Tag Archives: education

MRes Colour Communication

colour communication

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 s.westland@leeds.ac.uk for further information or visit http://www.design.leeds.ac.uk/pg/research-degrees/.


As some of you may know, I was General Chair of AIC2013 this year. We had a great time in Newcastle and spent a week with over 600 delegates talking about colour. But time moves on and we are approaching 2014. I would therefore like to draw your attention to the next AIC meeting which is in Mexico in October 2014. The theme is colour and culture and the venue – Oaxaca – is stunning. I hope to see you there.

For further details visit http://www.aic2014.org/index_en.html

Workshop in Wuhan

Last week I went to Wuhan (China) where I was invited by the Department of Industrial Design at Huazhong University of Science and Technology to give a two-day workshop on colour and a lecture. In the workshop I asked the students to arrange a set of colour chips in a logical order. Here is the result.IMG_3666



Group 1
Group 1
Group 2
Group 2
Group 3
Group 3
Group 4
Group 4

The last four images show the final work by each of four groups. Group 3 were the best in my opinion. Of course, this task is difficult, if not impossible, in 2-d. Colour perception is at least 3-d and the dimensions are lightness, chroma and hue. The workshop task was designed to enable the groups to explore the ontology of colour perception. It was also good fun!!!

What colour is your pen?


A new study by academics at the University of Colorado suggests that the colour ink you use when providing comments and feedback to students can alter their perception of criticism and place unnecessary blame on the teacher for bad marks or feedback. According to the researchers teachers should use a blue pen if they want their comments to be taken in a constructive manner. The full research paper is available online here.

new colour blogs

Readers may be interested in a new colour-related blog by the SDC’s Chief Executive Graham Clayton. The SDC – the Society of Dyers and Colourists – is the world’s leading independent educational charity dedicated to advancing the science and technology of colour worldwide. It is a professional, chartered Society and becoming a member gives access to SDC’s professional coloration qualifications. I have been a member since about 1982 and I am a Chartered Colourist and a Fellow of the SDC.

I also recently came across another colour blog called chromatic notes. It’s not clear from the web site who runs this blog but there is a great deal of technical information there.

RYB primaries

There are two phrases I keep seeing written down all over the internet that cause my blood pressure to increase.

The first is that the colour primaries are red, yellow and blue (RYB). And the second is that the primaries are colours that cannot be made by mixing other colours. Neither of these statements are true, of course.

The first statement makes no distinction between additive colour mixing (of lights) and subtractive colour mixing (of paints and inks) but subtractive colour mixing is normally implied. However, RYB is a relatively poor choice for three colour primaries. The range of colours that can be produced is actually quite small. For most painters and artists it doesn’t matter because very few work in just three primaries – if they did so they would probably be frustrated by the small gamut of colours achievable. Many artists (painters) will use 10 or more basic colours to mix their palette. However, there is a group of people who care passionately about the gamut of colours that can be obtained by mixing three colour primaries – that is the people who work for companies such as HP and Canon. These companies make CMYK printers for the consumer market and their jobs depend upon consumers liking their printers. They understand that the largest gamut (in subtractive mixing) can be obtained if the primaries are cyan, magenta and yellow (CMY). The teaching of RYB as the (subtractive) primaries should be stopped. It’s already gone on for far too long.

One reason I don’t like the teaching of RYB as being the subtractive primaries, in addition to the fact that it is wrong, is that it confuses people who are trying to learn colour theory. This is because red, yellow and blue seem to be quite pure colours and this encourages people to hold the second belief I don’t like which is that the primaries are pure colours that cannot be mixed from other colours. If people understood that the primaries were CMY it would be less tempting to hold this belief about the purity of the primaries. Of course, if you make a palette of colours of three primaries then it is true that no mixture of two or more colours from that palette can match any of the primaries. However, there are other colours (that are outside the gamut of the primary system) that could be mixed together to match the primaries. This false notion of purity confuses the real issue – that is, that the subtractive primaries are cyan, magenta and yellow because the additive primaries are red, green and blue. Look at this picture below:

The additive primaries are red, green and blue and the secondaries are cyan, magenta and yellow. Correspondingly, the subtractive primaries are cyan, magenta and yellow and the subtractive secondaries are red, green and blue. Simple.

I wrote about this before so for a slightly different perspective see my earlier post.

Perhaps I am so agitated about it today because I am just watching England getting trounced by Ireland at rugby when the Grand Slam was so tantalisingly close. Or maybe I will feel just the same tomorrow.

