Have you changed clothes more than once in the morning because you're looking for the color that harmonizes with your mood or complexion on a given day? Have you ever felt revulsed by or attracted to a color? If so, you're closely attuned to the physiological effect color has on all of us often in our subconscious. We relate to color based on our culture, language and vision but we feel the strongest response to colors in combination. Feeling down? Shake up some reds or oranges. Feeling anxious? Paint your life blue or violet. By understanding and harnessing colors we can improve our personal well being and the spaces in our public lives.
Marketing firms understand color effects and the color of packaging from detergent to intimates is usually well researched. The image below, courtesy of Huffington Post, illustrates how companies select color to attract target markets or to express corporate philosophy. With awareness we can utilize color in a similar way to improve the energy or mood in our apartment or home and offer warmth and comfort to places of caring such as hospitals, mental health clinics, and assisted living or retirement buildings. Purple, for instance, suits Hallmark and Yahoo! but, as a color that generally stirs creativity, this also pairs with the energy wanted in a home office or assisted living activities room. Add a few plants for a double energetic color boost!
Ancient cultures also knew about color effects and used color as a therapy modality. Now modern healthcare organizations are beginning to understand color's emotional value and potential role in healing...or harming. Maybe you saw the newstand stories about blue wavelength and its impact on sleep? As blue light emits from computer screens, televisions, and cell phones it can inhibit melatonin and create sleeplessness conversely blocking blue light can improve sleep. This is just one example of the influence color silently, passively exerts on our physiology and daily life. "Color is literally the 'wavelength' medicine of the future," wrote Sara Marberry, a healthcare designer and speaker quoted in Functional Color and Design in Healthcare. Will it become more common to use pinks to elicit public compassion? Could we use violet to promote more introspection and meditation? See a full chart of the color relations emanating from the modern design palette and imagine the possibilities!
Color is almost always seen in combination with other colors even when that combination is unintentional. We see color in contrast and color in backgrounds. Its associative context causes us to perceive it in relation to its surroundings. Green, for instance, reminds us of nature because almost any color we see outdoors is in combination with green trees, green grass, or green plants surrounding it and reinforcing the association: green=nature. Miss the mountains? Long for country living? Combine greens with earth tones to bring yourself closer to nature in your office or home. Add a waterfall or stones for added natural refreshment.
The way we see color is complex. Color perception depends on our culture and language. Color's association with cultural norms and experiences is a familiar challenge for global businesses. In Western culture, for instance, black is associated with darkness or death yet Egyptians connect it with rebirth. The color white in Western culture stands for purity but, to the English, white is associated with death. Language influences color perception as well. Initial findings about language and color are portrayed in this interesting BBC Horizon video. The compelling theory later attracted interest from Wired magazine and appeared as a two part series "The crayola-fictation of the world: how we gave colors names and it messed with our brains". Color affects us at a deep level. We teach color to our children as part of their first language acquisition and it may be almost as fundamental to us as the language we speak. Bring the spectrum of color into your life to awaken energies, stir moods and satisfy needs.
Update September 2016 This article in Forbes online discusses how colors can help with jetlag.