One of the most important communication tools easily picked out by the human eye is color. The Optical Society of America classifies a range of between 7.5 and 10 million hues, which the normal human eye can theoretically distinguish (Eco, 1985). At the same time, the Dictionary of Color (Maerz & Paul, 1953) lists just over 3000 English color names. Gage (1995) suggested that as a result of our inability to call so many colors by name, the modern color systems have resorted to numbers in order to distinguish perceptible differences of hues and values. For many color is a way to express feelings, for others it affects how they feel, and yet for some others the notion of color is so intertwined with culture and religion that color itself takes on profound meaning. According to Nassau (1998):
The term ‘color’ describes at least three subtly different aspects of reality. First, it denotes a property of an object, as in “green grass” . Second, it refers to a characteristic of light rays, as in “grass efficiently reflects green light ... while absorbing light of other colors more or less completely”. And, third, it specifies a class of sensations, as in the brain’s interpretation of the eye’s detection of sunlight selectively reflected from grass results in the perception of green ”Some contend that the light waves themselves may interact with neural activity causing the manifestation of certain behaviors. Color is a powerful element in graphic design as it can change an observer’s mood and helps to convey messages without words. Advertisers and designers are well aware that consumers are not guided entirely by logic in making purchases, and are driven by less identifiable factors such as emotions. Graphic design, like any other form of art, reflects society and its color usage is tied to how its targeted audience interprets meaning.
The ancient Egyptians have been recorded to have been using color for cures and ailments.They worshiped the sun, knowing that without light there can be no life. They looked at nature and copied it in many aspects of their lives. The floors of their temples were often green - as the grass which then grew alongside their river, the Nile. Blue was a very important color to the Egyptians too; the color of the sky. There are lists on papyrus dating back to 1550 BC of color "cures". The Chinese also apparently practiced Color Healing. The Nei/ching, 2000 years old, records color diagnoses.
The Greeks considered color only as a science. Hippocrates, amongst others, abandoned the metaphysical side of color, concentrating only on the scientific aspect. Aristotle mixed color Some of the early studies and theories about light were done by Aristotle. He discovered that by mixing two colors, a third is produced. He did this with a yellow and blue piece of glass, which when brought together produced green. He also discovered that light travels in waves. Plato and Pythagoras also studied light.
The philosophers Goethe and Schopenhauer wrote on the subject but it is from the work of the chemist Robert Boyle that we know red, yellow and blue to be the primary colors. Earlier, Michelangelo tried to identify them, but included green in his results.
The work of Chevreul, is of particular importance as he experimented with the affects of placing different colors alongside one another. He examined the optical effect which is now used in color printing and color television. It was Chevreul whose experiments formed the scientific basis for the work of impressionist painters such as Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh.
Through Chevruel's research and our own experiences, we know that colors are not static. Colors are similar to people--their personalities change and they can be influenced by close associations. -- Joen Wolfrom in "The Magic Effects of Color."
|1905, Albert Munsell's 3-D Colour Wheel|
While attending the Boston Normal Art School in the late 19th century, Albert Munsell was keenly aware that a practical theory of color did not exist. From his own work and experiments, he developed the Munsell Color System. Using his system made it possible to discuss color scientifically. He defined color in terms of Hue, Value and Chroma. Hue was defined as the actual color, red, blue, green, etc. Value was defined as how light or dark a color is. Chroma was defined as how strong or weak a color is. He published a standard color atlas defining the Munsell Color Standard which, before his work, had been an impossible task.
His work was embraced by the scientific community. In 1914 he was invited to present his findings to the scientific communities of England, France and Germany. His theory is still taught today.
His work was embraced by the scientific community. In 1914 he was invited to present his findings to the scientific communities of England, France and Germany. His theory is still taught today.
In the 20th century the Swiss artist Johannes Itten, who worked and taught at the Bauhaus School of Art in Germany, continued Chevreul's analysis and established the rules of color theory as they are now taught in art and design schools throughout the world. Itten is attributed with being the first person to associate colors with four types of people. However, the best known of Itten's work is probably the twelve point color wheel which is in wide use today on paint charts for home decorators, in dyeing kits and in hairdressers' color charts. Itten would have approved of this development as he sought to establish an objective approach to support our intuitive sense of color. He likened his rules to those governing music, in particular, the analogy between his seven different types of color and the musicians' scales and rules of musical harmony.