Design is everything and nothing

It’s possible to say that everything is designed. When we think of design we often think of fashion design or graphic design, or perhaps automtotive design or software design. But everything is designed. When we put a meal together, couldn’t you say we are designing? A chef is a food-designer!! When we are arrange our furniture, aren’t we engaging in interior design? Isn’t a chemist engaging in design at the moulecular level? Thinking like this leads to the idea that design is everything. However, if design is everything and everywhere then it is no thing and nowhere in particular. So if design is everything then it is also nothing. Discuss.

chess app for iPhone

Though this is a blog about colour I can’t help but take this opportunity to announce that I recently had my first app for the iPhone accepted by Apple on the appstore – no mean feat I can assure you – and it is now available for download.

It’s a chess app called ChessTutor Lite. Most chess apps allow you to play the computer or even play your friends. Mine doesn’t allow either of those things. Booooooo! However, it does something equally exciting in my opinion – it allows you to step through a grandmaster game and predict the moves at each step. For each move you make you get a score (100% if you make the move made by the grandmaster – or as good as – right down to 0% if you make a game that results in a catastrophic defeat!!). You also get a natural language comment about why the move you made is good or bad. Huzzzzaahahah. So it allows you to assess how good your chess is and learn how to play better. It’s pretty unique I think. And it’s completely free.

Here’s a screen shot from the app so you can at least admire my use of complementary colour harmony in the design!!

You can find out further details about here – http://www.colourchat.co.uk/apps/chesstutor/ – or just put chesstutor into the search box an your iphone apps page.

What a great job!

Color Designer
Nike, Inc.

Beaverton, Oregon

As a Color Designer in Nike Sportwear, you’ll work under the direction of the Design and Color Leaders to lead a category to create innovative color design solutions for a line of footwear. You’ll collaborate with category cross-functional teams to create a merchandisable line from concept to retail presentation; build innovative, retail viable color solutions for category or gender-specific lines; create seasonal direction of color; and lead color merchandising strategies and stories seasonally. You’ll also research and deliver color, design, market and lifestyle trends that influence and impact the product category process from product briefing to product concept to salesman samples. You’ll plan and execute color designs; collaborate with Design, Product Marketing, Development and Material Designers to focus color solutions for market success; finalize product details; and proactively follow through on the execution of color on each product.

See http://www.coroflot.com/public/job_details.asp?job_id=23381

CIE system of colorimetry

For about 100 years there has been an international system for colour specification – it’s called the CIE system. The acronym comes from Commission Internationale de L’Eclairage.

This system is based on the notion of additive colour mixing – http://colourware.wordpress.com/2009/07/13/additive-colour-mixing/

Since it is possible to mix together three primary lights and make a wide gamut of colours (though not, of course, all colours) the principle is that the amounts of these primaries that an observer would use to mix togther to match a colour is a useful specification of that colour. We refer to these amounts as tristimulus values. One could imagine a visual colorimeter whereby an observer would try to match a colour that is to be specified by adjusting the intensities of three primary lights that are mixed together – once a match is obtained then the tristimulus values would define or specify the colour. All that would be necessary would be to able to decide on a set of primaries and manufacture the visual colorimeters so that they are very consistent from one device to the next. It would be a little clumsy though to have to use one of these visual colorimeters. But in principle it could work.

Fortunately the CIE does not require the use of such visual colorimeters since in 1931 the CIE measured the trismumulus values that observers made when matching various colours. These were averaged to create the so-called CIE standard observer.  And here’s the really clever bit. Having defined the CIE standard observer it is possible to calculate the tristimulus values (the amounts of the three primaries that an observer would use to match a colour) without any further observations. All that is required is that we know the amount of light at each wavelength reflected by a sample or (in some cases) emitted from a device such as computer display and then – by using our knowledge of the CIE standard observer – it is possible to calculate the tristimulus values.

So what were the primaries. If you have read my previous post, What is a colour primary – http://colourware.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/what-is-a-colour-primary/ – you’ll know that the choice of colour primaries is somewhat arbitrary. Well, in fact the original determination of the standard observer what carried out in England using red, green and blue primaries. But the data obtained were later modified to refer to a different set of primaries known as X, Y and Z. It was necessary to make this adjustment because using any set of real primaries it was impossible to match any colour with mixtures of the primaries; using RGB meant many colours could be matched, but not all. So a set of so-called imaginary primaries was conceived which could – in theory – be used to match all colours. So the tristimulus values of the CIE system are known as X, Y and Z. 

In fact, it didn’t really matter which set of primaries was used; the CIE system was concerned with colour matching. If two samples have the same tristimulus values then they would be a visual colour match no matter which set of primaries was used. So the choice of primaries really was not critical.

Today many instruments are commercially available – colorimeters, reflectance spectrophotometers, radiometers) – that, with the use of software, allow the CIE XYZ values to be measured; these instruments are extremely valuable in many industrial and commercial applications. The CIE system is still very much alive today, though many users often prefer to use one of the more advanced colour spaces – such as the CIELAB colour space – which was defined by the CIE in 1976 and whose values are very easily calculated from the CIE XYZ values.  For further information about the CIE please visit their web site – http://www.colour.org/