Monthly Archives: January 2012

PhD blogs

I just noticed that quite a few of my PhD students have blogs so I thought I would give them a mention.

Jason Kao is studying for a PhD in the generation of 3D movies – particularly interested in the effect of hue and saturation contrasts on the strength of the 3D percept (as in, red objects tend to appear forward whereas blue objects recede). You can read his blog here.

Jade Smith is undertaking a PhD to look at how we can understand more about how consumers use clothes in order to better design clothes that will be used longer. As you may know, our current consumption of textiles in the world is not sustainable even from the persepctive of the demands made of water during their manufacture and processing. You can read her blog here.

Maryam Da is undertaking a PhD in colour semiotics. Specifically, she is running a massive on-line global colour survey to determine the meanings that people attribute to different colours. She is also using a clever methoodology whereby each person does just a little bit of the experiment – in fact, we ask each person about just one colour. So there is not excuse not to help out. Please have a go at the survey – it takes less than a minute. You can read her blog here.

new colour journal

A few years ago I set up a new journal – Colour: Design and Creativity. What I wanted to do was create a journal where people interested in colour could communicate and discuss their research whether their background be scientific, artistic, design, or anything else. For me colour is inherently multi-disciplinary – it’s a sort of meta-discipline, in fact. And the richest discussion is likely to be discussion that enables people from many different backgrounds to contribute.

I set the journal up with the Society of Dyers and Colourists who seemed to share my view. But I guess it didn’t really work out and we needed to find a new home for the journal. So I Was delighted when there was interest from AIC – the International Colour Association. We have now launched the Journal of the International Colour Association and published our first issue last month: see and click on browse issues on the right-hand side. I am slowly uploading the previous issues that were published as Colour: Design and Creativity but that could take some time.

The journal is free to view and free to publish in. Please take a look.

obsessed with brown?

I sometimes think that people think I am a bit of a weirdo – well, a nerd at the very least. Why? Because I have a blog that’s just about colour. I have interests in all sorts of things. I love music (play drums in a band), play chess (I have about 60 games on the go at any one time on, and I am slightly obsessed with Haruki Murakami (his latest novel 1Q84 is just better than you can imagine). But the thing I blog about is colour. Not any one colour, or even any one aspect of colour, but anything about colour – I am interested in colour physics, chemistry, psychology, philosophy, design, marketing, branding etc.

But today I may found that someone who is a bit nerdy even by my standards because I just found a website called This page is interested not only in one colour, but in how to make it. How to make brown paint, brown rice, brown sugar …. is it just me or is this really weird!!

Koreans hate pink!

About six months ago I posted about popular car colours in Canada. Silver and grey were the most popular colours according to sales data with black not far behind. I think it would be a rather similar story in the UK. Certainly silvery grey has become very popular over the last 10 years or so. My own car is black. My last car was grey. White is not popular here – I heard that car salesman refer to the colour of second-hand white cars as “three-week white” because it takes three weeks longer to sell them than cars in other colours. Though I think the last few years has seen a slight increase in the popularity of white cars in the UK.

Anyway, according to The Color Association of the United States nine out of ten cars sold in South Korea are white, silver (grey) or black – a higher proportion for these three colours than in any other country. Apparently, white cars have the highest resale value; white is associated with families and therefore white cars are thought to have been owned by responsible family types like me and therefore will have been well maintained. (My car is definitely not well maintained.)

It’s very unusual to see a pink car in Korea – only a rebellious type would have such a car! The Wall Street Journal are currently reporting a story about such a non-conformant and feature on a Mr Park who bought a white sports car and had it painted pink. Whereas in France, the Citreon DS3 has just been launched with a fuchsia pink roof. There still remains a cultural difference where social pressure in the east urges people to fit in whereas in the west it is more about “look at me”. A japanese person once told me there is a proverb about the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.

Personally, I would love a pink car, though certainly not a Citreon. This story also reminds me that a web-based study suggests that the most frequently mis-spelled colour word in the English language is fuchsia – or is it fuschia?

red makes you eat less

Yesterday was the first lecture in my module (Colour: Art and Science) at the University of Leeds. In this module I look at colour from a multi-disciplinary perspective covering art, design, physics, history, philosophy, neuroscience, advertising and branding – all perspectives that are needed to understand colour or are strongly influenced by colour. Towards the end of the module I look at colour in branding and advertising and look at the effects that colours have on people’s behaviours and emotional states. One of the frustrating things about it though is that there is a lack of high-quality research about this. In fact, I would go so far as to say that there is more nonesense written about colour (in books and on the internet) than almost any other topic I know!

