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Color Matters Blog

Color is always doing something. Sometimes color screams out a message, sometimes it casts a subliminal spell. So, what's happening in the world of color today? Yesterday? Tomorrow? What are the facts, what are the myths?

Something New to Pink About?

pink jail
pink goo
pink navy blue
pink afghan martial arts
pink pussy cat hasts in a sea of pink protestors

Pink has been all over the news recently. Some of it is powerful and inspiring but the same old dirty little lies about pink continue to be spread. We begin with color news you can’t use:

Liar Liar – The Color Wheel Is on Fire(The same old nasty alternative facts about pink)“Cool Down Pink”

The article states: "Are you quick-tempered? Have bouts of aggression? The reason could be lack of pink in your environment! According to psychologist Daniela Spath a certain shade of pink calms the nerves, including in aggressive prisoners."

So wrong!

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It’s not easy being lurid green

lurid green


The Olympic swimming pool in Rio turned green last week. In spite of assurances that it was safe, athletes were appalled and observers describe it as swampy and sewerish.

Even though it’s back to its pristine azure blue, it makes you wonder about a color that is embraced as the symbol of nature and eco-awareness. Oh no, how can green turn lurid?*

This is a lesson for all color enthusiasts: The context matters as much as the symbolism of a color. Green means go in a traffic signal and good luck on a shamrock, but green racing cars can be unlucky, and a green swimming pool might just make you think that Kermit the Frog peed in the pool.

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The Color of Insanity

insanity color blog

Typically people ask about the color of happiness, power, and other positive attributes. When a former student asked about the color of insanity, it deserved an answer. Here are a few things to ponder:

In Russia, a colloquial expression for an insane asylum is "yellow house" because (a long time ago) they used to be painted yellow.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Gilman Perkins has been tied to a certain form of OCD. Furthermore, the color of the wallpaper has been explored in a number of scholarly literary papers.

Van Gogh's palette became more and more yellow towards the end of his life. His "insanity" was supposedly caused by lead poisoning because he inadvertently "ate" his paints ("hand to mouth" gestures, holding a brush handle in his mouth, etc.).

Studies on the effects of LSD (& other hallucinogenic drugs) have shown drawings/paintings by "crazy" folks with much more yellow as the effects advanced.

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© Jill Morton

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Shoes and Hues

Red sole Louboutin shoes & neon yellow-green Nike Volt shoes
Red sole Louboutin shoes
Nike Volt Neon yellow-green shoes

The power of the color of shoes made the news recently – and it left a historic mark on women's fashion and athletic gear.

Christian Louboutin just won trademark protection for its women's shoes with red soles while an appeals court also ruled the company can't trademark a design that is simply all red. In other words, they have exclusive rights to use the color red on the inner soles of their high-heeled shoes. It's like Tiffany's blue box and Cadbury's purple packaging — the red sole has been an iconic signature for these designer shoes for 20 years and they have the legal rights to it. Source

However, this is about a precise red, used in a precise location. They have exclusive rights to red soles except when the shoe itself is red, according to a federal appeals court. French fashion house Yves Saint Laurent—which Louboutin had sued for trademark infringement—can keep selling its all-red shoes with matching soles.

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Pink: The Color of Shock and Awe - Olympics 2012

Olympics 2012 Pink ticket
A Guide to Color Symbolism from the author of Color Matters

How daring! The official color of the 2012 Olympics is pink. Maybe we can finally see beyond the stereotype and consider the many personalities of this compassionate color.

Shocking, yes. "Whoa. Pepto Bismol threw up everywhere," so said one critic. Others protest the girliness of pink for such a muscular event. On the other hand, these London pinks are as vibrant, visionary, and awe-inspiring as the Olympic event itself.

It's a surprising visual adventure: From the arena's walls to the logo and ticket designs, a deep "magenta" and a bubble gum pink are everywhere. And for the first time in Olympics history, the hockey field at Olympic Park is an electric blue surface with a hot pink border.

Yes, there are times when conservative colors are wise; but there are times when wild colors are brilliant. I vote "Bravo" on this one. What do you say?

Note: The colors of the Olympics are seen through the filter of video and television technology. (The latter tends to shift to the bluer tones). It's all a matter of degrees of "pinkness." In pursuit of the true hue, I googled "Pantone color Olympics" 2012 and got nothing.

