Design for Life: For the Love of Color: Explore Your Response to Colors

Free yourself from color trends, fears, myths and manipulation. Reclaim your relationship with color.

| May/June 2010

  • Colors capture our attention.

Color is like sex: powerful, magnetic, used to sell things and impossible to understand—although lots of people pretend to. We respond instantly and primally to color. It can seduce or repel us, bring us joy or sadness, relax us or drive us into a frenzy. Color strongly influences first impressions. Research by the Institute for Color Research shows that we make subconscious judgments about a person, environment or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing—and 62 to 90 percent of that assessment is based on color alone.

Color's power

Color can make bland food taste good, a healthy person feel sick or a cool room feel warmer. Colored newspaper ads generate up to 50 percent more inquiries than black-and-white ones. Brightly painted classrooms can improve learning ability. Sports teams with a black stripe on their uniforms are more likely to accrue penalties than teams wearing other colors. Yet how many of us are aware of color’s constant effects?

I love color. I swoon to forest greens, brilliant oranges and cobalt blues. I’ve run afoul of the fashion industry, and been told by spiritual teachers that I shouldn’t wear colors I adore. What’s going on in this world of color, and who decides?

Who's the expert?

Color is highly personal. It doesn’t even exist outside our minds. The colors we perceive are a function of light wavelengths that relay signals to the brain, where they’re deciphered.

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