Psychological Effects of Color on Viewers
Color is ubiquitously present in our visual experience of the world. It is thus not surprising that over the past century or so various scientific properties of colour have been studied intensively, yet the psychological impacts of colour have not yet fully explored (Wright, 1998), We know very little about the effect of color on moods, behaviour, and thinking (Fehrman & Fehrman, 2004; Whitfield & Wiltshire, 1990). Some authors claim that people make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products, and about 62-90 percent of the assessment is based on colors alone. Although, one may question the validity of such generalized type of claims, which are not factoring elements like income, culture, age as well as other pertinent factors, nevertheless, it is reasonable to believe that tasteful use of colors in a balanced design can be an advantage for differentiating products in the minds of certain types of consumers with finer tastes. Colour also impact moods and feelings towards certain products, you may prefer your milk in a white container, because of concerns about cleanliness and its association with health. But if you suggest to a Persian (as the above Chart suggest) that:
Yellow shines with optimism, enlightenment, and happiness. Shades of golden yellow carry the promise of a positive future. Yellow will advance from surrounding colors and instill optimism and energy, as well as spark creative thoughtsShe may look at you in total disbelief, since for more than six millennium, yellow in her culture has been a symbolical representation of weakness and malaise. In fact, at the start of every new year, Persians jump over small bonfires wishing "the vigor of your redness to me, the yellowness of my malaise to you". In France
"La rose jaune représente le mensonge, la trahison, pour se faire pardonner une infidélité"In font of traffic lights a green signal means you can go but the yellow light warns you of danger, and tells you to stop! In fact, a growing body of empirical research indicates that the diversity of cultural and personal experiences are the main determinants of attitudes and feelings towards various colours. According to these studies consumers try to improve facets of their self - image by purchasing and using commercial brands that offer them such a possibility of improvement . Furthermore, research on self - image congruence suggests :
Because negative stereotypical images appear to feed into purchase-related decision processes at early stages, due caution should be exerted in primary data collection and brand positioning. Primary data collection should capture both positive and negative brand-related meanings attributed by consumers. Because the results show that undesired congruity has an incremental explanatory effect, positive versus negative symbolic meanings are clearly not just “two sides of the same coin”. Consequently, brand positioning should define its strategy by simultaneously maximizing both the closeness to desired symbolic meanings and the distance to undesired symbolic associations (Bosnjak and Brand, 2008).Some have argued that certain colors convey the idea or feeling of luxury. However, as Cornell (2002) argues:
'Luxury is particularly slippery to define. A strong element of human involvement, very limited supply and the recognition of value by others are key components ... So between premium and luxury, in marketing terms, is a difference of degree.'In other words, it is positive symbolic meaning and the recognition of value by others that determines what is luxury or what is an undesirable product, and color may play a minor role in this framework. Moreover, as Vigneron and Johnson, (2004) argue the perception of what is and is not a luxury brand, as well as the amount of luxury contained in a brand, may be dependent on the context and the people concerned.
In fact, there are no universal link from a particular color to a specific emotional impact.
Nevertheless, Woodson, Tillman, et al. (1992) have argued that
Although color researchers have not always been able to quantify the precise effects of various colors or light levels on humans, their research and experience seem to indicate that certain colors and light conditions often elicit typical repeatable reactions”Thus, the relationship between brands and color may be related to both typical repeatable reactions and on the perceived appropriateness of the color being used for the particular brand by a culture. According to some studies it’s far more important for a brand’s colors to support the image that a designer wants to portray instead of trying to align with stereotypical color associations. Furthermore, researchers have found that predicting consumer reaction to color appropriateness in relation to the product is far more important than the individual color itself, and that there is a real connection between the use of colors and customers’ perceptions of a brand’s personality.
Color and Moods
Some empirical studies claim that shopping environments can evoke mood responses in consumers (Machleit and Eroglu, 2000) and that these moods, in turn, impact shoppers behaviours and their buying patterns (Donovan and Rossiter 1982, Darden and Babin 1994, Sherman, Mathur and Smith 1997). Studies on environmental psychology suggest that shoppers have one of two responses to an atmosphere: (i) approach, (ii) avoidance (Turley & Milliman, 2000). Approach and avoidance behaviors can create four different sets of outcomes: (1) a desire to stay or leave; (2) a desire to explore and interact or a tendency to want to leave and not explore the store; (3) a desire to communicate with others or to ignore them; and (4) feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction (Hoffman & Turley, 2002). Hoffman and Turley (2002) recognized color as one of four atmospherics of any facility. Some studies claim store-interior color influences feelings, store and merchandise image, simulated purchases, purchasing rates, time spent in the store and retail display attraction (Bellizzi, Crowley and Hasty 1983, Bellizzi and Hite 1992, Crowley 1993), it is still unclear which emotions can be evoked by colors in the store interior. Indeed, the color stimuli used in previous studies did not represent a broad-based and balanced sample of color stimuli.
