Colour This and That

Colour this and that


Originally published on Medium on 14 June, 2017.

We begin at the beginning, at the point of origin. As further as we can. Somewhere at the dim and shadowy eyesight of the apes and then move towards to dichromatic vision, and a little further to four classes of opsin genes which gave homo sapiens the ability to view the whole colour spectrum of visible light. In the sixth chapter of origin of species, Darwin called eyes the organs of perfection. He freely confessed that the nature and function of eyes being formed by natural selection is absurd in the highest degree. Where often the same gets interpreted as eyes being so complex that the eyes being evolved is absurd. The fascinating piece of information is how eyes have evolved for every single specie in the most intriguing manner. The form and colour we perceive in daily life are a result of growth over millennia. And yes, women do perceive colours differently than men.

Colour, Eye, and Gender

Our perceptions of men, women, gender roles, and behaviour can be traced way back to evolution. No kidding. Imagine hunter-gatherers. What I find intriguing is how we morphed into our daily life, and physically evolved to suit those roles. The eye, is definitely one of the most beautifully evolved organs. Look close enough and you’ll see how they behave differently for each species and gender. You know, the rods, the cones, daily life and survival tactics. The age old story, literally. The wider range of colours that females perceive can be credited to their need for an immaculate close range vision, required for foraging and gathering. Whereas males, as hunters, dealt with wide range vision for prey and predators. Several facts and factoids online, take the woman’s side in the colour battle. Them studies, right? There’ve been hundreds of studies, and decades of research on not just the eye, but colour and perception. Periwinkle blue, we’re looking at you. We’ve accepted, and often mocked, the fact that women have a broader vocabulary of colours. Looks like they do have the upper hand here. Maybe hand over those living room swatches now?

Now we get to women graphic designers. They see more, they define more, and they might obsess more. In fact, at Trip In we have one such sample. Yours truly, known to be nuts. Exhibit A. There there. Don’t walk away yet. The point is that, while men may see form better, women have a biological edge over a wider gamut of colours. All the men out there, don’t be too disheartened. This won’t turn into a debate, we’ll stick to discussing colour henceforth.

Colour, Mind, and Poetry

Josef Albers said, if one says ‘red’ — the name of colour — and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. Each one quite different.

The sweetness of a rose seems like a surety, but never the redness of its petals. Our eyes limit our range, but our minds emote in various ways for different colours. colour perception was never limited to the hue because it is not a plane, and not even a coin with two sides. It’s a crystallized gem, with multiple facets and connotations. Biology being one. Cultural another. But personal experiences always shine the brightest. The olive green that makes me feel calm, makes my best friend barf, and brings out respect in my colleague. Ranging from our memories to aestheticism, each facet creates a different dimension for the same hue.

These judgments are not limited to exciting word association tasks, but take charge of our consumer decisions as well. We’re heavily sedated with these reactions, and 93% of our product purchase decisions are influenced by just the colour. And 87.4% of us even buy products for their colour properties. Colour associations get under the skin in ways we can’t decipher, and interpretations grow over time. Every element turns into facets and talks about our experiences and stories. Instead of diving into statistics. To get a deeper understanding, let’s look at poetry.

My veins bleed of Crimson defeat-
The way they flow with such ease and comfort
brings me to my remorseful knees…
I sleep with Ruby dreams and hope with
Magenta skies and no matter the
season or reason I am forever caught in
Scarlet secrets.

Let’s do this. Did you think of blood while reading the first line, or just right now? And which colour was the sky? Didn’t the blood seem a darker shade, and your blue sky appeared with a tint of red. If we focus on the sky to break it down further, we can agree on the fact that we’ve never seen a Magenta sky but our associations depict an image of a mauve and purple or light pink sky. The poet creates here has created an experience for the reader based on their participation. Where colour is just a cue. And that’s how colour behaves in our everyday scenario. It gets limited to the adjective in grammar, but bends our minds and judgements.

Colour, Design, and You

We have been talking about the mind, the body, and now it’s time to step behind the scenes — cultural influences, our environment, and forecasts. As a consumer I might not understand the products I put in my cart, but as a designer it is my job to understand the emotional implication and indication of colour on the screen. A considerable part of user experience is about understanding the information, and triggering the needed emotion and impact. It is a beautiful play of form, colour, and typography. colour in itself bridges communication and interaction. For better or for worse, designers decide on colours and textures to influence those emotions. That being said, not every designer will be as obsessive, but they’ll have their own vices.

Including Trip In, there are several online and on-stand brands using the colour red. Seeing red in the store and magazine shelves have their own meanings, and the same hue on the screen has a different impact. You’ll find each domain to be filled by similar colours and triggers might be same, but the meaning for each swatch and hex can be different. Starting from Pinterest, Netflix, Trip In, Snapdeal, to Black Buck. Apart from the fact that they serve different markets, they also evoke different feelings through different shades of red. The deep resting maroon of Pinterest, Netflix’s fiery red, to Black Buck’s Mango Red prompt a different feeling. The freshness in Snapdeal’s palette talks about the change it went through, and depict how recent the change was. What you feel, is what you were supposed to feel. Designers around the world are taught to treat colour as another information medium. Colour not as an embellishment, but as a catalyst.

The colour we’ve been working with is a play of orange and red. Orange enough to spark energy and red enough to characterise warmth, but the colour is defined more as red than orange.The challenge here was to create a new feeling for the colour red, in a domain where the significance of the same stood for alarm and warning. Red in itself is a complicated colour, where it is one of the most identified colours across cultures it can range from orange to pink. The spectrum of red has a wide range, and is often debatable. Red can excite you, calm you down, and also refresh your day. Culturally red is one of the most powerful colours in India and it celebrates power, purity, love, and beauty. Whereas in South Africa it’s the colour of mourning. When it comes to information design, we need to evaluate these factors and significance across countries. It comes down to the designers and art directors to work through these faded lines. Starting from colour interaction, reception, to culture, we need to understand the varied facets to spark the same emotion to the mass.

Enough said and sparked.