Friday, November 27, 2009

Push the color red as far as it can go?

One of my unfulfilled dreams as a colorist has been to pack as many colors as possible into a painting that breaks the barrier of “it’s too pretty to be considered as serious art.”

When I was working on my M.F.A., the "anti-aesthetic" ruled. The art that was sanctioned by the intelligentsia was far from lovely. Matisse’s famous philosophy - that a painting should be like a comfortable armchair - was taboo. There was no going back to the luxurious color harmonies of Matisse and Monet in the French impressionist era or the lush abstractions of deKooning or Rothko in the mid-twentieth century.

Maybe it was a good thing that I turned away from painting fifteen years ago, because until a few days ago, I didn’t think it was possible to create an image on a canvas with juicy oil paints - an image with more colors that one could imagine occupying the picture plane or just one lush or screaming color in a way that it had never existed before. Finally, I didn't believe that this genre of colorful imagery could meet the high standards of the fine arts world today.

I met an artist last week whose paintings embody every goal, every dream any artist, any colorist could wish for. She is Chris Chou, a Guggenheim Fellow 2007 - and that means she is indeed taken seriously by artists and art historians internationally.

Here’s what Chris says about red “I paint the color of red. I want to push red as far as it can go.”

At this point, words fail. See what she did with red and every color of the spectrum at her website -

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Here comes trouble: Paint matching apps for the iPhone

Its' supposed to solve the dilemma of winding up with all those cans of paint in colors that are too bold, too dingy, or not quite right. Both Benjamin Moore's Ben Color Capture and Sherwin-Williams' ColorSnap applications for the iPhone work the same way: Take a picture with your iPhone, zoom in on an area of color that you want to match in paint. Click “match” and the application gives you a range of paint options just like a real paint strip from their catalogue (either Moore or Sherwin). On the plus side, it shows the color’s nearest neighbors, in both lighter and darker shades.

However, you’re still in for hours of hard work. After you buy a quart of paint (or a gallon if the color is unavailable in quart sizes) you have to try it in the room. It’s best to test the color in several areas of the room - one area in bright light and one in the shade. Look at it at night and in the daytime as well. Chances are that the color isn’t what you expected. Paint chips are very tricky, regardless of whether you selected the color in the store or with this app. So, now it’s back to the paint store with the other color options generated by the iPhone app.

It does seem to solve one problem: Color samples in the paint stores are usually affected by store lighting and always look different when they’re on a wall in your home. On the other hand, the lighting issue on the iPhone is also problematic. Too little light, and your color image ends up dull, faded, or too dark; too much, and your colors end up washed out or too pale.

Will these apps save you hours and hours of agony? Not really. They have a long way to go before they can take a very clear color-accurate picture of whatever it is that inspires you - and adjust for all the variables between a photograph and a can of paint.

It will make it easier in one way: Beginning a task is usually the biggest challenge.

I’ll make it even easier by giving my blog fans a copy of “Color Tips” - a set of pages of tips for using colors schemes and layouts for your home (from my recent publication, Color Matters for the Home). For the next two weeks, you can download it for free. Click here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Color Heaven

Three weeks ago, I presented a seminar about color in Bermuda. I’ll admit that I’m quite spoiled by living in the color paradise of Hawaii. I’m not easily swept off my feet, but the colors of Bermuda - everything from sand to architecture - were stunning and classy, at that.

Real men wear pink - pink shirts and even pink shorts. In fact the logo on the airport terminal is a pair of pink Bermuda shorts. Aside from wearing apparel, many of the beaches are pink and so are the homes and many of the commercial buildings.

Buildings are also painted shades of blue that melt into the sky; others are lemony tints or startling salmon oranges. In fact, the buildings are every color of the spectrum - and every shade of pink.

I wonder why we tend to be so color-phobic about architecture in the U.S.? Even in tropical places like Hawaii, it’s mostly a sea of grey or beige pablum. Traditionally (and historically), the closer you get to the sea, the more colorful the buildings. It’s time for a change!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monkey Butt Red?

It’s the new red … and it’s the color Toyota chose for the FT-86 sports car. Yes, it really is the red color of a Japanese monkey’s backside and if you can pronounce it, it’s “shoujyouhi” red.

Just when we’re getting used to a new genre of creative – but not always descriptive - color terms, such as "Fiji Weegee Fawn" for nail polish, "Freedom Trail" for paint, and "Peter Pan" for candles, Toyota's reference point for this new hue is beyond bizarre.

Apparently Toyota's lineup of cars has been criticized for lack of excitement. They say that this concept will put the passion back. (???) Not in my garage.

As cheeky as it may seem, I don’t think you can un-ring this bell. Any potential buyer who has seen “that red” on a monkey’s anatomy, will never invest in a sports car in this new red.