Color and Performance
Many researches try to explore the impact of color on performance, attitude and productivity of workers, students or athletes. According to some psychologists, our physiological reactions to color are part of the unconscious that contains memories and ideas inherited from our ancestors over the course of evolution. in other words they are biologically inherited from the cumulative experiences of our species with our environments. Kurt Goldstein (1942) observed that patients with Parkinson’s disease and other organic diseases of the central nervous system responded in a different way when they were exposed to green or red colors. He noticed that the red color had a tendency to worsen his patients’ pathological condition and green seemed to improve it. Based on his experiments and observations with a very small sample (3-5) of these brain-damaged individuals, Goldstein attempted to develop a theory that could be applied for all people. Thus, theorized that red (and yellow) relative to green (and blue) would impair performance on activities in which exactness is required . Several researchers, however, criticized the study noting that Goldstein’s sample was too small, the color stimuli were inconsistently placed on pieces of colored paper, colored walls, or colored clothing, and the observations were never accompanied with any meaningful statistical analysis (Nakshian, 1964). Beach, Wise, and Wise (1988) noted that:
“Goldstein’s theory was based on the notion that there existed a one to one mapping between color states and emotional states, which seems to be a gross oversimplification of the complex processes linking color and behavior”Color as stimulant
In 1908, psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson discovered that mild electrical shocks could be used to motivate rats to complete a maze, but when the electrical shocks became too strong, the rats would scurry around in random directions to escape. The experiment demonstrated that increasing stress and arousal levels could help focus motivation and attention on the task at hand, but only up to a certain point, They summarized their findings in a formulation known as Yerkes-Dodson Law, which suggests that there is a relationship between performance and arousal. Increased arousal can help improve performance, but only up to a certain point. At the point when arousal becomes excessive, performance diminishes. Extending the law to the field of colors, some researchers viewed longer wavelength colors (red, orange) as arousing, whereas shorter wavelength colors (green, blue) as calming, and thus inferred that longer wavelength colors, relative to shorter wavelength colors, impair performance on complex tasks.
Soldat, Sinclair, and Mark (1997; see also Sinclair, Soldat, and Mark,1998) presented reason in tasks from the Graduate Record Examination on colored paper and observed that an upbeat red fostered heuristic processing, whereas a depressing blue fostered systematic processing. Hill and Barton(2005) on the other hand have argued that red coloration is a sexually selected, testosterone-dependent signal of male quality in a variety of animals, and in some non-human species a male's dominance can be experimentally increased by attaching artificial red stimuli. They claim that a similar effect can influence the outcome of physical contests in humans — across a range of sports, they also claim to have that wearing red is consistently associated with a higher probability of winning, and the results indicate not only that sexual selection may have influenced the evolution of human response to colors, but also that the color of sportswear needs to be taken into account to ensure a level playing field in sport.
In three studies on the effect of color of environment at four homogeneous elementary schools in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, Canada during the 1982-1983 academic school year, Wohlfarth found a significant trend in reduction of the average reported incidence of aggressive and destructive behavior in warm light yellow and a warm light blue painted classrooms. Rosenstein,' in a study of the effect of color on performance, found significant effects on mood. Fabrics in four colors, medium blue, bright red, bright yellow, and neutral (burlap), were used to line the rooms in which subjects took the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). AJI of the studied groups but one, reported themselves to be calm and in good moods while in the blue room. While in the red room, all of the groups but one, reported themselves to be in better moods than when in the yellow and neutral rooms.
Several studies have been conducted on the effects of environmental color on productivity and mood in the workplace. Kwallek and Lewis investigated the effects of bright red, bright green, and white painted walls in otherwise identical offices on production and mood of workers. Subjects in the white office made more errors on a clerical test than subjects in the red office. Kwallek and Lewis also found that the subjects working in the bright red office had significantly lower confusion-bewilderment post-test scores when compared with those working in the bright green office.
To find evidence of change in emotional states due to color, Jacobs and Blandino asked 110 men and 121 women undergraduates to evaluate their moods by completing the Profile of Mood States. The same test was given to all subjects, however, subjects were told that different tests were on different colored paper; blue, green, canary, and red, and that the study was designed to assess the consistency of forms used in psychological testing. Control forms were printed on white paper. Forms were randomly distributed to students. The results showed that the red and green colors significantly affected fatigue states, with green resulting in highest fatigue scores and red resulting in lowest fatigue scores.
As Bakker et al. (2013) argue much color research analysing the influences of colour on human beings is being conducted in an artificial setting by employing students performing artificial tasks, using different test materials and measuring different effects by using questionnaires . The results are often conflicting.
They offer the following reasons for the conflicting results.
- Laboratory situations are a reduction of the complex physical and social con- texts of real-life situations. The use of laboratory facilities is often criticized, because the effects of color are highly dependent on its context. The effects of colors are for instance dependent on physical context variables such as daylight, space dimensions and textures, and on social context variables, i.e. social interactions are different in a natural environment compared with a laboratory situation.
- Most color research is conducted with subjects who are students. Color testing with students’ results in selection bias as students are not representative for the overall population. The intrinsic motivation of students often differs from subjects in a real-life situation. For example employees are motivated by social and organizational dependencies, whereas students are more interested in having fun
- It is difficult to compare artificial tasks with real-life task performances, where social inter-dependencies and organizational responsibilities are involved.
- In the laboratory settings different colored test materials are used such as virtual coloring with screens; clothing, slides, color samples like pegs and color pictures. Materials and devices with different characteristics may influence color research results.
In 2004, Hancock and Szalma wondered how we can verify the empirical evidence (Hancock and Szalma 2004 ). Next to quantitative methods, in addition, qualitative methods have limitations due to, among other things, attitudes of the subjects. Research concerning the application of questionnaires as an appropriate means to analyze the truth indicates that questionnaire findings may have limited validity, e.g. due to a lack of interest of respondents, the fact that respondents not always tell the truth and the unwillingness of respondents to admit certain attitudes or behaviour. In summary, the main drawback of current studies on the influence of color is that most studies are conducted in an artificial setting using questionnaires as a main method to measure effects.
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