We live in a colourful world that — surprisingly — influences everything we feel, everything we do and everything we are.
Many of us meander through life taking for granted the leafy green of the grass, the blue, grey or indigo of the sky, and the fertile brown of the earth. Then there’s the rich brown of chocolate, the vibrant red, green and yellow of capsicums, the luscious purple of eggplant, the vivid fuchsia pink of a gerbera, the stunning red of a rose and the riot of purple that is bougainvillea.
The world we live in is an energetic tapestry of colour, but did you know that colour is key to every facet of our lives? It’s more than the drapes we choose or the lipstick we wear. The science of our choices can point to our personality. There’s a reason why you pick the red shoes, a blue car, or decide to paint your front door pink. It’s called colour psychology, or the study of colour as a determinant of human behaviour.
The influential Swiss psychologist Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a prominent researcher in this field and came up with colour definitions for different personality types. While we each contain a mix of his definitions, one tends to be dominant. He used four colours:
COOL BLUE: objective, unbiased, detached, analytical. These people are usually introverted and want to know and understand the world around them.
EARTH GREEN: tranquil, calming, soothing. These people tend to focus on relationships, wanting others to be able to rely on them.
SUNSHINE YELLOW: cheerful, uplifting, enthusiastic. These people are generally extroverted, positive and friendly.
FIERY RED: positive, decisive, bold, assertive. These people are extroverted, energetic, direct and may have an authoritarian manner.
Colour speaks loudly, albeit non verbally. It works by light energy, and scientists have found it has the ability to act on both body and mind stimulating the senses, firing up the appetite, raising blood pressure or creating an ambience of calm. It’s why so much of our world, from advertising and marketing to interior and fashion design, is based on it. In fact, one study showed that it takes an individual 90 seconds to make a judgment on a product or company and 60-90% of that perception is based on colour.
THE COLOUR WHEEL
Primary Colours — The primary colours of the wheel are red, yellow, and blue. They can’t be created by mixing with other colours. They do, however, form the basis for all of the other hues on the wheel.
Secondary Colours — Mixing two of the primary colours creates the green, orange and purple of secondary colours.
Tertiary Colours — Yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green and yellow-green. These are formed by mixing a primary and a secondary colour hence the two-word name.
PANTONE COLOUR OF THE YEAR
Every year a team of global colour experts come together to choose a colour for the following year. This colour is said to reflect the zeitgeist of the times and influences all aspects of design from fashion to floristry.
For example, this year the soft hues rose quartz and serenity reign as people ‘seek mindfulness and wellbeing as an antidote to modern day stresses’. According to Pantone, they are colours that psychologically fulfill our yearning for reassurance and security. It’s also the first time there have been two colours, a blend of warm and cool that Pantone say is indicative of the gender blur that’s occurring in society as we move towards more gender equality and fluidity and a generation that has less concern about being typecast or judged.
“We have an emotional response to colour,” says Colour and Design Consultant Peta Tearle (petatearle.com). “Colour is like a language, you just have to translate it.”
“Colour influences mood and feeling,” says Peta Tearle of Peta Tearle Colour & Design Studio. “Generally speaking, colours in the ‘warm’ spectrum (red, orange and yellow) are found to be physically stimulating, and appear to ‘advance’, and those in the ‘cooler’ spectrum (green, blue and purple) have been found to be calming and relaxing and appear to ‘recede’. Although each colour has positive and negative associations and meanings vary between cultures, colours generally exhibit more positive than negative associations.”
RED: active, assertive, blazing, bold, courageous, daring, dramatic, dynamic, emotional, exciting, explosive, forceful, hot, intense, intimidating, life-giving, loud, passionate, powerful, racy, sensual, strong, stop, uplifting, warning.
ORANGE: activating, adventurous, attention-seeking, bounteous, caution, cheerful, daring, eager, energetic, excitable, fearless, flourishing, fun, genial, happy, optimistic, playful, radiant, ripe, stimulating, safety, warmth, wild.
YELLOW: attention-holding, bright, cheerful, dazzling, exhilarating, friendly, glowing, healthy, hopeful, informal, intellectual, inviting, light, light hearted, summery, sunny, vibrant, warm, warning, welcoming, youthful, zestful.
GREEN: appetizing, bracing, carefree, clean, cool, easy, envy, equalizing, fresh, go, healthy, hopeful, inexperienced, moderate, natural, nourishing, organic, peaceful, pleasant, renewing, safe, sensible, uncluttered.
BLUE: airy, aristocratic, ascending, authoritative, calm, classic, contemplative, cool, dependable, expansive, melancholic, open, peaceful, receding, relaxing, reliable, restful, secure, serene, soothing, traditional, true, trustworthy.
PURPLE: academic, celestial, decadent, dignified, dramatic, elaborate, exotic, extravagant, fantasy, imperial, luxurious magical, meditative, mysterious, pomp, precious, rage, royal, sacred, spiritual, visionary, wealth.
WHITE: brilliance, calm, chaste, clinical, complete, coolness, day, empty, enlarging, innocence, integrity, minimal, new, open, pristine, revealing, simple, stark, sterility, uncluttered, uncompromising, unity, virginal.
BLACK: absorbing, contained, dark, dominance, elegant, forbidden, formal, mourning, mystery, night, power, respect, seductive, sophisticated, withholding.
BROWN: capable, down-to-earth, earthy, homely, informal, nostalgic, nourishment, practical, safe, simple, slow, sobering, solid, stable, steady, subdued, unexciting, warm.
Words: Jenna Moore