What do you think? Maybe it’s just my jet lag from a brief trip to Bermuda – the land of pink – and a place that’s truly a a color heaven. (And that's the next topic at the Color Matters blog.)


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Liar, Liar, the Color Wheel is on Fire

Does the web provide an open door for "color experts" to dish out bad advice? Maybe in the dark days before the web, the color wheel was on fire but no one could see it. Whatever the case may be - and on the heels of last week’s Benjamin Moore report - there’s a new one.

The latest bad advice is based on the assumption that the "old rules" about how to use and combine colors are out the window. Here’s the exact quote from an interior design professional:

"This marvelous freedom is facilitated by people finding out this simple color truth: ‘The more colors you have the more colors work.'"

That couldn’t be further from the truth because the biggest mistake amateurs and professionals make is using too many colors. It’s a recipe for disaster unless you’re a very gifted color designer.

As is the case with music, there are formal principles about color harmony that have evolved over thousands of years. Breaking or bending a few rules can be exciting and refreshing. However, there is always an underlying logic in all innovative work.

Aside from art and design theories, here's a basic fact about how the brain works: If there's too much visual information, if there are too many colors, the brain can't organize it all. As is the case with other sensory input such as sounds, the brain becomes overloaded and shuts down.

To encourage people to toss the whole color wheel into a design is heresy - and even more so because this can result in very costly mistakes by homeowners who are spending a lot of time and money on design projects.

For more information, see Color Logic.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Busted! What is the color of trustworthy information?

Wikipedia just announced that they will allow a color-coding for text that has been declared untrustworthy. Orange will be used to highlight unreliable text, with more reliable text given a lighter shade. Text earns "trust" over time, and moves from orange to white.

It’s unfortunate that color myths - such as those presented by Benjamin Moore recently - had not been subjected to similar evaluation. For example, their recent “Color Associations” article claimed that:

1. Yellow is the most difficult color for the eye to process and see.
(Fact: Yellow and yellow-green have the highest visibility of all the colors. Just look at caution signs, fire trucks, and emergency rescue vehicles.)

2. Yellow aids digestion and stimulates circulation.

3. Blue is also known as anti-inflammatory, and can provide relief for insomnia and headaches.

So then, if I have severe gastro-intestinal distress, should I get a dose of blue to stop the inflammation or do I choose yellow to aid digestion?

This also raises a question about how to use a color for these cures. Are you supposed to stare at a piece of colored paper, drink a glass of colored liquid, bathe in colored light, or rush out and buy a gallon of paint for the walls? By the way, will a pastel version of the color work as fast as a deep dark shade?

Fortunately, Benjamin Moore decided to remove and review this article after reading Kelly Berg’s blog post, "Benjamin Moore, We Expect More from You." Cheers, Kelly!

Aside from this incident, we are unfortunately subjected to unreliable information from people who stand to make a lot of money from posing as professionals. As Kelly states, “We are not doctors, and we can’t go around prescribing paint colors for physical ailments. The psychology of color is far too complicated for that.”

In the meantime, if you want factual information about using color to transform your home into a place that feels good according to your needs (calm, stimulating, inspiring, etc.), see Color Matters for the Home. It’s an easy to follow guide that you can download it in seconds.

PS. I’m a great fan of Benjamin Moore paint and have specified their hues for many projects. They have the most glorious yellows!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

In Memoriam: Kodachrome and Polaroid

2009 marks the end of two photographic wonders and the amazing colors they produced. Digital photography has rendered them obsolete.

In June, Eastman Kodak company announced that its Kodachrome film would be no more. This was the slide film that gave us such beautiful bright colors and it's the film Paul Simon idolized in the classic line of a song, "Mama don't take my Kodachrome away."

In February, Polaroid announced the end of its instant film. The images were magical - and sometimes accidental - masterpieces. Do you remember eagerly waiting for the picture to materialize from the murky coating? Some say that the Polaroid camera was the iPod or Blackberry of another generation.

Mourn no more! Go to and get the easiest and funniest Polaroid image maker. Download the app, launch it, and turn up your volume. Drag and drop your photo. Wait... wait.... wait again... or shake the picture. Yes, shake the picture. Then look at or print your POLADROID picture :)

Nostalgia buffs rejoice! (Note: Justin Timberlake loves it too.)

Go get it at Poladroid.
Do thank them with a donation.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Wet Dog

When I was in art school, a professor commented that my painting looked like a soggy dog. That was a compliment! I was struggling to find my artistic center and had poured turpentine on an oil painting (still wet and workable) and saved the results.

Even though the words “wet dog” evoke this memory for me, I bet you have memory. At the very least, I would be willing to bet that your olfactory sense tuned into this. Does anyone like a wet dog smell?

