Forty-Two Days: Week 2

This week was devoted to thoughts on color. I also took some time to mess with color swatches and experiment with color within a set framework of shapes. Of all the ones I made, this is my favorite:

Color Swatch

I recently took part in a discussion about scientific “facts.” One of the people present was having difficulty grasping what could be considered scientifically factual. He therefore posed a question, asking if one could consider it a “fact” that the color of the sky was blue. The discussion proceeded, but my mind took a different path, getting stuck on the subject of color.

You see, my passion is filmmaking, a process which involves using light to capture and re-display motion, sound, and color. A corollary interest involves light-duty graphic design – mostly for websites. Like filmmaking, color is one of the core components of design. Therefore, in all likelihood, color will play a large role in my future.

My first thought was that for color in design, form should be dictated by function. Easily said, but not so easily figured out. As I continued pondering, I ran into some writings about color,  stating that color is a perception which can evoke different things in different people. I paired this with psychologists’ assertion that roughly half of what we “see” or perceive is actual sensory input, while the other half comes from memories already stored in the brain. This other half of perception that comes from memory won’t be factually accurate. What we see is heavily influenced by our previous experiences. The resulting conclusion is that how people perceive color depends heavily upon where they’ve seen that color or combination of colors in the past.

It’s easy to glibly state that different people see the same color differently, but let us consider for a moment the implications of color for a visual artist, whether filmmaker, graphic designer, web designer, or artist. Color is subject to the same influences as other perceptions, and therefore the color choices I make in visual imagery will be interpreted not necessarily as I perceive them or intend them to be, but according to the previous experiences of my audience. As a beginning filmmaker and web designer, my projects aren’t likely to have the scope of undertakings like the Facebook website or Avatar. Smaller projects will likely be aimed at relatively specific target groups, right? But as I thought about this, I realized that even a small website will attract a wide range of people with an equally wide range of perceptions about color.

Since I’m in a (prolonged) planning stage for my own site, I started thinking about what groups might visit it, and therefore how color might be perceived by my visitors. I concluded that small businesses (and whoever is in charge of advertising/websites for those businesses) were my target – from construction companies to quilt shops, from hunting TV shows to authors of children’s books.

The take-home point here for me was that I need to study perception of color and come to an understanding of how different groups perceive color and combinations of color.

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