What are you saying with the colours you wear? How do the colours on your walls affect you? Learn about how colours affect our moods and perceptions, our purchase decisions, and even our level of aggression. Listen as Dr. Andrea and the three experts she interviews (quilting store owner Daryl Aitken, decorator Jenn Purkis, and photographer Lori Ryerson) share their expertise and stories about colour.
SHOWNOTES – COLOUR
References & Links
- Daryl Aitken at Fabric Spark – https://fabricspark.com/
- Jenn Purkis at X&In – https://www.xandindesign.com/
- Lori Ryerson at Focalocity – https://www.focalocity.ca/
- RGB 3-D Colour Cube video: https://youtu.be/W2HHF0EiuY8
- Pantone Colour of the Year: https://store.pantone.com/uk/en/colour-of-the-year
- Chromophobia – fear of a colour: Batchelor, David, Chromophobia,Reaktion Books: London, 2000 ISBN 978-1-86189-074-0 https://www.amazon.ca/Chromophobia-David-Batchelor/dp/1861890745
- Synesthesia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia
- Consumer perceptions of colour: https://academic.oup.com/jcr/article/44/2/396/2939542
- Art-buyers’ perceptions of colour: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00181-017-1413-4
- Memory & Colour: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3743993/
- Language & colour: https://www.pnas.org/content/104/19/7780
- Meanings & perceptions of colours: https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/26/health/colourscope-benefits-of-a-colourful-life/index.html
- Black versus white – colour and aggression: Webster, G., Urland, G., & Correll, J. (2011). Can Uniform Color Color Aggression? Quasi-Experimental Evidence From Professional Ice Hockey Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3 (3), 274-281 DOI: 10.1177/1948550611418535
Talk About Talk
Transcript & Commentary
I am very excited about this episode. I’ve been planning an episode focused on colour since the inception of TalkAboutTalk. I love colour. I always have. Colour affects me. Colour TALKS to me.
For those of you who have been listening to the TAT podcast, you may be familiar with the 5 Rapid Fire Qs that I ask every guest. One of the questions is, “WHAT KIND OF LEARNER ARE YOU? How do you learn best?” Well, my answer would be that I am a VISUAL learner. Colours impact me. But whether you are a visual learner or not, you are affected by colour you’re also communicating with colour. So listen up!
As a painter I do know some about colour, but I did a lot of research too, and I’m eager to share that with you. I also interviewed 3 experts whose professions focus on colour to some extent: an interior decorator, a quilting store owner, and a professional photographer. Let me start by introducing them to you.
First, Jenn Purkis, the interior decorator.
Jenn Purkis has always loved design, texture, pattern and colour. For over ten years now, she has managed her interior decorating and staging company called X&IN. X&IN as in “exterior and interior.” Yes, she loves both and designs both interiors and exteriors. She also loves her husband and her 4 (yes 4) boys ranging in age from 4-18years. Jenn says, “the boys don’t get what I do but they love the notion that people pay mom to shop and tell them what to do with their homes.”
As you can guess, Jenn has a fantastic sense of humour. Jenn is not only funny, but she is talented – she has a great eye, as they say. She is also very skilled ay working with people. Sometimes things can get tense when major decisions are being made about people’s homes. Her design philosophy is simple, it has to be fabulous and functional. In her world, you can’t have one without the other. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter how beautiful it is. Here’s Jenn talking about her favourite colour yellow, and the extent to which aesthetics affect her.
Jenn: “I love a lot of colours that for whatever reason seem artificial to me. And loving yellow does not mean that I wear it. We’re not talking about fashion. And it doesn’t mean that I just decorate with it. It doesn’t mean that it’s in my home. It just it speaks to me. And that goes back to when I say how highly affected I am by my surroundings. My husband jokes. He says, “you’re a slave to your surroundings.” I’m happier in a restaurant that’s nicely decorated, appointed. The food might not even be as good as elsewhere…”
Next, Daryl Aitken.
I met Daryl years ago when I was a marketer at Kraft and she was an EVP and Managing Director at BBDO, the advertising agency. I always admired Daryl. She was so smart andprofessional. What a pleasure it is to talk to her now, years later. Daryl went from BBDO to Dashboard, where she was president and partner. All along she has also served on several boards. In 2013, Daryl started Fabric Spark, a quilting store.
