Tag Archives: Leeds University

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.

non-visual effects of light

Most people know that the ear system has two functions: hearing and balance. It is less well known that the visual system also has two functions. The first is seeing. The second is a set of non-visual functions including circadian rhythm. Mechanisms are being discovered that are particularly sensitive to blue light. So short-wavelength, or blue, light inhibits melatonin which is a chemical that makes you drowsy. So looking at bright lights late at night, especially blue ones, can contribute to a poor night’s sleep. So put your smart tablet away now and go to sleep!

In all seriousness though, I knew there was a reason why I do not like watching Chelsea on Match of the Day.


Studying these functional effects of colour and how they can be used in design is a major theme of the research I lead at the University of Leeds in the School of Design. If you have interest in these areas please contact me.

different views of Leeds


This year I hosted two Italian students as part of a European project. Silvia and Enrico both had the most fantastic design skills and both undertook projects about how to promote or represent a city – in their case, the city of Leeds where I work at the University of Leeds.

Here are two videos they produced at the end of their work here.

And here is a small diary about their time here in Leeds – http://colourdocks.wordpress.com/

The Incredible Grey Hulk

When I was young I used to read Marvel comics. My favourites were Spiderman and The Fantastic Four but I also liked the Hulk and Thor. When I was about 10 (in about 1972) I even had this idea of designing a wrist band that could shoot out web like spiderman. What I needed was a substance that would flow (as a liquid) when it was shot out but then quickly solidified to create the web. I noticed that polystyrene turned liquid under heat and I started to build a prototype. Sadly it never worked. But I often wonder if this incident sparked my interest in chemistry, an interest that led me to study Colour Chemistry at Leeds University in 1983 and finally to my lifelong passion for colour.

I just came across a story that the Hulk was not green in the original comic strip versions. He was grey!! Apparently, in The Hulk’s debut (May 1962, a few days after I was born) Lee chose grey for the Hulk because he wanted a colour that did not suggest any particular ethnic group. The chap in charge of the colour, Stan Goldberg, however, had problems with the grey; colour management was not what it is now and this resulted in several different shades of grey, and even green, in the first issue! Given the colour problems, Lee chose to change the skin colour to green. What a shocker! Next, I’ll probably find out that Spiderman was not real!!

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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_identity.

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!