So why would anyone label the color of a product “Wet Dog?” I might like it for a crazy beige nail polish but I’d never buy a laptop or a pair of slinky harem pants in a color labeled “wet dog” and would gladly settle for “taupe”- as unimaginative as it may be.

Ahhhhh, the magic and mystery of words used to describe colors. Congratulations to Glassybaby and their 183 rich colors for candles - from wet dog (taupe) to pollen (faintest of green) to prom dress (bright purple). They even have devil dog and tom cat. I wonder what they smell like.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Color Infringement: Microsoft vs. Google

Lawyers for Microsoft, Inc. have filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming the company's new Chrome OS color scheme infringes on the Windows logo color scheme.

Can Microsoft really own “the four colors” used in its logo and prevent others in the industry from using them even if the logo is completely different? One of the basic principles of color trademark laws in the US is that a functional color cannot be trademarked. In other words, if a company makes lawn mowers, they can’t trademark green because green is the color of lawns and is therefore a functional color. Contrary to urban myths, John Deere does not own green. (They did trademark a green paint but that’s their paint formula in a special shade of green.)

Consequently, one could say that colors and especially RGB (red, green, blue) are functional colors of all computer operating systems. Without these colors, we’d be stuck with black and white images and text on our monitors, as was the case many decades ago. I conclude that a multi-colored logo is in fact descriptive.

There’s something else that troubles me about this lawsuit: Four specific colors are in question- not just one color such as Dow Corning’s trademarked pink. The issues of color monopoly and color depletion become quite serious in Microsoft’s claim.

Although Microsoft has filed a patent for the colored logo, that’s completely different than their subsequent claim that they OWN the four colors. If Google’s Chrome logo were four circles in a layout similar to Microsoft’s four rectangles, one could argue consumer confusion. That is not the case with Chrome’s compact circular logo.

A final detail: The four colors are NOT the same! Did you notice that Microsoft uses an orange-red and Google’s Chrome a pure red. Likewise, the greens are completely different. Now I’m really on a color crusade to stop the madness!

What do you think?

One last item about truth in reporting: The news piece that reported this lawsuit included a reference to a quote by Yale law professor Amanda Reagan that Apple was forced “to load its beautifully colorful logo into Photoshop and desaturate it 80%." in Microsoft v Competitor #126. After considerable time searching for this lawsuit, I can’t find anything. In fact, Ms. Reagan is not listed as Yale Law School faculty on their web site and a search for her name coupled with “law” reveals nothing. (And we think we are deluged with bad information in our world of color consultation!) If any of you can fill in the blanks, please comment.

Source: Microsoft Sues Google For OS Color Infringement

Friday, July 17, 2009

Changing the Colors of GM's Logo

It was rumored that GM may consider changing the color of its logo from blue to green when it emerged from bankruptcy. Apparently, that’s not going to happen.

Too bad for GM! This could have been a classic case of brand transformation in the right direction. Yes, something as subtle as color can affect a consumers’ perception of a brand, a corporate image, business, and any product.

Any color change would have sent a message that the stodgy old GM products and attitudes were gone. (And blue - that GM blue - is as boring and unimaginative as many of the cars that GM expected we’d buy.)

Green would be perfect for several reasons:

1. It’s a change - and changing the color of a logo signals a big change.

2. Green delivers the powerful symbolism of eco-friendliness. Even though we’re gagging on the repetitious emphasis on "green" products today, the automotive industry and especially GM REALLY need to catch up. Philosophically, green sends the right message.

3. A green GM logo would draw attention to the company's greener product offerings such as the upcoming Chevrolet Volt and Cruze which is expected to get significantly higher mpg ratings than even the new Cobalt.

The only disadvantage might be the 1920’s racing superstition that green race cars are bad luck. The only real risk might be the association of green with money (US greenbacks) - the taxpayer’s money that was used for the bailouts.

One last thing: Brand continuity. It’s a change but not a huge shift. Blue and green are both cool colors. For that matter, green is blue’s neighbor on the color wheel. The trick is to find the right shade of green . . .and that’s where GM could have used a color consultant with an eye for nuances. Me!

Maybe they'll change their minds.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hues that cry for freedom

Green is the color that is still at the forefront of demonstrations in Iran and across the world in protest of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial victory in June's presidential elections.

This is not the first time that color has been the symbol of a revolution. A trip around the color wheel reveals other significant examples of how protesters in repressed countries are using color to get their message across.

The Yellow Revolution (aka People Power Revolution)
Philippines, 1986
After a controversial (and tainted) vote that led to Marcos' reelection, demonstrators wore yellow ribbons, the favorite color of opposition leader Corazon Aquino. Ferdinand Marcos’ government was overthrown and Aquino became the first female Asian leader.

Thailand, 2009
Thailand's election commission has approved a new political party set up by the "Yellow Shirt" protest movement which blockaded Bangkok's airports last year.

