All the Ways Color Invades Us

Jude Stewart is a journalist and writer, specializing in style, color and visual culture. She resides in Chicago, Illinois, and her first book, ROY G. BIV: An Exceedingly Unusual Book About Color will be published September 17, 2013.

Just how do the colours in a room behave upon us mentally? It’s a riddle whose answer variously is dependent upon the expert you ask, from cognitive psychologists to cultural anthropologists (and, clearly, color consultants).

For a writer about culture, my strategy to color starts with a query that my readers — graphic designers — confront with each new project: As nobody is devising new colours, how to reach into the exact same finite universe of colors and create a brand new, dynamite color palette? Can you truly see color afresh?

Hopkins Designs

“The eye must travel,” says fashion icon Diana Vreeland (incidentally giving the title to the documentary about her life). Whether in clothes, logos or interior design, color strings along the magical thread that pulls the eye, tugs on your feelings and catalyzes ideas, actions and mental conditions. But how on earth does color do that?

Tackling that question needs a little willful estrangement. I love this quote about color from Stephen Drucker(pictured here in a case by Oliver Munday) His purpose: Reawakening the eye to color original requires reawakening the mind.

Elad Gonen

Red and blue

Let’s start with an age-old color pairing, red versus blue, and such colours’ possible atmospheric consequences in a home office. Cognitive psychologists believe red rooms make individuals working in them accurate and attentive, while blue rooms turn their populations more visually loose — so claims a 2009 research from the journal Science, not for the very first time.

Red and blue throw their opposing charms in different contexts, too. The same New York Times post uttered the Science study points out earlier studies in which Olympic teams wearing red uniforms like a mathematically significant advantage over those clad in blue. Red answer-booklet covers on IQ tests can make us antsy enough to haul our scores down.

Susan Diana Harris Interior Design

The takeaway for interior designers: Try playing angles at the same time, as in this Mountain View, California, home workplace. With contrasting blue-ish and crimson walls, occupants can swivel from a laser-focused mindset at work (red) to sweat it outside after-hours on the treadmill, letting the creativity romp while glancing at blue walls.

WA Design Architects

Colors for rest

What bedroom color promotes restfulness? A Travelodge survey of 2,000 U.K. homes looked into how the color of bedrooms impacts quality and duration of sleep. Blue was the obvious winner: blue-drenched sleepers clock at an average of seven hours and 52 minutes of every shut-eye.

Those tired denizens of purple bedrooms owe that the bruise-colored circles under their eyes for their wall color: purple allegedly affords sleepers a measly five hours and 56 minutes of sleep every night. The lesson for interior design buffs seems obvious: if your heart beats faster at the idea of violet, keep those sleep-estranging dabs of purple concentrated into accent pieces, not wrapping entire walls.

Shirley Meisels

Pink power

Can the color pink actually weaken us? I love the story of Baker-Miller Pink — colloquially called”Drunk Tank Pink” — because it is one of those pseudo-scientific”truth” about color by which demonstrating its validity feels beside the point; the most fascinating part lies in our all-too-human enthusiasm to spin plausible stories round the idea.

Lately I interviewed Adam Alter, author of Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unusual Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel and Behave. He summarizes the color’s irresistible reputation . Shift’s book’s title stems from a 1979 psychiatric analysis in which 150 young men gazed in a card colored either blue or pink, then shot a power test. These outcomes were compared with a baseline power evaluation they had taken without colored cards. The blue-gazing group allegedly amplified their potency, while the pink-starers seemed weakened just by looking at pink.

Pink’s tranquilizing effect gained currency among psychologists at the ensuing decade, inspiring two corrections officers, Gene Baker and Ron Miller, to paint holding cells in their various facilities a bubble-gum colour.

When both reported that a calming impact on rowdy inmates, Baker-Miller Pink, aka Drunk Tank Pink, turned into a prison sector brainwave. If Drunk Tank Pink mollified people who needed subduing, it electrified people who wielded the color’s supposed power: charity employees wore pink and reported increased contributions as a result, while soccer coaches in Iowa and Texas painted the competition’s locker room pink, ideally debilitating the enemy group.

Lullaby Baby Concierge

There are frequently contradictory or unexpected stories lurking within the colours we believe we know so well. Pink is an excellent case in point.

As I’ll explain in another role in this two-part show, pink firm association with girls is actually a recent phenomenon, a deeply ironic one in reality. (It’s also probably a self-fulfilling impact at play in Drunk Tank Pink’s story.) In reality, history claims against the rigorous blue-pink rule, and pink has a decidedly butch side.

More: Why the Color Camps Are So Opinionated

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