She says that Fabric Spark is a passion project and a reflection of her commitment to do something creative every day. She has been sewing all her life and she loves colour and design, so she was happy to turn that obsession into a business. Fabric is her creative spark, her muse. She says she started Fabric Spark for two reasons. The first is it’s a great excuse to buy a lot of fabric. The second reason is that she loves the opportunity to help other people make things. Here’s Daryl talking about colour trends – grey and brown:
“I was gonna say: I can’t keep grey in stock. I have tons of grey and I just sold the end of a bolt. That was one of the first things I bought when I started Fabric Spark. Like imagine having a bolt for five years, and I couldn’t get rid of it. I just love this print so much. I thought it was so beautiful and apparently it reminded me of a shirt that I had when I was really little.
It was very mid-century, which I am. So it was, it was it looked a little bit Frank Lloyd Wright. It was just beautiful. Anyway, because it had this beautiful coffee colour of brown. It was gorgeous. But, you know, if you’re into modern culture, which is my customer, you would never put brown in the quilt. And that’s because there’s a whole world of people who make brown quilts and that’s really all they do.”
Now Lori Ryerson.
As a child, Lori was a musician and performer. She told me that her goal was to travel the world as a performer. Alas, she settled for a career in PR and communications. Oh – and she was a trapeze artist along the way. (YES, I said trapeze artist – as in the circus.) Lori is now a fulltime professional photographer. Her firm is called Focalocity. She is phenomenally talented, very bright – and by bright I’m referencing both her IQ and her attire. She wears bright coloured eye glasses and clothing. Here’s Lori:
“Referencing back to my rainbow eyewear, anyone who knows me knows that colour is what I am. I’m a larger than life person. I’m like to live large. I’m driven in life. I’m loud. I wear a lot of colourful clothing. Because when you’re this close to the ground, people have to be able to find you out…
What are you going to go say to somebody? Oh, look for the woman who’s wearing black. I don’t think so. So my way of standing out in a crowd of a black is to always be in colour. As a photographer. I love colour as part of my medium. But as I’ve gotten further and further down the photographic journey, the issue of black and white as a creative tool has become a little more familiar to me.”
Amazing women. All three of them with careers that focus on colour, amongst other things…. You will hear Jenn’s and Lori’s and Daryl’s comments interspersed throughout the episode.
THE SCIENCE OF COLOUR & COLOUR THEORY
The science of colour is sometimes called chromatics, colourimetry, or simply colour science. It includes the study of the perception of colour by the human eye and brain, the origin of colour in materials and colour theory in art.
Given our focus at Talk About Talk on COMMUNICATION, I’m going to stick with some basic colour theory as well as colour perceptions – how colour affects us, and what we perceive based on colour.
is the characteristic of human visual perception described through colour categories, like red orange yellow green blue purple.
Hopefully that sounds familiar. The colours of the rainbow. You might be familiar with the colour wheel? There are 3 primary colours. The ones you can’t mix as a painter. Red, yellow and blue. The secondary colours are the ones between the primaries: orange, green and purple. So red + yellow = orange. Yellow + blue = green. And red + blue = purple.
You have probably seen the 4-dimension CMYK colour model, which refers to the four inks used in some colour printing. I know this from the toner cartridges that I’m constantly replacing in my printer. You have probably seen some technical looking test-colours printed on the bottom of some tetra packs and cereal boxes? Those are the CMYK dimensions: C is Cyan, M is Magenta, Y is Yellow, and K is Key, or BLACK. So the CMYK colour model has 4 colours.
RGB Colour Space
The RGB colour space corresponds to three bands of light: Red, Green, Blue. When I read about this RGB colour space, I was confused. How is it that colours can be created by some combination of RGB, two primary colours and one secondary colour – green?
I found a description and visual that answered this Q for me. Imagine a 3-d cube. So you have three dimensions or axes – vertical, horizontal and depth. Now imagine that the three RGB colours, RED, GREEN & BLUE are on each axis, from low to high intensity. All of the colours of the rainbow then, can be found in this 3-d space. And yellow is the corner where green and red are high, and blue is low intensity. Here is a link to a video so you can visually see this.
