banana yellow is okay, but not mango yellow.
Restoring Color to Dead Lawns of Abandoned Homes
Foreclosed homes with dead, brown lawns can be found in just about every neighborhood these days. Apparently a business in California is waving a magic wand of green paint over the lawns and dressing up the properties. The water-based paint is chemical free and includes flower-based pigments.
It’s green but it seems blue. Or does it? The Storm King Wavefield is a permanent installation by Maya Lin in Mountainville, N.Y. Seven parallel rows of rolling, swelling peaks on 11 acres were inspired by the forms of midocean waves but echo the mountains and hills around them. It’s made of natural materials: dirt and grass.
Black was the center of two disputes about its eco-friendliness. In one black was perhaps good; in the other, bad. You can be the color judge.
The first case was Google’s "Blackle" - an alternative to Google's white page - that would save 3000MWh per year. Others claimed that "While it may be true that a CRT monitor uses 15 watts less with the black screen, only 25% of the world's monitors are CRT." Some others put this to a test of 27 monitors ("The Final Test") and found that LCD monitors with a size 22-inches or less, all showed an increase in power consumption using Blackle. Beyond the 22-inch mark however, five of the six models showed a fractional decrease in power consumption when using Blackle.
Our responses to color are inherited and learned. My experiences in Pakistan reconfirmed the reality of both universal color symbolism (timeless) and all the other kinds of meanings that evolve over time (religious, geographic, political, gender-based, etc.)
The Color of the Year 2009
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Although the color czars are dictating the color that a specific color will be "THE COLOR of 2009" (come back to this blog in a few days for details), we suggest a color bailout. Or maybe we should call a moratorium on all trends. The last thing we need as we enter a new year challenged by severe economic and environmental realities is a color that will promote us to consume more. Isn’t that what any trend evokes?
Color: Bringing the World Closer Together
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
During the past decade on the Internet, I’ve realized that color is an experience that we all share regardless of politics, religion, geography, age, or gender. Over 6 billion people are on the planet – and we are all immersed in a color soaked world.
Blue is the car color of tomorrow
Monday, December 01, 2008
It’s blue again! It’s the favorite color of people all around the globe and even though we may adore it and wear it, how many people want a "true blue" car?
Automotive paint supplier PPG Industries Inc. issued its annual forecast and predicts that blues (particularly more vibrant, richer, complex blues) will take on a more important role in car styling.
Better than Autumn Leaves?
September 1, 2008
Here’s an environmental delight for the eyes and maybe an itinerary for a colorful vacation:
It includes photos and information about:
1. Turquoise and Blue Lakes
2. Green and Yellow Lakes
3. Purple and Red Lakes
4. Sunset Lakes
Here are some Blog entries from April - June, 2008
See the Blog Menu at the left for a full list of all the blog articles.
Blog Archives 2: April - May 2008
Gagging on Green?
April 6, 2008
With the arrival of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, delicate and dramatic shades of green are everywhere. This reinforces our awareness of the environment and the latest news about "green" (ecologically beneficial) products and efforts. It almost seems that any opposition to the color green could be deemed anti-earth. Just for the fun of it, let's put this on pause and play with the unappetizing attributes of green. For example, "split pea" green can sicken the viewer. Bright green may be acceptable as Astroturf, but what about green as in "sleazy motel carpet"? Just for the record, green (with a yellowish cast) is not a good color in situations where motion sickness can occur such as the interiors of passenger trains, planes, and boats.
Blog Archives 1: January - March 2008
When is a Color Hideous?
February 26, 2008
Yes, we all have strong feelings about color. When American Idol's Simon declared that contestant Chikezie's orange suit was hideous, I was shocked. I've never heard anyone declare a color "hideous" - and even more appalling, it was said in front of an audience of 29 million people. In the days that followed, I began to think about the larger issues: Why does a color work and why doesn't it work? Is it really all about personal reactions and color stereotypes - or is there more to it than meets the eye?
Global Color Matters - Yellow
Color-coded ribbons show our support for a wide range of causes. For example, the yellow ribbon demonstrates support for troops in the U.S. It's also used for suicide prevention, adoptive parents, bladder cancer, spina bifida, and amber alerts.