Fábula de Colores

La Fábula de Los Colores


Originally published on Medium on 20 July, 2018.

Every culture has a different understanding and signifiers for colours, the spectrum of colours increase with the evolution of the culture itself.

As the instance of “pume orenge” in a 13th-century Anglo-Norman manuscript indicates, orange was in fact first used as an adjective. Yet, the Persian word from which “orange” is derived did not refer to the colour of the fruit, but to the bitterness of its skin. Orange as a colour adjective dates from the early 16th century; therefore we can say that the orange is called orange because it is orange, as well as orange is orange because of the orange.

~ Wilfried Heinz, Tübingen, Germany

Our understanding of colour has a strong relationship with our culture and our surrounding. Culturally I might be acquainted with colours differently and interpret them differently, as stated in the earlier quote we all will. Then again, my knowledge of the colours, that I interact with on a regular basis, will differ from those who live around me.

I’ve been over analysing my interaction with colour in more than one way, and the overly cynical one is available on Medium where even Darwin makes a cameo. It’s been going on for a couple of years now. In 2015, I noticed that my house seems to have more warm and bright colours than my wardrobe and somehow I never noticed it in the past. This observation lead to a passion project where I started documenting the colours around me, and the project was about creating a new colour palette for 100 days. Soon, there was a name for the project. Palettory. Few days were better than others, but once serendipity led to another.

This passion project made me realise that I’d often miss out details in my surrounding, only because I’m so accustomed to my living space, route, and destinations that I never felt the need to observe more than what I’d already seen. Something that happens with most of us, where we take the same route, go to the same places, and come back to the same bed. The motivation to keep going with this project, when I was tired of clicking thousands of images, was the realisation that I’d been flexing my eyes to scratch out more details in the same environment, which as a result helped me heighten my observation skills.

When we were asked to document our journey and field visit in Mexico, I was sure that colour is one of the mediums I want to explore during this time and started a blog for the same. It was called La Fabula de Color. I changed the rules a little bit this time. Instead of 5, I was picking up 7 colours and was attaching a Spanish and English title to each palette, but essentially they were still curated from the images that I clicked during my visit. Since these rules were self imposed, I decided to give myself freedom with the post frequency. I decided not to post one palette a day, which resulted in 6 posts in one day and none for 3. During my first visit, I walked around every neighbourhood I was in to discover more and collect images for my colour palettes. The houses in Condesa seemed to be welcoming with their fresh colours and vintage architecture interspersed together, but when I visited Centro I realised that the beautiful Art Nouveau buildings used an accent to highlight their architectural delights. On the other hand, every building I saw in Chapultepec was like a replica of Beverly Hills’ architecture. This often doesn’t strike while walking around the neighbourhood, but it’s the difference between these visual choices that define the structural dynamics between them.

Apart from the fact that these images and colours excite me as a graphic designer, it’s also been an interesting tool as a researcher. While motivating myself to look for patterns and details I capture more elements from the site, which serve as a repository as well. The first trip gave me a range of colour palettes, imagery, and stories to work on. And currently I’m working on the images from the second trip to gather more signs and put up more colours waiting to be deciphered.