Tag Archives: black

what colour is your passport?

passport colours

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.

It couldn’t get much blacker

A few weeks ago I was taking my son to a birthday party and a journalist from The Independent phoned me to ask my opinion on Vantablack. This is the blackest material ever made. Whereas most black materials reflect about 4% of the light (or more) at all wavelengths, this new nano-material has really really low reflectance. It only reflects about 0.035% of the light. I gave a few comments and an article appeared in The Independent which was nice. I used to really like The Independent, back in the days when I read newspapers. The original article by Ian Johnston was very good imho.

However, a few days later the story was all around the world and I was often cited, all based on that one phone interview with Ian. The thing was that it was not even that big news. That is, yes, it is the blackest material ever made, but the truth is it is an incremental improvement in blackness beating the previous blackest material from a few years ago. My name even appeared in the Daily Mail. Most embarrassingly, I was interviewed on an American radio show. The reason I say it was embarrassing was that this new development actually had nothing to do with me and I didn’t want people thinking I was trying to claim credit. So when I agreed to do the radio show I told the researcher that they needed to be clear that this was nothing to do with me. I didn’t invent it. Imagine my surprise when John Hockenberry (that was his name, I believe) asked me, “So Dr Westland, what have you stumbled upon?”. Arghhhhh!!! Luckily, it was not a live interview because it actually got worse. A lot worse. So bad, that I could barely summon up strength to listen to it when it went out the next day. But actually, the editors did a good job and the final cut is not too bad. You can hear it here.

It would be nice to talk about my own work. I work in the area of blackness. One of the things I do is to ask people to rank different black samples in order of least black to most black. This allows me to discover, for example, that women prefer reddish blacks and men prefer bluish blacks. Also, asians prefer reddish blacks and caucasians prefer bluish blacks. I am developing a blackness index; a way to measure a sample and say how black it is or whether one sample is blacker than another. Why? Well, one application is for manufacturers of black ink for printers (which may be made from coloured inks). Different recipes produce different blacks. What if one recipe is chromatically neutral but another recipe is less neural (it has a slight hue) but is darker – which one is blacker?

black plants can save the world

About three years ago I posted about the question of why leaves are green. In this I postulated as to why chlorophyll (the green stuff in leaves) should be green; after all, this means that it only absorbing some of the wavelengths in the visible spectrum. In fact, I argued that it would be better if plants were black, absorbing all of the wavelengths in the visible spectrum. Now, someone on co.design is suggesting just that – that green plants absorb only about 2% of the possible energy and that scientists are thinking of turning them black. Presumably this would save the world because plants would be more efficient at converting harmful greenhouse gasses into oxygen. There’s catch though, apparently. If you make the plants black they get too hot and overheat resulting in cell damage. Actually, I also suggested this might be the case in my original article in 2011. Looks like black plants won’t save the world. They won’t even save themselves.

There’s nothing wrong with black carrots though – see here.

I like my carrots black


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 ├č-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”.

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?

colourful greeks

It’s often thought that black, white and grey are mature and sophisticated colours and that saturated reds and yellows are childish colours. Part of the reason for this is that the Romans and Greeks didn’t use colour. All those classic statues we see in museums are achromatic. However. this may be all based on a misunderstanding. At a CREATE conference in Italy last year I first came across the idea that the Romans and Greeks used colour quite extensively but that over the centuries the colour faded. Today I saw this story in the popular press.

An exhibition of work – Gods In Colour: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity – recoloured as it is believed to have originally been features more than 20 full-size colour reconstructions of Greek and Roman works. Currently on show at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany.

lawsuit over colour in logo

Dollar General (http://www.dollargeneral.com) is a discount store based in the USA. They used distinctive yellow and black colour combinations in their advertising material. In March this year they filed a lawsuit against their competitor (Fred’s Inc) who they claim have damaged their business by copying the┬átrademark yellow and black colours in certain marketing information.

The lawsuit accuses Fred’s of “unlawfully and deceptively” using Dollar General’s colour scheme and typeface in a new advertising campaign. The lawsuit says the only explanation for Fred’s moving away from a traditional blue-green color combination in its advertising is an intent to capture Dollar General’s brand awareness.

For further information see http://nashville.bizjournals.com/nashville/stories/2010/03/08/daily27.html