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!