HOW PEOPLE PERCEIVE COLOURS
Yes, people can and do see colours differently, and different species see colours differently too.
Have you ever wondered what’s going on with Bulls seeing red? Well, I looked it up. It turns out that bulls, all cattle actually, are colour blind to red. Apparently it’s just the waving of the flag that infuriates them. Not the colour of the flag. Huh. Good to know.
So species, and even individuals within a species, can see colours differently. There are also differences in individuals preferences for various colours. I found a lot of evidence that BLUE is the most popular colour. More people prefer blue than any other colour. It’s not clear why. Maybe because it reminds them of the sky. Or water. Or maybe because it makes them feel calm.
But not everyone’s favorite colour is blue. I find it fascinating how people’s colour preferences are affected by trends. Suddenly, everyone is in love with greys, and half the country has Benjamin Moore Owl Gray on the walls of their home. What is up with that?
The major paint companies have a colour of the year. Pantone has a colour of the year. In 2017 it was “Greenery” – a very basic green. In 2018 it was “Ultra Violet” – a dark, bold purple. This year, in 2019, it’s “Living Coral.”  (That’s the colour of my grade 9 grad dress, by the way. Very trendy.)
I asked each of my guests what they think about colour trends. Because colour trends must affect their businesses, right?
“There are definitely colour trends and I’m living it! You know, I couldn’t sell brown for five years and now we’re starting to see lots of taupes and browns and beige. And everything’s moved from silver to gold. I think you see it in the fabric space, maybe not quite as quickly as we see it in fashion. But probably faster than you see it in home décor…
One of the biggest producers Robert Kaufman, big big fabric manufacturer. They’ll take the Pantone colour the year and make it into a fabric. That phenomenon definitely happens. I’d say year and a half ago everything was green. You couldn’t buy green for love or money before that. And then I went to market and every booth had green in it… I think it is a good thing for our business because it creates news, so there’s always newness.”
“Colour trends. I think it gives people something to hang their hat on. I think it’s what we said earlier, a few minutes ago. People are afraid of colour. So if they say that “purple is this year’s colour” … And it was this year in 2018. Pantone’s colour was purple. … a lot of the paint companies have a “colour of the year” and there’s the Pantone folks, and there are other institutes. Purple was the colour. So if they say that, then it’s okay to use purple. Then you can hang your hat on that.”
“ I will say that I am someone that reads the trends for colour every year. Because I love that. I think we get very complacent, especially in homes as opposed to fashion. Because to do that big change in a home, it’s definitely much more of an investment than you deciding, “I’m going to interject maroon into my wardrobe this year.” That’s a lot lesser of a commitment.
So I really think because we get complacent with colour because of the work it takes to bring it in to our wardrobe or our home or wherever. I love that when I read about that trend, it might be pulling a colour that I’ve forgot about. Back out of the woodwork. And because I love colour so much. I’m like I want to hear about that teal is back or that green is back. I haven’t used it in years and then all of a sudden it feels very, very fresh.
So there are a lot of colour choices out there. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be colour blind. Maybe I AM colour blind, but I just don’t know it!
- According to the research I found that about 8% of people suffer some kind of colour blindness. That means 92% of us can see all of the colours of the rainbow.
- There is red-green colour blindness, there is Blue-yellow colour blindness. And yes, there is even total colour blindness, which is defined as the inability to see colour.
An aside. Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite colour is turquoise. I wear a lot of turquoise. My powder room in my house is a dramatic dark turquoise or teal colour. I LOVE turquoise. Yes, it’s no accident that the TalkAboutTalk logo has turquoise in it. OK – I am getting personal here, but I want an answer to this. When I was pregnant, I felt sick, very nauseous, whenever I looked at the colour turquoise – previously my favorite colour.
After a few weeks of feeling nauseous just looking at the colour, I actually packed all of my turquoise clothing away. Somehow I KNEW it was temporary. WEIRD, right? I looked for an explanation for this online, but I found NOTHING. I would love it is you could help me figure this out.
People can have a fear of a certain colour.
Chromophobia, or chromatophobia, refers to an irrational fear of, or aversion to, certain colours. It is extremely rare, and as you might guess, it is usually caused by an extremely negative past experience related to that colour. Erythrophobia is the fear of red, which may be related to a fear of blood. Xanthophobia is the fear of yellow and leukophobia is the fear of white.