Orange Revolution
Ukraine, 2004-05
Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych was elected president in a fraudulent election, and supporters of his opponent, Viktor Yushchenko, crowded the streets wearing orange, the color of his campaign. After two months of demonstrations, Yushchenko, who won the new election eventually called for by the Ukranian Supreme Court.

Blue Revolution
Kuwait, 2005
No regime change took place, but protesters carrying blue signs helped secure women’s right to vote.

Also worth noting:
In Georgia's Rose Revolution (2003) and Kyrgyzstan's Tulip Revolution (2005), it was flowers, not colors, that became the symbol of the opposition.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A new identity for green

Green has emerged as the color of protest in Iran. The pictures describe more than any words in this blog. (Note: Green is the signature color of Mir Hossain Mousavi, the main rival of President Ahmadinejad in the Iranian elections.)

We may want to consider why is the color green so important in the Muslim world. In short, it was supposedly the Prophet’s favorite color. He is said to have worn a green cloak and turban, and his writings are full of references to the color. For example, a passage from the Qur’an describes paradise as a place where people "will wear green garments of fine silk.”

Green is also a symbol of nature and life—especially potent in the dry desert of many Middle Eastern countries. Of note, green is either the only color or one of the primary colors of the flags of Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian group Hamas.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Color Hall of Shame: The Tragic State of Research on Color Effects

Thirty years of research on individual reactions to colors in the environment has produced contradictory findings. Some research has concluded that people who can "screen out" irrelevant information in their environment are not easily stressed out (or aroused) by warm colors such as pale orange walls, whereas "low-screeners" are more aroused by the same orange walls.

Color Effects in a Hospital Room

New research focused on the effects of colors on the emotions of people in a hospital room. The experiment explored how a patient would you feel in an orange, green, or white hospital room. Which colors would be pleasant or unpleasant, friendly or unfriendly, arousing or calming? It’s worth noting that distinguished faculty in the behavioral sciences and psychology were the authors of the research and that it was recently published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

Researchers found that the color of the walls in hospital rooms may very well affect healing and wellness. Light orange aroused all the individuals the most, regardless of their sensitivity to environmental stimuli. Sensitive personalities (low-screeners) reported that white was more stressful than green.

However, the study raises serious questions about the methods. First, the subjects were all college students (mean age 20.4 years). Second, they were asked to imagine that they were recovering from an appendectomy. Third, they were shown photographs of hospital rooms. How can this be the foundation for any kind of conclusive research - and one that is published at that? Sick people are typically older and they don’t imagine the feeling of being sick or recovering from an illness, they are physically traumatized to some degree. Finally, looking at a two-dimensional photograph does not simulate the physical experience of a three-dimensional space with the electro-magnetic energy of the colors bouncing off the walls.

Why even bother with research under these conditions?

I believe that a mildly colorful environment promotes a sense of well being in everyone. At least this "research" found that white walls were stressful.

Source: Individual Differences in Reactions Towards Color in Simulated Healthcare Environments: The Role of Stimulus Screening Ability

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Close Encounter with Yellow

I usually don’t write about my personal experiences with color but a recent encounter with a startling yellow dress is worth the space on this blog. In fact, the dress was such a bright yellow that I felt like kids might try to ride me to school. Okay, it’s a cliche, but school bus yellow is a color that can really be too overwhelming for my fair coloring. Soft creamy banana yellow is okay, but not mango yellow.

The story of my unexpected experience with this color is quite typical of any wardrobe crises. The day before my scheduled color seminar for a group of bankers, I found myself at a loss for what to wear. Those extra pounds from all the great food in Pakistan ruled out most of my usual outfits and the options were a drab avocado blazer or a little black dress.

After three hours of shopping, I found it! A bright yellow shirtwaist dress. This would break all my rules about “my best colors.” I wondered if maybe I was so close to color that I couldn’t see my colors - my personal colors - objectively. How humbling to admit that it was time to get help. After getting positive feedback from the salesperson, random customers, and later the personal shopper at the store, I bought it.

I will never regret it. Of course, the obvious resulted. It was an instant identification of the color consultant speaker - and even before the introduction. It also helped make one of the points in the lecture: Pure yellow has the highest visibility of any color of the spectrum. (Which is why most fire trucks and emergency vehicles in the US are now yellow.)

This is not the end of the story because the most amazing things happened after the lecture. Although I was exhausted, I had to make several stops on the way home - a grocery store, a car wash, and the post office. During my brief encounters with cashiers and clerks, I was stunned by how abnormally friendly they were. It wasn’t me - I was lifeless and probably didn’t have any energy left over to smile - it was that color that overwhelmed people with happiness.

