Monthly Archives: February 2011

blue appetite suppressant

It is said that blue is an appetite suppressant and that red stimulates appetite. But is this really true? I would be interested if anyone knows of any studies into this.

I have also read that the reason that blue is an appetite suppressant is that blue food is very rare. I think blue food is less frequent than, say, green or red. But there is, of course, blueberries. And I just came across a type of mushroom that is naturally blue. It’s called Lactarius Indigo. I’ve also come across blue food more commonly in other places such as Japan.

The invention of colour

If I was not going to Sweden on Monday – where I have to examine a PhD in colour harmony – it would be nice to attend the lecture I just saw advertised in Bristol by Philip Ball. The lecture will trace the chemical history of the pigments in an artist’s palette. Painters once had to be chemically literate. The lecture is taking place next Tuesday – see

favourite colour poll

define colour

The longer I teach colour the more frustrated I become about the lack of accurate and precise language to talk about colour. It creates so much confusion.

Take the opening few lines on wikipedia for the entry on Black –

Black is the color of objects that do not emit or reflect light in any part of the visible spectrum; they absorb all such frequencies of light. Although black is sometimes described as an “achromatic”, or hueless, color, in practice it can be considered a color, as in expressions like “black cat” or “black paint”.

Well, I have an issue with the first sentence because every object you have ever seen (even the black ones) reflects light at almost every wavelength in the visible spectrum. Black objects just don’t reflect very much light. The only thing I know that does not reflect any light is a black hole. And I have never seen one of those. But it is the second sentence that I think is interesting. It essentially says (paraphrasing) that although black is sometimes described as a colour it is a colour. This does not make sense. It should read – Black is described as a colour and is a colour. Why the “Although”? The answer to this is that colour is being used with two different meanings in the same sentence.

In the first part of the sentence colour is used to define the holistic sensation of colour (colours according to this definition have at least three attributes: such as lightness, chroma and hue). Hue is whether a colour is red, green, blue, yellow etc. Chroma is how the colour deviates from grey. Lightness is about how much light is generally reflected or emitted. In short. Colours that have no chroma are said to be achromatic (grey, black, white etc.). On the other hand, in the second part of the sentence colour is used to represent that component of colour that is hue. It is only by invoking these two separate definitions of colour (the holistic and the partial) that the sentence makes sense.

There may be more than these two definitions of colour. There is also the notion that colour is used to represent the physical and the perceptual that I have raised in an earlier post.

any colour as long as it is black

Famously Henry Ford, speaking of the Model T car in 1909, said “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”

Black is, I think, one of the most interesting colours. I recently came across a book – think it was called A History of Black – which was all about this one colour. In my 25 years working in colour perhaps the most frequent question I have ever been asked is “Is black a colour?”

One interesting aspect of black is that it is almost timeless in its ability to be fashionable. This is one reason why it is worn by lots of people who are particularly conscious of colour (because they work in fashion or interior design etc.). It seems strange at first that people who are most interested and aware of colour are more than likely to wear black. Black is a regular occurrence in the attire of my colleagues in the School of Design at the University of Leeds. Given that it’s timeless, it is also safe. There is no danger of being seen in the wrong colour.

I mainly wear brown. I wonder what that says about me?

Warwick prize for colour

A while ago I wrote about a novel whose main theme was colour. I thoroughly recommend it and if you have the means you should pick one up.

However, it is a shame that the novel was published a few years ago because this year the Warwick prize for writing 2011 is to be based on a special theme: colour!! The short list includes a piece about camouflage and mimicry in nature. There is a £50,000 prize for the winner which will be announced later this year.

colour branding survey

Please take a moment to take part in this colour branding survey:

It will only take a few minutes. This is a survey conducted by one of my students in the School of Design ( at the University of Leeds.

When the survey is complete I will post a comment about the results here for those who are interested.