The power of color is inescapable. Color affects your behavior, moods, and thoughts. Your reactions to colors are often deeply personal and rooted in your own experiences. A certain color has the ability to soothe your frazzled nerves, agitate a hostile adversary, motivate and empower you to take action, and also to bring healing energy when you need it. As Wassily Kandinsky proclaimed, “Color provokes a psychic vibration. Color hides a power still unknown but real, which acts on every part of the human body.”
For this article, which I wrote in 2015, I spent hundreds of exhilarating hours doing research. It contains dozens of facts about the power of color.
Chromotherapy – Healing with Color
Several ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromotherapy — using colors to heal. Chromotherapy is sometimes referred to as light therapy or colourology and is still used today as a holistic or alternative treatment.
Using Colors to Raise Awareness
Color is a powerful tool used by organizations for campaign messages. In the month of June, 2015, the Alzheimer’s Association launched a campaign asking us to wear and display the color purple to bring attention to Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month. We also think of purple in association with the Purple Heart which is awarded to American soldiers wounded or killed in war. Pink is the color associated with Breast Cancer Awareness, while white signifies Domestic Violence. Red is the chosen color to raise awareness about Heart Disease, and the color yellow stands for Americans supporting our troops.
Color in Design
In the design world, we can observe how marketing and branding experts spend vast amounts of money and time in using color psychology to influence your emotions and perceptions of their products and services. The color blue is used by services to evoke our trust while the color green is abundant in natural, eco-friendly, organic products. Website designers make use of the laws of color combinations when creating websites for their clients.
When selecting art for hospitals any works that have a predominance of the color red are avoided because of its association with blood. Not surprisingly, the color red and dark dismal colors, especially black, are avoided in psychiatric units.
The History of Color Theory
In 1666, English scientist Sir Isaac Newton — the one who formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation and many other things — built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a theory of color based on the observation that when pure white light passes through a prism, it separates into all of the visible colors. He also discovered that each color is made up of a single wavelength and cannot be separated any further into other colors.
The chemist M.E. Chevreul (1789-1889) changed the entire course of modern art with his insightful theories concerning colors psychology, perception and color harmony. The effort to devise a scientific approach to color usage was foremost in the minds of eminent physicists and chemists in the nineteenth century.
Chevreul’s book, called The Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colors and Their Applications to the Arts, reported his extensive observations of the optical effects of colors. He developed a series of guidelines for colors psychology that could be adapted to artistic endeavors. One of his laws affirmed that when opposite colors are placed together, red and warm colors are seen a split second before green and cool colors. This causes a vibration to take place in the perception of the viewer. We know that the Impressionists used this law to produce naturalistic shimmer and movement.
Little Known Facts About Color
It has been said that Leonardo da Vinci preferred to meditate in a lavender or purple-colored light.
Some 75 percent of small children choose purple over other colors.
Depending on our cultural background the significance of colors may vary significantly. While the color white is used in many Western countries to represent purity and innocence, it is seen as a symbol of mourning in many Eastern countries.
In the 1980’s, scientists found that painting jail cells with a Pepto-Bismol-like hue calmed aggressive inmates. The shade became known as “Drunk Tank Pink.”
How Colors Affect Us
Yellow: Optimistic and youthful. This color attracts the attention of window shoppers.
Red: Energetic. It increases heart rate and creates a sense of emergency.
Blue: Trustworthy and sense of security. You see it associated with banks and many businesses.
Green: Wealthand calmness. (think green grass). This is the easiest color for the eyes to process.
Orange: Appetite stimulant and creativity booster. It can also be aggressive and is used as a call to action — to subscribe, buy or sell.
Black: Powerful and glamorous (think “Black-tie” gala). It is used in luxury product marketing.
Pink: Romantic and feminine. It is used for product marketing to women and girls and symbol of Breast Cancer Awareness.
Purple: Soothing and calm. This color is found in merchandising many beauty products.
Quotes About Color
Georgia O’Keeffe revealed, “I found I could say things with colors that I could not say in any other way, things for which I had no words.”
Marc Chagall’s stated, “All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites”. In other words, “Friends” are the analogous colors — those that are side by side on a 12-part color wheel. The “lovers” Chagall refers to are complementary colors — those hues that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel.
Picasso said, “Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.”
Colors offer an array of powerful and exciting options. Enjoy experimenting with new colors and combinations, whether you are decorating your home or office, creating art work for sale, or designing your website, services and products.
An Increase in Births Affects Color Choices
In the past few years there has been an increase of births, motivating hospitals to expand or renovate. Also, healthcare facilities are building specific suites and departments for birthing centers and infant care. In order to promote a sense of calm for the patient, labor and delivery suites are taking a cue from a Caribbean palette. Utilizing certain colors provides patients with a spa-like environment. These tranquil tones are reminiscent of a beach vacation.
Color and how it functions is integral in the learning and development of the child’s perception of their world. Newborns to four month old infants can see high contrasting materials about 8-12” away from them. Placing a bold high contrast accent wall helps them focus on the object in front of them. Good color vision occurs around five months of age. Color has the ability to act as a positive distraction during a diaper change. Pediatricians are wise to choose calming colors in their examination rooms where they administer vaccinations.