Happy, happy, joy, joy for yellow. Just for the record, it’s Pantone 1225C

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dyeing for Color

Restoring Color to Dead Lawns of Abandoned Homes

Foreclosed homes with dead, brown lawns can be found in just about every neighborhood these days. Apparently a business in California is waving a magic wand of green paint over the lawns and dressing up the properties. The water-based paint is chemical free and includes flower-based pigments.

Green Canary, a San Jose-area company, says that a typical front lawn can be painted for under-200 dollars and is guaranteed for six months. Amazing!

Restoring Color to Dead Lawns of Abandoned Homes

From Drab to Fab on the Floor

If grey concrete is as unappealing as a dead brown lawn, color can come to the rescue again. Concrete stains will transform that basement or patio floor or even the driveway. In this case, the transparent stains create a more natural mottled appearance. In other words, it’s not a solid coat of paint.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Where the Oceans Meet the Mountains

It’s green but it seems blue. Or does it? The Storm King Wavefield is a permanent installation by Maya Lin in Mountainville, N.Y. Seven parallel rows of rolling, swelling peaks on 11 acres were inspired by the forms of midocean waves but echo the mountains and hills around them. It’s made of natural materials: dirt and grass.

This evocative landscape of mountains and waves - greenness and blueness - raises a linguistic fact about color. Many languages do not have separate terms for blue and green. For example, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, and Chinese have color terms that cover both. Also, the Japanese word for blue (ao) is used for colors that English speakers would refer to as green, such as the traffic light for “go.”

Storm King WaveField- Where the Oceans Meet the Mountains

Distinguishing blue from green in language

Monday, April 27, 2009

Finding Color in a Parking Garage

Every once in a while you find an example of architectural color that goes beyond the blah beigeness of contemporary design. This time, it’s a Public Art project in Fort Worth, Texas.

The parking garage for the Fort Worth Convention Center, designed by Christopher Janney, is a multilevel, multihued structure that changes colors. The building’s facade is enlivened by five colored glass “fins” that cast colorful shadows by day, allowing the sunlight to “paint” the building surface. The garage also features environmental sounds native to this area. As reporter Michael Price noted, “Not only does ‘Parking in Color’ fulfill a practical requirement of the need for automobile parking at the southern reaches of the Central Business District – it does so, as well, in a way that enlivens the purely functional act of stowing one’s car with a sense of playful adventure.”

See: ‘Parking in Color’ project signals a leap for Public Art

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is Black Green?

Black was the center of two disputes about its eco-friendliness. In one black was perhaps good; in the other, bad. You can be the color judge.

Good Black

The first case was Google’s "Blackle" - an alternative to Google's white page - that would save 3000MWh per year. Others claimed that "While it may be true that a CRT monitor uses 15 watts less with the black screen, only 25% of the world's monitors are CRT." Some others put this to a test of 27 monitors ("The Final Test") and found that LCD monitors with a size 22-inches or less, all showed an increase in power consumption using Blackle. Beyond the 22-inch mark however, five of the six models showed a fractional decrease in power consumption when using Blackle.

Btw, there are proven ways to save power with your computer.
See "Tips" at

Bad Black

A regulation to ban black cars - to reduce the energy requirements to cool them - was considered by the California legislature. However, a report states,"The problem isn't the color per se, but the reflectivity of the paint overall. And dark colors just don't reflect well, so they are likely out."

Note: Potential approaches include reformulation of paint to reflect near-infrared sunlight, parked car ventilation, and solar reflective window glazing. It is expected that cool paints, together with reflective glazing, will reduce the temperature of a typical vehicle parked in the sun by 5 to10 degrees celsius. Source

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Evolution of Color Symbolism

Our responses to color are inherited and learned. My experiences in Pakistan reconfirmed the reality of both universal color symbolism (timeless) and all the other kinds of meanings that evolve over time (religious, geographic, political, gender-based, etc.)

A perfect example is evolution of the yellow. If we turn back the clock to the Stone Age at any place on earth, yellow was and still is the color of flowers – typically flowers that bloom in the Spring. In Pakistan, the yellow mustard blossom is and was the color of Spring. Regardless of demographic parameters, the color represents the joy experienced at the onset of Spring after a long winter. Yellow is symbolic of happiness.

Using Pakistan as an example of how a color retains its timeless symbolism today, the city of Lahore marks the beginning of Spring with the Basant (which means yellow in Hindi) Festival.
This carnival is an orgy of kite-flying, rooftop soirees, garden parties and much more. The festival peaks with an all-night flood-lit kite-flying marathon. The kites come in different sizes as well - some have to be transported on the roofs of cars, others are small enough to be carried on bicycles. Yellow is the predominant color.

Of historical note: In pre-partition India, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs all celebrated Basant. Yellow clothes were worn; men wore yellow turbans and women yellow dupattas and saris.

