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  • Marc Primo Warren


Updated: Mar 12, 2021

This is an article “ How Color Goes Beyond Aesthetics” by Marc Primo Warren

We are all visual beings who take notice of how light transforms into a new form with the presence of color. It stimulates our thoughts and senses, helping us to understand what we see. The beauty of it all is that it also goes beyond aesthetics and influences our behavior in how we do and interpret everything.

Understanding how color works in our minds is pretty simple, as long as you know how light works as well. When light beams move and go through a prism, we penetrate the color spectrum as it disperses multiple rays of different hues. When light enters our eyes, they send cues that help us form what we see in front of us. What happens next is magic. We suddenly find our moods, emotions, and sometimes even our heart rates affected by colors.

Colors evolve

While blue apples and red oceans don’t make sense, color allows us to be original in our creations and lets our artistic vision impact others by giving them something different. The great American visual artist Andy Warhol used bright and bold tertiary colors that offered peculiar artworks that many found strange initially, but have grown to love over time. Warhol’s works imply that color can create evolving trends and cultures that aren’t always brought about by what others find as aesthetic or even normal.

Colors in art grow and go beyond the demarcations of our interpretations. Surrealism is one art form that uses color quite predominantly and primarily aims to release the potential of the subconscious mind. Surreal art does not intend to spoonfeed its audience with beauty but rather offers an irrational juxtaposition to trigger a more thoughtful approach to art rather than mere visual appreciation. This is why colors have the ability to morph itself into something new and iconic.

They guide us in how we view everything

Through time, colors have served their purpose in institutionalizing ideas about religion, commerce, politics, and art. They provide coherence to the things we need to understand by first appealing to our senses then helping us process our thoughts. It gives religious symbols their meanings, brands their identities, and personalities their images. Simply put, colors help us remember and recognize aside from simply giving us beauty.

While colors can be used freely in any medium, it also offers essential elements in how we communicate straight messages in commerce and industry by how color psychology affects our perception-- blue is serene, green is clean, and red is aggressive. The effective use of color schemes communicates clear messages, even without the use of words which is how art essentially works.

According to American professor and statistician Edward Tufte, the first principle when using color is avoiding catastrophe. This means that to be clear in conveying a message, one should be very wary and meticulous in what colors should be used as each one has its own quality and effect. In data visualization or infographics, for example, color adds clarity to the information being shared via graphs, maps, or charts. Using the wrong colors can absolutely obfuscate data altogether which proves Tufte’s principle.

Colors communicate

Aside from the right use of color, the amounts of light and texture are also imperative elements in making visuals coherent as it sends signals in our brains as to what mood we should tune ourselves into when experiencing what we see.

Understanding that color is essential in everything, be it natural or manmade, teaches us how to use its powers in communication so that our audience effectively takes in a clear representation of our overall work.

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