By Joshua Chalmers
Colours. They are so personal and unintentionally private. There’s no way of knowing whether the yellow you’re seeing is anything like mine. We are in fact, all alone in how we perceive the world, and trapped by our inability to describe exactly what it is we are seeing. Philosopher Daniel Dennett describes ‘something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem to us’ as quaila.
Colours have the ability to affect people. They can alter how we feel; red, orange and yellow are warm colours and can evoke an emotional spectrum from comfort to anger. Blue, purple and green are cold colours and can range from calm to sadness.
Lumping these colours together might seem unusual, as we can easily distinguish between blue and purple. For you and I, all the aforementioned colours occupy their own, unique identity, as we have 11 basic colour categories. For people in Cote d’Ivoire that speak Wobe, blue, purple and brown are all called Kpe, which means dark. They have two other colour categories, Pluu (light) and Sain (red). Similarly Yele, spoken in Papua New Guinea, only has words to describe black, white and red; however they have a broad vocabulary describing natural objects, covering all the colour categories we use in the UK.
This difference in language shows what is valuable in each culture, understanding nature and it’s uses is fundamental for survival in remote, undeveloped areas. We however, live in a society where choice is in abundance and defining colours is necessary in order to differentiate. Understanding a wide array of colour names then is indicative of our of relentless craving for more.
I take great satisfaction in arranging things in order of colour. For me, certain colours emit different energies, and no one is superior, but each is stronger when positioned near similar shades. This can make for very impractical book shelves but sometimes practicality should be sacrificed.
I used to think I decided what colours I’m drawn to. I was wrong. It seems that before a year starts, a colour is prescribed to it. As a result, products across all categories become that same colour. On the surface, that seems fine, these industries that are expected to produce fresh content year on year need a starting point. The problem I have with this is, it makes people feel like the yellow hoodie they bought last year is outdated, despite being in great condition. By changing the colour that people deem fashionable, to ultra violet, a decision is being made on your behalf. Now of course it is still up to the individual to decide if they like ultra violet or not, but by all high street shops making this one colour the focal point for their range, they are making us feel as though it as wrong to favour another colour. In essence, I feel that this actually limits the creativity of designers, but more importantly I detest the fact that trend forecasting prevents people from actually expressing themselves through fear of not being on trend.