Of political note: The government of Pakistan banned kite-flying in 2006 after ruling that the sport has become increasingly deadly. The government lifted the ban for the Basant Festival this year.

For scholarly debate (and of psychological note for those who disagree with the fact that the symbolism of a color may contain meanings that are universal):
An overwhelming majority of the 80,000 people (from all over the world) who have taken the Global Color Survey at Color Matters reply that yellow is the color of happiness. We must bear in mind that geographic, gender-based, political, national, cultural, religious and other meanings co-exist with the timeless and universal symbolism of a color. These other sources can be powerful sources for a broad analysis of a color. However, any argument for the precedence of other symbolic content can be problematic (and self-serving) if it dismisses the existence of symbolism based on the global experience of a color as it existed long before these other meanings evolved. The timeless and universal meaning provides the critical foundation for a complete analysis of a color.

This is the last commentary about the colors of Pakistan. In conclusion, I’ve created two special pages:

The Colors of Pakistan
(The timeless and timely symbolism of blue, green, yellow, red, and brown)

Letters to America
"We are not terrorists!" (and more)

You can also find the past blogs about Pakistan (February-March) in an expanded form with new graphics at the new Color Matters in Pakistan page.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Colors of Political Protest in Pakistan

What does it feel like to be a young adult in Pakistan? Is the country really the way the media presents it with themes of terrorism, religious extremism, oppression of women, or any other volatile topic that attracts attention? Some artwork from the Visual Communications students at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore tells a different story.

During my last week in Lahore, several design students submitted artwork that reflects their experiences about the current state of affairs in their homeland. One of them was a floor sculpture – a large map of Pakistan (8 x 3 feet / 2.5 x 1 meters), covered with green hands, reaching upwards. (The color of the flag of Pakistan is green.) The piece is a true testimony to the search for peace and stability in Pakistan.

Another compelling political statement was a photographic image of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) that American drones are bombing. “Hellwood” (in bold white letters evocative of the world famous "Hollywood Sign”) was placed on top of the camouflage-colored mountains. Ali Haider, whose ancestors are from Afghanistan, came up with the concept and Janaka, an exchange student from Sri Lanka, did the graphic work. This image presents another view – that of the tragedy of daily life - in this region . Although there may be pockets of militancy and religious extremism in the remote tribal areas, there are 21,000,000 people (none of whom have connection to terrorists) who are simply struggling to survive in this mountainous area, appropriately labeled “Hellwood.”

Perhaps these students can realistically present the colors of the peace we all seek.

LINK to a page with more comments and all the images.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Colors of Tarogil Village, Pakistan - Textile Students

Some history first: The earliest known example of cotton is the fragment found at Mehrgarh, Pakistan, one of the most important Neolithic (Stone Age/7000 B.C. – 3200 B.C. ) sites.
(Source: Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 29, Issue 12, December 2002, Pages 1393-1401)

Today, cotton textile production and apparel manufacturing are Pakistan's largest industries, accounting for about 70% of total export.

Consequently, it is quite significant that Beaconhouse National University has nurtured a Textiles Department. During my 4th week in Pakistan, I conducted a color workshop for these students.

The workshop included a field trip to the village - a small cluster of homes in the midst of the mustard fields that surrounds the Tarogil campus. The homes are primarily constructed of mud, mud-brick, and thatch. Unpaved streets and paths are filled with people dressed in traditional garb, donkey carts and buffalo carts (whose prototype dates back to the third millennium B.C.). No cars! A sense of timelessness . . . a step back to a time that most of us only see in movies. The visual landscape of Targogil village reminds us of that era in Pakistan that is the source of the earliest cotton fragment.

The assignment required that the textile students note the colors in the village. As was the case with the 2nd year Visual Communications students, they were to get close to whatever they encountered – whether it were the colors of the mustard fields and other colors in the natural surround or the materials and surfaces of objects and structures.

After compiling their color notations, each student selected three favorite colors and one least favorite color for a composition based on the Bezold effect.

A series of illustrations is provided at this LINK

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Cultural History as Key to Color

The historical landscape of any place in the world serves as an essential key to colors – to meaningful colors in a culture. This was the focus of the color workshop for 2nd year Visual Communications students at BNU in Lahore, Pakistan.

First, we went on a field trip to the Lahore Fort and the Badshahi Mosque (whose estimated date of initial construction is the 11th century – long before the Gothic cathedrals of the Western world). The assignment required that each student take approximately ten sets of photographs. Each set required a panoramic shot of any building on the 48 acres of the Fort and Mosque and 4-5 close up shots of the same structure. (A possible total of 50 or more images.) A concentrated focus on the colors and textures was the primary issue. 

Next, the results of this survey were to be presented in a well-designed collage, triptych, or any organized composition.

