Our relationship with colours

You might remember that moment when you cannot particularly explain why you don’t enjoy the colour of a sofa or even a jumper. But it just happens. You don’t like mustard. Or pumpkin orange (and I don’t blame you). But why is this happening?

Since the day we’re born, well actually since the day we start perceiving colours which is around five months old, we naturally start to interact with colours. We start understanding that colours refers to specific objects, feelings and moods. As an example, we have learned that red can communicate a danger or something important to remember. It is a colour that somehow asks a physical, emotional or rational response from us.

Now think of the colour green. You wouldn’t feel the same way about it, right? And that’s because our neuro-system has this ability to identify and connect specific colours to personal feelings, actions and behaviours we’ve learned over time.
Here is an example: when you are in a car and see the red traffic light, your brain knows and remembers that it means to stop and wait for the green light. You know that breaking that rule is dangerous and could harm yourself and others. As a result, your memory and common knowledge help you act and react towards colours and in this case, the red light communicates an obligation as well as a behaviour to follow. This is what I call: the colour consensus.

It is a general agreement we all share towards colours. The colour consensus cannot be denied or misinterpreted. It is a bag of common knowledge that has been communicated by society and expressed through the norms that our culture asks us to follow during our existence.

Even though we are aware of what certain colours suggest, everyone has its own association and personal relationship towards colours. In other words, we all have different colour interpretations. Someone might have a warm feeling towards yellow, because it reminds him/her of the sunny weather they had during their childhood holidays in the south of France. Someone else might feel more reluctant towards yellow because the room where they had painful maths lessons had a yellow wallpaper.
This means our experience influences the way we feel about specific colours. It is something that we cannot control, it naturally happens following the situations we are exposed to. As a result, the relationship we have developed with colours over the years influences the person we are on a daily basis. It has a great impact on the choices and decisions we make every day. The issue is that most of us are not conscious of the impact our relationship to colours has on our decision making process.

So how can you change your perception to colours? What would make you swop a black coat for a pink one and how can you improve the relationship you have towards colour in general?

The first advice I would give is to identify all your favourite colours. Once you know what you love, list all the colours you are reluctant to and assign keywords that explain the reason of your rejection. Having that clear representation of colours will help you rationalise your emotions towards colours and readjust your feelings around it. I find writing things down super helpful to raise our colour consciousness.

The second advice to improve our relationship to colour is to get out of our cultural comfort zone.
Spend a day in Paris and in London and you’ll be surprised to see the contrast in people’s choice when it comes to colours and clothes. The Parisian metro is full of people wearing black coats when you can spot more people wearing colourful clothes in the London tube. So I start wondering why is there such a difference between both countries when in comes to colour choice? Well it all comes down to our culture. English people are naturally bolder, more creative and less scared about things compared to the French (and bear in mind that I am French ahah). It’s in their culture and their blood, they are comfortable with newness and diversity whereas Parisian people prefer a safe environment that procure them a sense of control.
As a result, we can say that our culture definitely influences the way we dress or interact with colour. But to get a great relationship with colours, you have to experiment and get out of your comfort zone. So don’t be afraid to wear that pink bubblegum jumper you’ve spotted at the shop down the street and you’ll be surprise to realise how good it feels to implement colour in your daily life AND how it can put you in such a good mood!

Join us and be part of this wonderful colour community! Leave a comment and tell me your thoughts about this article!

7 thoughts on “Our relationship with colours

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