I don’t just blog about flags and taxis – it just seems like it sometimes.
But today I came across a news story in the Express and Star (a newspaper in the Wolverhampton area of the UK) about a review of rules permitting taxi drivers in Dudley to use only white-coloured cars. The taxi association says that white cars are more expensive because of the popularity of the colour – with some even forced to respray their vehicles to comply with the rule. The single-colour scheme was introduced in 1996.
Just put taxi in the search box (at the bottom of the page) to see my other posts about taxi colour controversies. Or don’t, if you have a life to live.
I blog about anything related to colour and I am interested in all sorts of aspects of colour whether they be based in arts and design, cultural studies, evolution, chemistry, physics, biology or technology. But a couple of themes keep cropping up and I end up posting about them at regular intervals. So, in 2012 I posted about the historical development of the UK flag – the union jack. And then earlier this year I posted about an article on the BBC about the possible redesign on the union jack is Scotland votes to leave the United Kingdom in the forthcoming referendum there. Some of the designs that were being put forward were really horrible. Perhaps I am too attached to the union jack. A few days ago I came across another BBC story which included 25 readers’ designs for the union jack should Scotland leave. . I must say I much prefer the readers’ designs rather than those previously proposed by experts – the BBC reliably informs me that such experts are known as vexillologists. I like this flag (by David and Gwyneth Parker) – where the blue of Scotland has simply been swapped for the green of Wales, thus preserving the traditional look. (If you wonder why the green of Wales is not in the current flag see my earlier post.)
And I also like the following design (by Matthew Welch), where England and Wales are represented in the top left and bottom right corners respectively and the diagonal stripe represents Northern Ireland of course.
You probably have to be from the UK to understand this humorous design (by Al Main).
You can see all 25 readers’ designs at the BBC here.
If you are interested in vexillology (is that a word?) you may like to read another BBC story about a potential new flag for Norther Ireland. And finally, I was interested that the CIA apparently has a flag database that it makes available to the public.
Could we have developed currency around elements other than gold and silver? Why couldn’t we have coins made out of platinum, for example?
Interesting article today on the BBC website interviewing Professor Sella (University Collage London) about why, of the 118 elements of the periodic table, it is gold (alongside silver) that we value and use for currency.
According to Prof Sella there are reasons to dismiss all the elements apart from gold and silver. For example, you couldn’t use elements that are gas (such as neon) or liquid (mercury) as currency because it would be impractical to carry them around. Several others (such as arsenic and the other liquid, bromine) are poisonous and so could not be practically used. The alkaline metals (those on the left-hand side of the periodic table) are not stable enough (they react with too many other elements). And, of course, say no more about the radioactive elements. Some of the so-called rare earths (such as cerium) could be used but they tend to be even more rare that gold and are actually quite difficult to distinguish from each other.
Prof Sella also postulates reasons for dismissing the 40 transition and post-transition elements such as copper, lead, iron and aluminium. Many are hard to smelt (needing temperatures as high as 1000 deg C) such as titanium and zirconium or hard to extract such as aluminium. Iron is easier to extract and smelt but rusts too easily. Iron is also too abundant.
Prof Sella lists the 8 noble metals (platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium and ruthenium, gold and silver) as contenders. However, with the exception of silver and gold they are too rare and have other problems (platinum is hard to extract and has a very high melting point for example). So this leaves gold and silver. The choice of these metals is not arbitrary. It turns out that they have exactly the right properties that we need. They are stable, chemically uninteresting, rare (but not too rare), safe, relatively easy to extract, solid at room temperature and with a reasonably low melting temperature.
The article also explains why gold is golden in colour.
Just read a really informative article by David Airey – an independent brand identity designer – about colour and brand identity. In his article David reiterates some ideas I heard from Laura Hussey in Design Week (and recently blogged about); that is that some companies such as Oxfam and The Guardian are rebranding with a rainbow colour palette. As David writes: “Multiple colours speak of choice, variety and diversity. Think Google, NBC, eBay, or MSN to name but a few that use more than two colours to express their breadth.”
However, David’s post goes further to describe some of his own work with Halcyon coffee and the use of a range of different colours: “The colours used within the brand and environment were derived from, and act as a subtle nod towards the diverse colour palette used during Britain’s great creative periods of the past — our Halcyon days, mixed with those we see around us today.” Definitely worth having a read of David’s article
Some of you may recall that last year – a big year for the UK with the Olympics in London and Queen’s jubilee – there was a lot of waving of British flags. I posted about how the flag was derived historically and noted the absence of any representation by Wales. For those who are less familiar, the United Kingdom is a union of four countries (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). By contrast Great Britain is just England, Scotland and Wales (not including Northern Ireland) and the British Isles is a geographical feature that includes the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Simple?