Of note is the fact that most of the students had visited the Fort and Mosque several times during elementary school and high school field trips. In spite or this, the experience of observing the colors of these significant historical buildings from near and far was an invaluable experience.

Individual perceptions varied. Some students tuned in to the muted salmon orange hues of the masonry; others to the cobalt blues of the tiles.

Photographs of the field trip to the Lahore Fort and Mosque and two of the final compositions can be seen at this LINK

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The colors of power, purity, metamorphosis and much more … from Pakistan

My third year design students in Lahore, Pakistan (Beaconhouse National University) completed their color symbolism project. The results reflected many “universal’ meanings of colors and several very personal and regional interpretations.

You can see some of the most interesting results at a separate web page:

Project Details
This color symbolism assignment required that each student choose a favorite color and address what the color meant to him or her. Next, they had to create a costume or headpiece that reflected the symbolism as a metaphor. Finally they had to perform a mine in the costume – individually and as part of their group.

I stressed the concept of metaphor. In other words, create a piece that is not the literal interpretation of color. Get rid of yellow suns and lollipops and create something abstract for a color such as yellow. They did!

(Note: I am serving as visiting professor for and am conducting color workshops for five weeks at this university in Pakistan. Special appreciation to their teacher Umar Hameed and T.A. Mohsin Shafi.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Color Symbolism Project in Lahore, Pakistan

My third year students are working on a project that focuses on color symbolism. Each student chose a color and had to define what the color meant to him or her. (In other words, the personal meaning of the color.) Here are the results.

My name is Zarrar Khan
My color is white
For me white is purity

My name is Alwina.
My color is yellow.
For me yellow means happiness.

My name is Amna.
My color is black.
For me black is isolation/ calmness.

My name is Maria.
My color is blue.
For me blue means misery.

My name is Ubab Mamina
My color is Pink
To me pink is the perfect color to represent my personality, as baby pink shows flirtatious, innocence, shyness, and cuteness while hot pink shows strong emotions and boldness. These shades don’t show controversy but they do show hidden aspects of it.

My Name is Zarghuna Khayyam
My Color is Maroon
Maroon is a mixture of purple and dark red it means sensuality, attraction, mystery, power, desire, possessiveness and protection.

My name is Anum Shaukat.
My colour is red.
Red is a very bold colour for me, it gives me confidence strength and power.

My name is Waqas khanMy color is SilverSilver for me is something that shines a lot and something that shines for me is happiness.

The next phase of the project is to use the color in a wearable art form (a full covering or partial, such as a hat.) The final presentation will be a “mime” performance.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

We All Have Five Fingers

I arrived in Lahore, Pakistan Saturday after 3 days of travel, almost half way around the world. As I progressed westward across the Pacific, the time zones and the visual landscape changed dramatically. As the plane touched down at Allama Iqbal Airport in Lahore, the first thing I saw was the air terminal – an earthy red brick building – in a style that reflects the Mughal history of the city. After spending so much time in the achromatic metallic and glass environments of Tokyo and Bangkok’s airports, this building welcomed me with a sense of humanity. Natural materials, color, and an architectural style that reflects the cultural history.

So what do I see? The trees are green and the sky is blue. People dressed in the traditional garb of long tunics over pants (shalwar kameez) line the streets. If it weren’t for the cars, this is a rare timeless place that looks as if it could be hundreds of years ago.

A few days ago, I had a unique color experience. The setting sun was a bright carrot red. It was especially remarkable since you could look directly at it, which I suppose was due to the filtering effect of the dust particles in the air.

Some background now: I am here to teach color at Beaconhouse National University for the next four weeks. My first contact with the students was Monday at a bonfire in honor of the 15th Century poet Kabir, whose Sufism represented a fusion of principles from both the Islamic and Hindu tradition.

On Tuesday I reviewed an exhibit of student artwork. I regret that my wonderful camera chose this time to break down …(the dreaded Canon lens error) but I did manage to take a few pictures of this exhibit. This is my first teaching experience outside the western world and I can only say that students everywhere are concerned with the same issues. The underlying themes are ecological issues and concerns for humanity. One student created a life-size beggar puppet, suspended by black-gloved arms – a symbol of the Mafia controlled beggardom here in Lahore. I am learning so much about Pakistan. “We all have five fingers,” so spoke Umar, my driver. Yes.

I will buy a new camera tomorrow!

Typo/correction of a link in the previous post.”Alif Laila.” is the correct name of the book bus.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Color: Bringing the World Closer Together

During the past decade on the Internet, I’ve realized that color is an experience that we all share regardless of politics, religion, geography, age, or gender. Over 6 billion people are on the planet – and we are all immersed in a color soaked world.

