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.
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.
Imagine that we have three projection lamps at the back of a hall – one has a red filter and so produces a beam of red light, and the other two use filters to produce green and blue beams. We project these onto a white screen and get three circles of light (one, red, one green and one blue). We then move the angles of the projectors so that the circles of light overlap. We get something that looks rather like this:
Where the red and green light overlap we get yellow. We get magenta and cyan for the other two binary mixtures. So,
red + green = yellow
red + blue = magenta
green + blue = cyan
This is called additive colour mixing as I am sure you know. And if we mix all three primaries we can achieve white (or other neutral colours). The primaries could be single wavelengths of light – so we could use a primary at, say, 700 nm (for the red) and one at 450 nm (blue) and one at 530 nm (green). So green light (530 nm) and red light (700 nm) additively mix together and generate yellow. When this happens what is being mixed and where does this mixing take place? Take a few moments to consider this before reading on.
Notice I said that they additively mix to generate yellow – I specifically avoided saying that they mix to generate yellow light. When I sat down with a couple of students last week and asked then what they though they said that the red and green light mixed together to create yellow light and when I pressed them, they went further to say that the yellow light was at about 575 nm.
If we measure the part of the screen that is yellow we would see that we have some light at 700 nm and some at 530 nm. The wavelengths are not mixed; they don’t mix together to generate some third wavelength of light such as 575 nm. So no physical mixing takes place other than – I suppose one could argue – that the red and green lights are mixed in the sense that they are spatially coincident. But that’s not really mixing, for me, and certainly doesn’t even begin to explain why we have the sensation of yellow when we look at these wavelengths together. It also makes me think that additive colour mixing, if it can be said to occur anywhere in particular, occurs in the eye. And I do mean eye, not brain.
I have worked in colour for pretty much all my working life. Though it has led to a rewarding and stimulating career (with a little bit of success) and though my passion for colour has never waned, I do sometimes wonder if i could have put my life to something more useful. Not that colour is not useful, far from it, but what I mean is something that could save lives. For example, perhaps I could have become a researcher looking into a cure for cancer. Compared with research like that, doesn’t colour sometimes seem frivolous and secondary?
So my Friday morning today was just cheered up a little when I came across an article in the Grundig about how colour-changing technology could revolutionise the medical industry. Apparently, 1.3 million people die each year because of unsafe injections, making the humble injection the most dangerous clinical procedure in the world. Part of the problem is that syringes are sometimes accidentally reused without sterilisation.
In response to this serious issue, David Swann at the University of Huddersfield – just down the road from where I work – developed a “behaviour-changing syringe” that warns when the needle is unsafe. Once opened the syringe turns bright red within sixty seconds. It’s not even expense. Apparently a standard syringe costs 2.5 pence whereas the “behaviour-changing syringe” costs 2.65 pence.
See the original article here.
What is it about taxis that makes colour so controversial?
In 2009 I posted about the situation in Derby (UK) where the council introduced a new rule saying that all official taxis should be yellow and then got into trouble when they said that one taxi driver’s taxi was not exactly the right shade of yellow. How did they specify the colour?
A couple of years later there was a major political storm over a proposal for Durham (also UK – ooops …. embarrassing!!!) to adopt white as the official taxi colour.
Then in 2012 I wrote about taxi colour in Beijing. Well, this was not exactly news but by now taxi colour was starting to interest me!!
But guess what? Today, another genuine taxi colour story. This time it is in USA. The D.C. Taxicab Commission’s One Color Panel recommended Wednesday that District taxis be coloured red. Apparently, “Red is a color that is strongly associated with the District, both among residents and visitors,” the colour panel said in a statement. “The Stars and Bars of the District flag are red. Each of the major sports franchises in the District has a shade of red as a prominent part of the uniform. In the area of transportation, both the District’s Circulator bus and the Capital BikeShare vehicles are red.” All taxis will be required to change to the new colour within five years.
Interesting article about a guy who built his own colour-measurement device at home from simple components.
Red, what could I say about the colour red?
Some people call it the colour of love, for me, it’s far from that.
Red is for me the colour of blood. It’s the colour of anger and hate.
According to a recent consumer report people in the UK are buying bright colours, particularly red, to cheer themselves up in these times of austerity. Apparently a third of all sales of women’s jeans are in colours other than blue.