Next year the Scottish people be asked if they want to be independent. If they vote yes (in my opinion this is not very likely, but possible) it will signal the end of the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Today the BBC ran a feature about possible new designs of the new flag. I wasn’t very impressed by any of them, including the horrible one below. Try reading my post first and then the new BBC article.
The weekend of the 22nd November saw the school of Design host the Leeds Sustainability Jam 2013, part of the Global Sustainability Jam taking place simultaneously across the world. A “Design Jam” is similar in concept to a Jam session in music: people come together, bringing their instruments, skills, and open-mindedness. Someone sets up a theme, and everyone starts to Jam around it and together you build something which none of you could have built alone.
The Leeds Sustainability Jam involved a gathering of students and non-students from different areas of study, research, cultures and experiences. The design-based approach to creativity enabled everyone to participate in the discussion of sustainability and consider the environmental, social and economic aspects. Throughout the weekend the emphasis was on “not just talking but actually doing”. By the end of Sunday the teams had turned their ideas into concrete designs or plans of action which could be shared with the global design network and then realistically put into action the next day.
The resulting projects from the Leeds teams included “Be a good Bean”; a network of sustainably sourced local suppliers all connected by a cup, “The Food Experience”; a system of events making lunchtime an experience to enjoy, reconnecting people with the idea of food as being an experience in itself, and “Walk-in Wardrobe”; a university clothes sharing scheme, initially starting with jumpers, where people get to rethink their perception of fashion, consumerism and ownership.
It is now up to the teams to implement these projects across the University campus and local community!
For more information on the projects and the list of Sponsors follow the links:
On Christmas day of 2009 I posted about the colour of carrots.
I had been watching a Royal Institution Christmas Lecture by Prof Sue Hartley about carrots and why they are orange. She spoke about selective breeding by the Dutch (the first naturally occurring carrots were purple – from Afghanistan – and were later cultivated to be orange). In seeking to find more about this I found myself on the website of the British Carrot Museum. It is seriously worth a visit even if your interest in carrots is tangential.
I was reminded of this today when I came across an article in The Economic Times (India) which reported that the Punjab Agriculture University has developed its first black colour carrot variety (known as ‘punjab black beauty’) which has been recommended for general cultivation in the state. The black carrot is the best alternative to tackle the malnutrition problems of the country because it is overloaded with beneficial anti-oxidants and nutrients. The punjab black beauty is is rich in anthocyanins, phenols, flavonols ß-carotene, calcium, iron, and zinc.
I am also reminded, of course, of the words of the great late Uncle Monty (aka Richard Griffiths): “I think the carrot infinitely more fascinating than the geranium. The carrot has mystery. Flowers are essentially tarts. Prostitutes for the bees. There is a certain je ne sais quoi – oh, so very special – about a firm, young carrot”.
It used to be thought that blue was an appetite suppressant because blue foods are rare and sometimes poisonous. But I have always doubted this and wrote about it near three years ago on this blog. And then nearly two years ago I posted about research from the University of Basel (Switzerland) and the University of Mannheim (Germany) in which 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 was commonly believed. Today I read in CNN about work by Nicola Bruno, a cognitive psychologist from the University of Parma, about his research to measure how much food or hand cream people used when presented on plates of different colours (red, white or blue). The food and hand cream was available to be used freely whilst participants took part in a survey. People ate less food and used less hand cream when either was presented on a red plate. However, the authors note that in their experiment the participants were unaware of the experiment – so it is not so straight forward to extrapolate and conclude that if you buy red plates for home you would eat less. Because then you would be conscious of the idea and it might not work. On the other hand, it might!!
It was nice for me to hear this story and it reminded me of when Nicola came to visit me (when I worked at Keele University) and we published a paper together. That was in about 2000 and I don’t think I have seen him since. Sometimes it isn’t a small world. But it was nice to come across him again anyway.
Really great article in Design Week about the importance of colour in branding. Apparently, in a survey of the world’s top 100 brands (defined by brand value) 95 per cent use only one or two colours. However, Laura Hussey puts a convincing case that more colour could be beneficial. She points to companies such as Google and Ebay who use more than one colour in their brand.
And she also refers to some interesting developments with Oxfam and The Guardian who are using a spectrum of colours to represent hope and positivity. It’s well worth reading Laura’s article. You can see it here. You may also be interested in my post of a few weeks ago about Apple’s historical and contemporary use of colour.
We’re starting a new programme at Leeds University next September. It’s MRes Colour Communication. This is a one-year Masters programme by research but with a twist. There is a taught component in the first semester to get everyone up to speed to make sure they understand the basics of colour communication. They then explore one aspect of this in their research project and submit a dissertation at the end of the year. Please contact me at my University email of email@example.com for further information or visit http://www.design.leeds.ac.uk/pg/research-degrees/.