Synesthesia is the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body. These sense impressions could be related to music, to letters, to numbers or to colours, for example. So for some people who have synesthesia, they see certain letters in different colours. So what would look like black type on a white page to you and me, would look like multiple colours on a page to someone with synesthesia. Or they may see colours when they hear certain music. Absolutely fascinating.
Colour is the most general term. You can’t go wrong labelling something a COLOUR.
Hue refers to a Dominant colour family (these are the 6 primary and secondary colours – ROYGBP). There are warm versions and cold versions of each of these hues. Warm means adding reds & oranges, whereas Cool means adding blues. So all of the hues (or dominant colour families) can be warm or cold. Listen to Darryl, the owner of Fabric Spark when I asked her “what is your favorite colour?”
“That’s a good question. It kind of changes, but usually it’s green. A certain kind of green. Green is my least favorite colour and my favorite colour, simultaneously. I tend to like warmer greens, not blue or grains, but mainly it’s natural green. That’s my favorite colour, like New Leaf Green.”
A Tone is a hue with grey added. You add grey to a colour to decrease its intensity
Value refers to the lightness or darkness of a colour. That can be a shade or a tint.
A Shade is any hue with black added to it. That’s easy to remember. Shades and shadows are black. Listen to Jenn talk about black:
“Black is a colour that I absolutely love. It’s actually not colour. To me, it’s very stylish. So that is why I’ve always found that cars, clothing, handbags, great boots, (which is my passion we haven’t talked about). I just find it so stylish. And I always feel like you’re already two steps ahead with black ,just because it’s stylish. So if you’ve created a new a new model of a car, or whatever it is –a new boot, you’re already two steps ahead. It’s like privilege. And then it’s like privilege now because it’s easy. It’s easy. You’re already you’re already ahead by using it.”
So shades are colours with black added.
A Tint is any hue with white added to it.
- People use the term Brightness. Technically, brightness is a tinted colour (you add white to make a colour brighter)
- Saturation, or Chroma refers to the intensity of a colour, expressed as the degree to which it differs from white.
Why does this all matter? Why is Andrea boring us with this? Well, guess what? Hues and values affect you in ways that you probably aren’t aware of. Listen to Lori:
“Colour is definitely a mood changer, there’s no question. And it’s different for different shades … you have only to think of the colour blue. I think the best example of this is blue. You’re looking up in the sky. And certainly here in Toronto when we have at one of those crystal-clear blue skies, there’s a sense.
In a country where eight months of it is winter, you see one of those skies and you get super excited. Things feel like they’re lifting. But that same sky could be on its way into a storm. And now the blues are changed with the dreaded grey. Those are two shades of exactly the same colour, affected by the amount of black in that colour. Now you go from that great feeling of being uplifted to a sense of impending doom. So colour is definitely an emotional response.”
HOW COLOUR AFFECTS US
Colour saturation can affect your purchase behaviors and even how much you’re willing to spend on something. Research shows that consumer products with highly saturated colours on their packaging encourage consumers to think they are bigger and worth more. Other research shows that contrastive paintings, (that is, paintings with many different colours), are priced higher than more monochromatic paintings.
OK- so we pay more for colourful artwork. What else? Well, did you know that colour affects memory? Psychologists have found a number of connections between colour and memory. People recall things more easily when they are colourful versus in black and white. So I guess there was a reason I was using different highlighters when I was studying my lecture notes. Listen to Daryl explain her personal experience when she discovered this connection between colour and memory:
“For me, my learning changed dramatically when I started studying with coloured magic markers. And I have a totally visual memory. I had a really genius grade 12 geography teacher who taught me how to make study notes in colour. He was clearly a visual guy himself, and he said, “new subject, new colour. You have to highlight things. You have to put boxes around things..” Pink, whatever… And I remember it was mind blowing.
I went from being a very average kind of mediocre student to sitting down in an exam and my mind was free because I knew my stuff. Recalling the study pages was easy. You know, I knew exactly what they look like, because of that colourful image that I ended up creating on each page. And I could I could retrieve information for the first time, because I have a terrible memory. And for me, it also I think, doing that imprinted it in a different way.”