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Color Criminals - Red Gets Busted

starbucks bug juice red - cochineal
Wild salmon and farm raised salmon with colorants

Bug juice “red” made the news when it was exposed as Starbuck’s food coloring used in strawberry frapuccinos. After a public outcry – even from non-vegetarians – Starbucks announced it has stopped using it.

This isn’t just a vegetarian outrage or the questionable appeal of bug juice in your food - which by the way doesn’t bother me because it’s a natural alternative to the controversial red food dye #5 derived from coal tar. The real crime is disclosure and deception.

First of all, disclosure: There are moral issues for vegetarian and kosher diets and there are health issues. Natural food colorings such as cochineal (aka “bug juice”) and artificial additives such as red dyes #2 and #40 can cause allergic reactions.

Second, the greatest offense is deception: Starbucks advertised its Strawberry Frappuccinos and Smoothies as vegan-friendly.

In the meantime, “cochineal” (the name of the colorant extracted from beetles) and its close relative “carmine” will continue to be used as dye in pies, jello, juices (cranberry and pink grapefruit), dried shrimp, pork sausage, candies, pills, jams, and the brightly colored maraschino cherries.

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At the Heart of Valentines Day

Heart Attaq painting by Jill Morton
Heart shaped Coin, Cyrene 600 BC

It’s not the color of Valentine’s Day... any color will do, as long as it’s a heart. As the celebration of love approaches, consider the origins of the symbol of love.  

The most basic geometric shapes are circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles. These combine to create hexagons, polygons, diamonds, and other classic forms. As cultures and religions evolved, new shapes emerged: crescent moons, yin yang, crosses, teardrops, and hearts – for example. Some are easy analyze; others, like the heart, not so easy.

The origin of the heart symbol becomes more complex because the heart is found in many different cultures: Hindu, Buddhist, Celtic, Christian, Hebrew, Muslim, Aztec, and Taoist.

When we turn to geometry, we find no logic. The heart is not a derivative shape, as would be the case with the cross.

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Is color the key to weight loss?

Color contrasts of food and plates
Color plates experiment - Servings in ounces
The worst plate colors for different kinds of food
Blue plates curb appetite
Garish color can curb appetite
Color Consultation for Marketing & Branding in the Food Industry

Can colors curb your appetite and help you lose weight? Maybe. Could the color of a plate be a key to weight loss? A recent study says, “Yes.”

New research* suggests that plate colors that contrast with food help people eat less. The study revealed that people put less food on a plate with high contrast. If this is confusing, these graphics will help define contrasts:

Red (food) on a white background (plate) is a high contrast. Red (food) on a brown background (plate) is low contrast. You’ll put less red-sauce pasta on a white plate because it looks like there is more food on the plate.

Furthermore, the colors of the tablecloth may also affect appetite. When the dinner plate contrasted with the tablecloth, the study found that people saw the plate as smaller and ate less. (In the example above, the black and white checkered tablecloth creates a high contrast with the white plate; the brown tablecloth creates a low contrast with the red plate.)

An independent study* by ABC news measured the amount of food that people put on their plates. See the comparison below:

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Addicted to Color

Addictions - Candy, Exercise, Color

“Brain scans suggest that everything from sugar to sex lights up the brain’s pleasure circuitry. ” * For some, it may be chocolate or pasta; for others it may be exercise or gambling. This can result in addiction with the same results: The body steadily ratchets up the quantity necessary to provide the same high.

What about color? Can color press the pleasure button in your brain? Can you develop a case of color addiction? Now that the brilliant colors of autumn (in the Northern Hemisphere) are almost gone, could you be entering a state of color withdrawal? If so, it’s possible that the shift from the reds, oranges, and yellows of fall to the greys and browns of early winter have you feeling gloomy. It’s worth noting that some people do begin to experience episodes of depression known as SAD  (Seasonal Affective Disorder) at this time of the year because there’s less exposure to daylight. Perhaps color also plays a similar role.

What do you think? Do colors press the pleasure button in your brain? Are you experiencing color withdrawal now the amazing colors of autumn are gone? In any case, Christmas is coming and our homes will be filled twinkling lights and much more.

* Source

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The Colors of Fright! Black, Orange, and White

The colors of fright

We can be green with envy, turn purple with rage, see red, and feel blue.  But what about fright? What’s the color of fear? And for that matter, what about the colors of Halloween?

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