According to Fiona Lambert, George Brand Director:
“In challenging times people purchase bright colours across both fashion and beauty to lift their spirits. Customers have told us they want to be bold and steer away from the “safe” option of black, and have been looking at affordable ways to lift their moods by buying coloured items.”
There are many reasons why I don’t like colour wheels of the type shown below:
The first reason is because it perpetuates the myth that the subtractive primaries are red, yellow and blue whereas the fact is that red, yellow and blue produces a rather small gamut of colours. It is certainly not the best choice of subtractive primaries though it is taught as dogma in many art and design schools and throughout children’s education. The problem is that whenever two colours are mixed together there is saturation loss; that is, the resultant mixture ends up being more desaturated than the two components were. The saturation loss is greatest when mixing colours on the opposite side of the colour circle where the resultant mixture can be almost grey. However, for certain choices of primaries, the saturation loss is greater than for others. If red, yellow and blue are used as the primaries then of course it is possible to generate any other hue. However, there is significant saturation loss and the above colour wheel gives completely the wrong impression. It suggests that mixing blue and yellow together, for example, results in a really bright vivid green.
The reality of pigment mixing is much more like the triangular colour wheel shown below:
In the above diagram it can be seen that mixing together yellow and blue results in a really muddy dark green. The purple resulting from mixing blue and red is almost black!! Now it is possible to mix together a blue and a yellow to get a better green. For example, mixing a greenish blue with a yellow will give a much more vivid green. Mixing a bluish red with a greenish blue will result in a lovely purple. We have a name for a greenish blue and a blueish red – we call them cyan and magenta. A much better colour gamut is obtained if we start with the primaries, cyan, magenta and yellow.
Footnote: Some people may look at the triangular colour wheel and think that the reason the colours are dull is that the red, yellow, and blue primaries used are not ‘pure’ enough. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If it was possible to make really vivid and bright red and blue pigments then the resultant colour gamut would be even smaller. Fundamentally, red, yellow and blue just don’t make good subtractive primaries.
In the US a colour can only be successfully trademarked (protected) if the colour is used as a brand identifier. If the colour is used in a functional way then the courts do not usually award protection since to do so would be to unfairly suppress competition. Catrin Turner, an expert in trade mark law at law firm Pinsent Masons has said:
“Colour of packaging, for example from yellow or silver for butter, to purple or red for chocolate, create powerful connections for consumers. Having the colour monopoly granted by a registered trade mark creates real practical barriers for competitors wanting to sit within a class of products which consumers expect to be coloured a particular way.”
In my colour branding lectures at the University of Leeds I illustrate this with several high-profile examples such as Cadbury purple.
In 2008 the Federal Courts in USA dismissed a claim by Cadbury Schweppes that a competitor, Darrell Lea, had used purple on their chocolate packaging to pass their products off as Cadbury chocolate. One of the issues here is that purple is used functionally on chocolate packaging since it conveys richness and opulence. Indeed, Darrell Lea have been using the colour purple with their chocolate products since 1927. It is an obvious choice. It was a costly loss for cadbury; five years in court and undoubtedly millions of dollars in legal costs. However, the law in these matters is complex and varies from country to country. In November 2011 a UK court allowed Cadbury protection for their purple (Pantone 2685C) despite protests from Nestlé. In the UK a colour can be trade marked only if the company can show that the colour has acquired distinctive character through use. Interestingly, Cadbury were only granted protection for certain products (chocolate bars, for example) rather than being granted exclusive use of the colour for all of their products.
I was interested to read another fascinating case this week – Christian Louboutin’s red, used as a brand identifier on the soles of its women’s shoes. Louboutin registered its shade of red with the US Patent and Trademark Office in 2008, and is now trying to prevent competitor Yves Saint Laurent from selling scarlet-soled shoes of its own. The fashion house says YSL’s copycat soles threaten to mislead the public. The district judge in the case ruled to deny Louboutin’s request for a preliminary injunction that would prevent YSL from selling the red-soled shoes from its 2011 collection, saying:
Because in the fashion industry color serves ornamental and aesthetic functions vital to robust competition, the court finds that Louboutin is unlikely to be able to prove that its red outsole brand is entitled to trademark protection, even if it has gained enough public recognition in the market to have acquired secondary meaning.