The way we talk about colour in our native language also affects our ability to perceive and categorize colour. I know that people’s perspective of colour, their ability to identify it, depends on their vocabulary. For example, in Russia, there are several labels for various types of blue. As a result, Russians can readily identify different blues that English speakers might not perceive. Fascinating, right?
It also makes sense that if you are in an environment with an abundance of a particular colour, you might also perceive more differences. Like you might notice more nuanced greens in the amazon. Or blues in the water. Or greys in Iceland in the winter. Listen to photographer Lori’s take on this:
“It’s interesting that you mentioned that because I was never a big grey person until I went to Iceland in the winter. I don’t like pastels per se either. I don’t think they’re real colours. But when I was in Iceland in the wintertime, the sunrise is a very civilized almost 10am. A photographer could get used to that. It’s not like here when the sun comes up and then suddenly you’re going from no light to seeing full light. It’s a gradual two-hour process.
In the Winter in Iceland, you go through these gradations –the subtle tone-on-tone gradations from black, to every imaginable shade of grey you have ever seen. From from the deepest of black to greys and blue greys, and then into the blues. I never liked grey until I came away from that trip. And if you look at a number of my photographs from a winter trip to Iceland, you will see a whole bunch of grey in there, but it works. It works. But it’s not beige. Beige is in a category by itself and it really should be illegal. It shouldn’t even be allowed to be called a colour. Beige is an absence of — it’s a black hole of colours.”
OK, Lori. BTW, Lori was sitting at my dining room table for that interview. And my walls on my main floor are beige !
WHAT DO COLOURS COMMUNICATE?
Well, depending on whether it’s a warm or a cool hue, and depending on the value, research shows that different colours communicate different things.
RED is: passion, excitement, appetite (so, depending on what you’re after, you may or may not want to paint your bedroom and your dining room red.)
BLUE: is the opposite. calm, sometimes sad, and trusted. Have you ever noticed how many hospital logos have blue in them? Blue is trusted.
WHITE: innocent, pure
BLACK: evil, harsh
GREEN: envy, and nature . Green also sparks creativity
PINK: calming, feminine
YELLOW: warmth and energy, as in sunshine.
Listen to Jenn talk about her favourite colour yellow, and how aware she is of what yellow communicates:
“ I’ve loved the colour yellow since I was in grade seven. I love yellow. Because it just makes me happy. It’s so basic. Yellow makes me happy… Yes. we equate it with sunshine and brightness. And smiley faces. And it feels natural. It just feels very natural and not artificial.”
So again – colour matters!
- If you want you want your dinner guests to be hungry, paint the dining room walls red. If you want to feel more calm before you go to sleep, paint your bedroom walls blue.
- These effects also work with your clothing. Think of your impression of someone – male or female – who is wearing a soft pink shirt. Then think of the energy and happiness that is implicitly communicated by someone who is wearing a bright yellow shirt.
- And apparently this even effects athletes and referees. I found some research that demonstrates that NHL players who are wearing white jerseys have far fewer penalty minutes. Crazy right? It could be that the colour is affecting the athletes themselves. Or it could be that it is affecting the interpretation of the referees. Either way, this research shows that black jerseys are associated with more aggression and white jerseys are associated with less aggression.
So what’s the upshot of all this? Well, colour talks. It affects us. So you can use colour – be it your home décor or the shirt you are wearing – to affect yourself and to affect others.
You should also try to be aware of how colour might be affecting you personally with your purchase decisions or when you are meeting someone and forming an impression.
I want to thank my three guest experts this week, Lori Ryerson the professional photographer at Focalocity, Daryl Aitken the owner of Fabric Spark quilting store, and Jenn Purkis, the decorator at X & IN design. You can see all of their beautiful work if you click on the links to them and their work. AND, I want to let you know that we are also working on a separate podcast with these guest experts, this time focused on communicating by expressing our creativity. Stay tuned for that podcast coming soon.
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 Webster, G., Urland, G., & Correll, J. (2011). Can Uniform Color Color Aggression? Quasi-Experimental Evidence From Professional Ice Hockey Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3 (3), 274-281 DOI: 10.1177/1948550611418535