Category Archives: design

colour lighting



Very excited with the temporary installation of our new spectral lighting system at Leeds University. Whereas most coloured lights are based on RGB, we have a system that has a lot of spectral control (it works by having 11 different coloured LED primaries). We have several PhD students who are using these lights with their research. Nic and Yiting are looking at the effect of light and colour on alertness and also on impulsivity. Meanwhile, Soojin (pictured) is looking at the effect of colour on creativity (though in her study we won’t be using really saturated colours like those shown in the pictures). Hoping for some great publications on this soon. However, if you are interested in whether coloured lighting can affect heart rate and blood pressure take a look at our AIC publication (pdf) that we presented in Tokyo in 2015.

UK favourite car colours

The top three favourite car colours in the UK in 2016 were white, black and grey (in that order). White has been the best seeing colour for four years which is interesting because it never used to be popular in the UK. Car salesman used to refer to the colour as three-week white because it took three weeks longer to sell a white car compared with other colours. But it’s 10 years now since a chromatic colour was number 1.

For further details see here.

red rage in schools

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Staff at a primary school in Dundee want to change the colour of the uniform because they think the red colour could affect children’s behaviour. According to the Headmistress Gillian Knox:

‘Red is often used to energise body and mind, and some research indicates that it can increase heart and breathing rates. [This is] not the calm, relaxed learning state we hope to achieve. A recent study linked red to impaired performance on achievement tasks.’

Pupils currently wear a bright red jumper or cardigan with grey trousers or skirt. But teachers want there to be only ‘small amounts’ of red – such as in the school tie.

However, although statements such as this – that red raises heart rates – are all over the red and often cited as facts (as in ‘everybody knows’) in fact there is very little evidence that looking at red can affect heart rates. We ran a study at University of Leeds last year and found no statistically significant effect of the colour of light on subjects’ heart rates or on their blood pressure. A review of the literature reveals little evidence: there is a PhD thesis from California from about 1950 that nobody can get hold off and a study with mentally handicapped children in the 80s. That’s it. Light certainly affects us physiologically but it is far from fact that red raises blood pressure.

changing button colour increased conversion

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It seems that only recently companies are carrying out what is known as split testing or A/B testing. Put two designs of a web site out and see which does best. Recently one company did just that. They had one web site with a green call-to-action button (as shown above) and another with a yellow call-to-action button. Changing the call-to-action button from green to yellow resulted in a 187.4% increase in conversions to their website. Is there some effect that yellow light could have compared to green? For example, could yellow light make users more impulsive?

According to Erika Dickstein it may be nothing to do with yellow at all but simply to do with the contrast – the yellow stands out better and therefore is more noticeable. Certainly more research is needed in this area.

light that changes colour with your mood

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The future of lighting is LEDs and that means more colour. There are many advantages of LED lighting over tungsten or even fluorescent lights not least of which is the opportunity for more colour. I have noticed all of the new buildings on the campus at the University of Leeds are equipped with coloured lighting. The Laidlaw library – and even the new car park – is illuminated at night in an eerie purple glow.

The Syska SmartLight plugs into a standard socket but then can be controlled using the “Syska Rainbow LED” app for your Android or iOS phone or tablet.

I want one. But I am not sure they are on sale in the UK. More details here.

What colour is your city?

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I came across an interesting blog by Tom Wolley – a freelance illustrator based in West Yorkshire who specialises in illustrated maps and hand lettering – who developed an illustrated colour may of Leeds (which happens to be where I live). What is particularly interesting is that Tom describes his process somewhat. It is well worth looking at and I think his final design (shown above) is rather nice. The yellows and blues are derived from the classical colours of Leeds and Yorkshire although somewhat more muted.

It makes me think. Are certain colours associated with places? Or even with districts? A recent paper by Willem Coetzee and Norbert Haydam at CAUTH 2016 (The Changing Landscape of Tourism and Hospitality: The Impact of Emerging Markets and Emerging Destinations) looked at this. Their paper was called – Colour association test as a target market analysis technique at an emerging destination – an exploratory study. They used colour association as a market analysis technique to measure tourism demand in a small town. The results indicated that different segments of the market had different associations of colour for the same destination.

cigarette packaging colour

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New regulations – from 20 May 2016 – will see all cigarette packaging in the same drab green colour.colour with other standardised features such as opening mechanism and font, and with 60 per cent of the casing covered by text and images showing how smoking affects your health. The decision was made in Parliament on 15 May last year.

They have also been told to get rid of any misleading information from cigarette packs, and have been prevented from using words such as ‘organic’, ‘natural’ or ‘lite’, which could lead consumers to believe there is a healthy smoking option.

Further information can be found in this article in The Independent.

The images shown above are from a similar scheme in Australia.

Colour: Art and Science

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I run a module at the University of Leeds called Colour: Art and Science. For me colour is a classic meta-discipline and understanding of colour requires and appreciation of ideas from lots of different academic fields. So I like to present a very multi-disciplinary perspective of colour and I have students enrol from all sorts of different departments in the University which is a lot of fun. One of the main reasons I run this blog is as a resource for those students.

So I was interested to just come across this Brief History of Colour in Art by Sarah Gottesman which covers some of the same stuff that I talk about.

In the same vein I came across this discussion by @CINEMAPALETTES about cinema colour palettes that shows how colours are used to set the mood of iconic films.

what colour is your passport?

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Whenever I am travelling to a conference and standing in a line at an airport it seems to me that everyone has either a burgundy passport like me or a red one if the are from USA. It turns out that most passports really are the same colour as this great infographic shows. Well, one of only about four colours so it seems. It’s interesting the way they are grouped; I wonder why Africa tends to use green or black. For the full story see. here.