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The Language of Color – Part I By Ashlie Mauldin

http://interior-design-living-room-color.blogspot.com/2011/05/creative-living-room-interior.html

When it comes to Interior Design, color is the single most important factor among FF&A (Furniture, Fixtures and Accessories). Through color, you have the ability to communicate in the absence of words. However, like every other language, you need to be completely aware of what it is that you are attempting to convey. In addition, a solid understanding of the language that you are utilizing is a necessity. Given that the topic of this discussion is the language of color, let’s elaborate on colors; both individually and how they contrast, clash, and complement one another to provoke reaction and emotion. Keep in mind, that just as we have designated languages and cultures, so do the colors speak in a personal way to each ethnicity.

http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/colours-in-cultures/

Color Symbolism is a huge factor that needs to be considered by the designer when working with clients of foreign ethnic cultures. Through Color Symbolism, we explore the use of color to coincide with traditional, cultural, and religious mentalities. All of which are extremely influential and sensitive within the everyday lives of these clients and can very easily effect a job in a negative or positive  form. Since the goal is always to please the client in every way, here are some color oriented cultural tips to be aware of in the innovation of your design when dealing with the two most utilized colors: Black and White

http://china.globaltimes.cn/society/2010-07/554480.html

White:

In the United States we see this color closely associated with the language of weddings, purity and virtue; however, within the Eastern Hemisphere, white speaks of loss, mourning and death. As you can see, the two interpretations differ greatly. An American client will more than likely walk into a white themed space and feel at peace and enlightened by the same design that would send the message of sadness, frustration and pain to an Easterner client. Awareness of these factors will eliminate the designer’s misunderstanding of  the color white and the language that it speaks to each ethnic culture.


 Funeral Scene for Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Jay Gatsby at Waverley Cemetery.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/sydney-confidential/the-great-gatsby-to-finish-filming-in-sydney-on-december-23-as-leonardo-dicaprio-and-kendal-schulers-romance-grows/story-e6frewz0-1226223467944

Black:

Here in the U.S., black is known to speak the language of funerals, evil, rebellion and formality. Black is seen as dark and sends messages of sadness and depression. For the Eastern Hemisphere (China), black is known to speak the language of young boys and a color rather customized to their young male population, symbolizing trust and a high ranking. As you can see, the languages of the color black and the color white are almost completely apposing among the cultures. As a designer, if the cultural languages of the color are transposed, there is a risk of offending one, the other, or both the American and Chinese clientele.

Color Wheel

http://socialeyezer.com/2011/05/29/dress-to-impress-how-colors-affect-online-purchases-infographic/

In addition to ethnic cultural differences, when dealing with the language of color, it is very important to understand how each color speaks to one another, their collaborated communication, and the absence of “words” between designated colors. All of which, through research and the utilization of the Color Wheel, we have the luxury of classification referenced below.

http://www.iphonelife.com/promotions/123-color-international-edition-talking-coloring-book-ios-released

 Classifications

Harmonizing colors:

Colors that appear adjacent to one another on the color wheel. These colors communicate extremely well in most cases, however, when implemented too closely, there becomes an overload of communication causing one to wash out the apposing. An example of harmonization is the conversation among the colors red and orange.

Kaleen Leathers, Inc. – Coral Reef Collection – Clownfish (left) Starfish (right)

(Photo by Ashlie Mauldin)

Contrasting colors:

Colors that appear separated by additional colors on the color wheel. These colors come from different segments within the color wheel and the further away one is from the other, the higher the contrast will be. Examples of contrasting colors are red (from the warm half of the color wheel) and blue/green (from the cool half of the color wheel). When contrasting colors are utilized carefully and with much thought, they can speak much louder of the desired statement through enhanced visibility.

Beautiful blue and green office accessories displayed to contrast over:

Carnegie – Xorel – Pop Emboss 6647 – Color:728

 (Photo by Ashlie Mauldin)

Complementary colors:

These are colors that appear on the opposite sides of the color wheel, each consisting of one half of a pair of contrasting colors. An illustration of Complementary colors would be blue paired with yellow or the collaboration of  green and purple. The term “Complementary”, not to be confused with “Complimentary”, is in reference to the colors completing the contrast affect when paired together, not one complimenting the other, however, in the Interior Design industry, this method can be utilized for a more modern and upbeat design, if carefully implemented In theory, works well when other colors are utilized to separate the two.

http://www.bhg.com/decorating/color/basics/use-complementary-colors-to-create-drama-in-your-home/

Colors speak from a solo point of view as well. Here are the emotional, psychological and sometimes physiological effects that each is known for in the United States culture. This is explored through Color Psychology:

Black: The color that speaks of authority and power and can represent intelligence. Black is also, as discussed above, a color of mourning.

White: The color that conveys cleanliness and purity, weddings, the absence of color, and the visible expression of all colors combined as light.

Brown: This color speaks the language of reliability, stability, friendship and organics, however, in India it is associated with mourning.

Gray: The color that speaks of solidity, conservatism, loss of direction and sometimes depression.

Red: This is the color that rants of energy;  red is known to grab attention, even raise the heart rate and is also worn by Chinese Brides and stimulates desire and hunger.

OrangeThe most flamboyantly loud colorassociated with organic products, warmth, and energy.

YellowThe color closely communicates of the sun, optimism, sometimes fear and uncertainty when used at a high- level.

 Green: The color that speaks on behalf of nature and money, envy, good luck and generosity.

 Blue: A color known to encourage calm nerves and relaxation, dependability, wisdom and loyalty.

PurpleThis color that screams royalty, wealth, prosperity and sophistication.

Now that you understand the language of colors and the different ways that they communicate with cultures, as well as, utilize their individual languages to send strong messages and guidance to the human brain; remain tuned for the second half of this discussion where ways to implement this knowledge into your design will be exemplified.

Sources:

http://webdesign.about.com/od/color/a/bl_colorculture.htm

http://desktoppub.about.com/cs/color/a/symbolism.htm

http://www.globalization-group.com/edge/resources/color-meanings-by-culture/

http://www.precisionintermedia.com/color.html