Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Selling Power of Colour?

Colour. We see it every day. We experience it all around us and unless you hang upside down in a cave or belfry it will certainly impact on your life. From the packaging of a myriad daily products to the ultra cool techno graphics emerging from our LCD TVs we are continuously bombarded by colour. So, why does colour affect us?
In an absorbing article on the Science Daily website it appears psychologists have been studying the effects of colour on our memory and how colour helps us to make sense of the chaotic world around us.

Quoting extracts from field studies conducted by the American Psychological Association the article described how test after test revealed that people's recall of information was far superior when presented in colour. Black & White images recorded a far lower recall rate whilst even text and numbers were better remembered when presented in colour. Attempts to confuse the test group by giving objects and landscapes 'false' colours significantly failed to work. People didn’t recall these false colours any better than the monochrome images. To quote co-author Karl Gegenfurtner, Ph.D. "It appears as if our memory system is tuned, presumably by evolution and/or during development, to the colour structure found in the world"  he later observed that although 'ultra bright colours' might be used by designers to grab attention it would be the more natural hues that would linger in the memory. Interesting stuff.

So, is our appreciation of colour, say as with the example of the Mondrian painting above, equally influenced? Do we make our consumer choises based on say a more natural colouring on the package? I'm not completely convinced. There is much in the APA article that certainly rings true. Perhaps we are 'pre-programmed' by evolution to remember certain colours better. But what of the environment in which we have developed our senses? Or our natural creative disposition? There are surely too many factors in how our perception of colour and its relationship to the world around us works. Far too many to allow any theory to claim it has answered all questions posed. Still, that isn’t to say that this doesn’t remain a valuable, absorbing and eh ‘colorful’ subject.