The miracle of color is that it is a universal experience – one that can be the basis for reaching out to one another and sharing our commonalities. We’re all looking at the same stars at night. We all marvel at the colors of the rainbow.

For the next five weeks, I will be in Pakistan. I will be visiting the country and teaching color at several educational institutions (as a volunteer). This blog will be dedicated to “Color Matters in Pakistan” for weeks that follow.

Asalam and Aloha,
Jill Morton
Honolulu, Hawaii

Some links:
Alif Laima
(A book bus library in Lahore)

Tech Lahore
(a blog about the technology industry in Lahore, and in Pakistan)

Pakistan Web Directory

Monday, January 12, 2009

Red - Yellow - Blue

Sometimes color trends begin on the runways of Paris and Milan and later feed their way to us via the proclamations of color groups. If you don't want to wait for the process to work its way through the color chain, you can bypass the process by watching red-carpet events and make up your own mind. With that said, most A-list actresses at the Golden Globes 2009 stuck to basics. As in primary colors. Red, yellow, and blue.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The "Must Have" Colors for 2009

Pantone, one of several authorities on color, has selected “Mimosa” as the color of the year for 2009. If you look to nature for color definitions, a mimosa is a green tree. However, it is also a cocktail consisting of orange juice and wine or champagne. Pantone’s “Mimosa” is an orange-based yellow - a color that was selected to represent hope and optimism. (It’s a bit contradictory because the name invokes a form of self-indulgence that may not the best approach for 2009.)

Another group of color czars, Color Marketing Group (CMG), proclaims that purple is the “must have” color of 2009. Their prediction also includes a wide range of hues (in the following order):
1. Purples
2. Blue (it’s the new green)
3. Cooled-down, grayed-out browns and grays
4. Yellow (wild vivid yellow)
5. Mauve (it’s back)
They also included a range of exotic bright “accent” colors and white as a “business color.” Wait a minute, just when we were told that black is the new black.....?

Here’s where it gets even more confusing. The Color Association of the United States (CAUS) offers a series of color palettes, which include:
1. The Rock Crystals Palette (mineral hues)
2. The Vegetable Garden Palette (28 warm mid-tones hues)

CAUS director, Leslie Harrington commented: “In 2009, expect to see less contrast, less pastel, less saturated color. And if you don't like that, wait till next year. The theme for the color association's 2010 forecast is contrast and contradiction.”

I for one am not going to wait. I’m opting for the colors that I love and already have. More is less, less is more.

Tell us your favorite colors!
Color Matters Global Color Survey

Post script:
See Howard Pousner’s “The next wave of Colors - Don’t be blue if yellow, purple (or mauve) are not for you”

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Color of the Year 2009

Although the color czars are dictating the color that a specific color will be "THE COLOR of 2009" (come back to this blog in a few days for details), we suggest a color bailout. Or maybe we should call a moratorium on all trends. The last thing we need as we enter a new year challenged by severe economic and environmental realities is a color that will promote us to consume more. Isn’t that what any trend evokes?

Perhaps we can blame Marie Antoinette. When I was researching the origin of Tiffany’s signature “robin’s egg blue,” I discovered that light turquoise was the color of the "it-girl" of the day - Empress Eugenie, Napoleon III’s wife, who chose this as her signature color because it was color of the woman she most admired - Marie Antoinette. Tiffany thought this would be the perfect color to attract the fashionistas of the day.

The date was 1850.

Human nature (at least in the Western world) craves the injection of the new. We can’t change that but we can change how we respond to trends. Therefore, let’s proclaim that the color of 2009 is YOUR FAVORITE COLOR.

I’ll tell you the truth about color: As a result of over 20 years of research and practice as a color consultant, the color that will calm you, the color that will make you happier and more productive is .... your favorite color.

So celebrate the New Year! Wear that shirt or blouse that in a color that you love. You might even grab a gallon of paint in your favorite color and see what happens after you paint a wall
(.... just one wall, for starters).

Why the Color Czars Dream Up New Hues

The fashion industry, car manufacturers, makers of interior design products (including paint manufacturers), and many other industries all look to color forecasters to see where color trends might be heading.

These forecasting groups predict color trends one or two years ahead and they charge quite a fee for the their reports and color specifications (chips, swatches, etc.). Manufacturers then “interpret” the forecasts for their products and customers.

Is it self-fulfilling prophecy? Is it manipulative?

Consider this: If you own a paint company, you want to sell paint. One way to do that is to make certain colors seem dated and others seem hot. One day you’re in, one day you’re out. Shame on you if you painted your living room the wrong color. On the other hand, consumers may want to update their wardrobes or paint their walls because the renewal feels uplifting.

In conclusion, we suggest that it’s time for common-sense colors. Classic colors. Personal favorite colors. You’re the color guru in 2009.

See: “The lords of color are always dreaming up a new hue”