04 March 2009

Color and Mood, Part 1: What Color Goes With What Mood?

1962.Color, to express an obvious point, is a subjective thing.

Our responses to color are conditioned by context, present mood, expectiations, and culture. What color connotes in one culture is different than what another says about it. For instance, in Western Culture, the color white can be thought to connote purity and "good" and might therefore induce a cheerful, sympathetic response in the viewer.

On the other hand, in Chinese culture, white is the color of death and funerals, and use of white as a design element will probably send the wrong message.

By way of anecdote, colors such as red and orange seem to sharpen the appetite. You find them used widely in steakhouses and Italian restaurants–it's not by accident, perhaps that the stereotypical checked tablecloth in Italian restaurants have a great deal of red on them.

A personal story might also illustrate. I adore pork chops, and some time ago, my wife cooked a singularly spectacular meal centered on chops. She loves to experiment, so she used some fruit juice to cook the chops in. The resulting color–a deep, rich, reddish-brown that diffused upward through the meat–rang so many appetite bells that I still remember the sensousness of eating this perfectly-otherwise-ordinary pork chop even today.

Color has power, and our reactions can be–well, colored–by the hues we use.

What colors are best for what uses? People like the good folk at Pantone have been researching this for years and can give you answers. With this post, I'm embarking on a personal research program in pursuit of updating a logo for a client (whose responsible in a large way for getting me back on my computing legs).

I don't know if that's what he meant to do, but it's a scary thing and an exciting thing. Color is ephemeral and subjective, and seems notoriously difficult to quantify. In the process, I'll be rooting out and finding every study I can. At the end, I don't think I'll have a definitive statement on color, but I expect I will have had a very wide adventure.

I'd like to call it a series of white papers, but that seems unfair somehow.

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Snowbrush said...

I didn't know about the Chinese and white. As you mentioned, white stands for purity here, On the far end of that, it also implies sterility and even the absence of passion which is why it is associated with hospitals. Since hospitals are often the next step to the funeral home, maybe we aren't totally removed from the Chinese.


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