Take the effect of colour on appetite. Lots of websites and books will tell you the same thing. Red stimulates appetite and this is one reason, for example, why it might be used in MacDonalds’ interior colour scheme. On the hand, blue inhibits your appetite; one reason for this is often stated as being that blue foods are quite rare and therefore we are predisposed to not want to eat blue foods (though what about blueberries!!). But when people write this, how many of them have actually done any research or read any research about these effects? That’s what I mean about nonesense; people write it because they heard it somewhere or imagined that it might be true. Last week I came across some research on the effect of colour on appetite. In this research, published in the Journal of Appetite, and jointly carried out by staff from the University of Basel (Switzerland) and the University of Mannheim (Germany) it was shown that participants drank less from a red cup than a blue cup and ate less snack food from a red plate than from a blue plate. In other words, the opposite of what is commonly believed. The point of this is that more serious research needs to be done to explore the effects that colour has; come and do a PhD in my lab and help to rectify that!!

Of course, the research referred to above does not necessarily mean that people would prefer red food to blue food or that people would eat less food in a restaurant decorated in red rather than blue. It is exactly that sort of extrapolation that is partly responsible for all of the misinformation about colour that is everywhere around us. I have to confess that I myself am sometimes responsible for this misinformation since I was talking to the students last year about the appetite-suppressant properties of blue. I need to stop now …. and go and do some more research.


I am one of the organisers of AIC2013 – a major international conference to be held about colour in Gateshead (UK). We’re holding the conference in the Sage which is an amazing venue. I recently went to the Sage to see Brit Floyd – a fantastic tribute act to Pink Floyd. As a drummer, I would love to play at the Sage but we have a long way to go before we could justify that sort of venue 🙂

2013 may seem a long way away but we have already been planning this conference for about two years. We’re expecting 500+ delegates and if you are interested in colour this is the place to come in 2013. Of course, there is a smaller (but still fantastic) AIC meeting in Taiwan in 2012 if you can’t wait until 2013. I am also going to be going to Taiwan for AIC2012 and will probably call in at Shanghai whilst I am over there.

See,, and

blue is the favourite colour

Very impressed by this post from Janice’s blog. Who is Janice? One of Canada’s leading colour designers. She’s also a colour consultant.

I have never been to Canada but I know a canadian professor and he is extremely funny. He told me a story that CBC radio held a competition to complete the sentence “As Canadian as ….”, as in “as American as apple pie”. The winning entry was “As canadian as possible under the circumstances“. Very funny. I am convinced this sort of entry could never have won in a similar competition in USA, for example. It’s more like British humour. Reminds me of Monty Python. It’s a nice story. Is it true? Yes, if you believe Wikipedia. And we all believe wikipedia don’t we? See

Back to Janice’s post … She raises the question of what is the favourite colour (resulting from polls). She says it is blue, but not just any old blue. Janice says it is royal blue or indigo, as opposed to something like baby blue. I ran a poll, just for fun … you can see the results here, though you have to take part in order to see the results. Blue comes out pretty near the top, of course, with green and purple; though in my fun survey I don’t get into the fine detail of which blue is favourite (warmer or cooler, reddish, neutral, or greenish?). Janice must be referring to some more detailed surveys … interesting.

Janice talks about indigo, lapis lazuli, Picasso and Yves Klein’s experimental work with blue (IKB); all things I talk about in the module I teach at the University of Leeds (Colour: Art and Science). Perhaps Janice should have my job!! Haha!

good to be colour blind

Colour blindness is mainly a male affliction. Something like 8% of all men in the world are colour blind though, as I have mentioned before, this doesn’t mean that they cannot see colour but, rather, means that their colour discrimination is not as good as that of so-called normal observers (the rest of us, in common vernacular). See my earlier post. So we normally think of colour blindness as being something undesirable, something that ideally we would like to be able to cure.

Interesting then that new research at Anglia Ruskin University has suggested that colour blindness may even be an advantage. The study was led by Dr Andrew Smith and showed that colour-blind monkeys (tamarins, to be exact) were better than their ‘normal’ counter-parts at catching camouflaged insects (such as crickets). I guess what this means is that the camouflage is designed (I guess I should say, has evolved) to be effective when viewed by normal tamarins. So the colour-blind tamarins may be better off in some sense.

Dr Smith is also quoted as saying that there is some evidence that, in humans, dichromats (who have two classes of cone rather than three) may see better in dim light than trichromats. For further information see