Living In The Spectrum


Colours Began With Earth,
Colours Enliven Lives On Earth,
Dive Into The Spectrum,
Unravel The Stratums Of Colours
And Discover For Yourself – The Science Of Colours.
Text: Nicole Tan

The Age Of Improvisation

In the early 20th century, with the discovery of the prehistoric cave art on the walls of El Castillo cave located in the Cantabria region of northern Spain, mankind was thought to have first used colour pigments 40,800 years ago. Later in the century however, the origin of colours was pushed back a further (about) 30,000 years when archaeologists discovered an ‘art studio’ in Blombos Cave in South Africa which is believed to be built at least circa 70,000 BC. The findings included red and yellow pigments, charcoal, stone chips, abalone shell containers, grinding cobbles and bone spatulas. We may never know when man first experimented with colours because the new archaeological findings often times refute the previous claims and there are just too many artifacts waiting to be unearthed.

Prehistoric painters experimented with what were at their disposal – the earth and the minerals for colour pigments. We now know that ochre was their source for the colour red, umber for reddish brown, sienna for yellowish brown, manganese for brownish black and kaolin for white. Besides being used for cave art, the colour pigments were also used for face and body painting as well as for dyeing purposes. Suffice it to say, colours have undoubtedly been integral to mankind since the prehistoric times. Over the ages, new colours were discovered namely, green, blue and purple. The Neolithic people discovered green dye from birch leaves and blue dye from woad seeds. Much later in the 16th century BC, tyrian purple or the royal purple was produced by the Phoenicians from the mucous secretions of spiny dye-murex, a type of sea snail.

Mankind’s curiosity about colours has never dampened and over time, man has discovered the relation between colours and man – the influence of colours on human. Colours have since been appreciated more than their aesthetical values. Colour psychologists and physicians have proven colours’ ability to sway our thinking, mood and behaviour. Certain colours are known to lift us up, elicit positive emotions in us and calm us whilst others bring us down, elicit anxiety and anger in us. In fact, our decision-making ability could fall victim to colours. It might sound unbelievable that still colours do have such influence on human. Read on and discover for yourself the science of colours.

Hardwired Preference

Ever wondered what the reasoning behind brightly coloured toys and lollipops, and brightly painted day care centres and kindergartens are? It is plain simple – to draw children’s attention and to be inviting. Colour psychologists have discovered that children are hardwired for bright colours since infancy regardless of their social and cultural backgrounds. Children are quick to spot bright colours and they associate the colours with happiness, joviality and excitement. The bright colours exude a sense of warmth and a sense of welcome subtly beckoning the children to get closer. Bear in mind that the effect of a particular colour is not applicable to all contexts. Bright colours for instance, are not ideal for a child’s bedroom because the intensity of the colours encourages restlessness and thus sleepless nights.

Boys favour blue. Girls favour pink. Do these claims sound anecdotal? As much as they may sound so, the claims are indeed true and heaps of researches are here to back the claims. Studies have proven that boys find blue to be most likeable whilst girls reckon reddish hues most pleasant. Along with age, children’s tendencies to favour bright colours increase especially amongst girls. Whilst girls steer away from dark colours as they age, boys seem to be accepting the colours (grey, brown and black) well despite associating the colours with negative emotions such as boredom, sadness and anger.

Colours Tune You

When it is time to dive into a book or into deeper thoughts, you would want to be in a calm environment – in a room which exudes calm ambiance where even the air and noise seem to travel slower so that you could easily channel your concentration into your work. Once you pace into the room, you would want the ambiance to tune your mind and to ready your body before you settle in your seat. Neither of us would want to have the brightness and the loudness of the walls bogging us down in stress and killing our creativity. Studies found that the colours of nature reduce brain and muscles activities, provoke much less anxiety and decrease blood pressure. The colours blue and light purple help to channel concentration and encourage deep contemplation. Meanwhile, blue, green, orange and brown soothe the anxious and overworked mind. A research found that white-collar workers in Malaysia favour blue the most for the interior of the office follow by grey and yellow.

In the living room where coziness is the priority, green is the colour to opt for. The colour relaxes both your mind and eyes. Warm colours are also suitable as the colours are known to not only create the cozy ambiance but also encourage the flow of conversation. Therefore, if you are minimalist and white is your only prefered colour, opting for the warmer hue of white will be the better choice. On the other hand, the bright red and orange has contrasting effects on human. Orange increases physiological and nervous activity in our body. Therefore, working out in a gymnasium with orange interior, one would feel surges of energy through his body and feel energized. Red, the symbol of romance, is also the symbol of danger. Danger indeed it is because psychologists have proven that being in a red room, even the most calm and collected person will be swayed and make the wrong decision.

Swayed By Colour Science?

How would you perceive colours now? Does the colour of science make sense to you? Have you ever walked into a room and immediately felt dumbfounded and speechless? Every room or space comes alive with the right ambiance and if you experience je ne sai quoi (an indescribable quality), that is because the ambiance speaks to you. This is the resultant feeling every interior designer aims to achieve in the projects they undertook. The next time you repaint the interior of your home or office, work with your interior designer to maximize the potential of the space by not playing by the conventional rules. Steering away from the safe, conventional and predictable cream, white and gray, and applying some colour science will certainly be worthwhile in the long run.