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Colors of the Plague Year


Dan Margulis
 

 

According to my psychiatrist friends, the psychiatrists themselves are now going crazy, not just because of the physical difficulties of maintaining a practice when they’re afraid to be in the same room with the patient, but because they themselves are just as sad and frightened and apprehensive about the current situation as the patients are. Everybody is looking for reassurance, and few are finding it.

 

Does it carry over into our field? What are the colors of sadness? Of depression?

 

Now is the time when color companies announce their predictions of what the trendiest colors will be for the coming year, based on what they think clients are looking for. Pantone is the most well known, but many paint manufacturers and style/fashion firms do the same thing. You can see some in this article.

https://people.com/home/new-year-new-hue-all-the-colors-of-the-year-brands-have-chosen-for-2021/

 

To save time, here are nine swatches of the Colors of the Year, the two Pantone choices and the top choice from seven other vendors.


 

This year’s choices IMHO reflect the current mood better than the vendors believe. Pantone’s introduction to its announcement of its two Colors of the Year reads:

 

As people look for ways to fortify themselves with energy, clarity and hope to overcome the continuing uncertainty, spirited and emboldening shades satisfy our quest for vitality.

 

These words are hardly backed up by what they picked: a yellow to which they give the name Illuminating,  and Ultimate Gray. Here is the description:

 

Illuminating is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power. Ultimate Gray is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation.

 

I guess they are trying to be uplifting in trying times. But how Illuminating (middle row left in the graphic below, 87L 0a 71b) can be described as a warming yellow without a positive A channel is unclear. And Ultimate Gray (62L (2)a (2)b, middle center) just a gray with an unpleasant cyan tinge IMHO. 

 

These two, along with a few other pastels that Pantone recommends, are shown in this fashion galleryI don't care for it. Maybe it’s because models can’t be attractive if we can’t imagine ourselves within two meters of them but to me it’s more a matter of color.

 

I admit that the yellow swatch in the graphic below does look somewhat warm—next to this collection of faded Covid chilliness. We’re used to speaking of “warm, happy colors”. Not a single one of these qualifies. A “warm” color, by my definition, is one that is significantly positive in both the A and B channels. In a normal year, I’d bet that four or five of these nine swatches would meet it. Here, there’s only one, and that just barely: Transcend (PPG Paints, 72L 6a 14b, middle right). Their description:

 

A midtone, shaded, brown sugar beige with a gingerbread undertone. It is a perfect paint color for any space where warmth and elegance is requested.

Warmth, eh? Here’s how they continue:

 

Pair it with muted blues and subdued greens.

Muted blues, or more accurately muted cyans, is a good description of three of these Colors of the Year: Blissful Blue (Valspar, top left, 57L (2)a (13)b, “designed to mimic the organic tones of a morning mist”); Aegean Teal (Benjamin Moore, 55L (9)a (4)b, top right); and Blue Jean Jacket (York Wallcoverings, 55L (5)a (16)b, bottom right)

 

Cyans (and there are four of them here, technically) are strange things to find on a list like this but the two colors at bottom left are even stranger: Urbane Bronze (Sherwin Williams, 34L 0a 3b, bottom left); and Epoch (Graham & Brown, bottom center, 26L 17a (1)b, bottom center). Very desaturated dark yellows and dark magentas are unusual in the first place. But the real strangeness is that these come from manufacturers, respectively, of paint and wallpaper.

 

Strange, because for many years now we homeowners have been told to use light wallcovering because it makes the space look bigger. Beiges are very popular now, but generally much lighter than the swatch at middle right. My wife and I, for example, chose one for our living room called Peau de Soie, 87L 1a 7b. My sister, when she was preparing a house for resale, chose Desert Sand, 88L 3a 8b.

 

Coverings as dark as the two at bottom left are claustrophobic, making a room feel smaller. If that’s truly a color that people would prefer now, I’d surmise that it has something to do with the current feeling that one’s home is not one’s castle, but one’s prison.

 

Of these nine, the only one I’d say is typical of the colors usually chosen is Aloe (Stitch Fix, 83L (20)a 31b, top center)

 

I think this year’s apparent preference for cool, subdued midtone colors is indeed a reflection of the times. I believe it carries over into color correction of photographs. According to polls in my classes, most people believe that upwards of 80 percent of photos are intended to provoke positive feelings in the viewer. Bright, happy colors are appropriate. A much smaller percentage are somber or depressing in mood. There, we don’t want to suppress the most vivid colors, that would look silly, but we take steps to prevent excessive color and excessive warmth. I think this is happening now, since today we are much more likely than usual to be processing images that are depressing.

 

I’ll discuss techniques to cater to this in another post. Meanwhile, I’d be curious to hear if others think that there is a current trend toward “Covid chilly” in our color preferences.

 

Dan

 

 


Laurentiu Todie
 

Architects, interior and fashion designers may think about those colors; photographers and painters—not so much.
Covid anything as a suggestion seems to me opportunistic and lame.
(just my opinion)

On Dec 19, 2020, at 9:34 AM, Dan Margulis via groups.io <dmargulis@...> wrote:

 

According to my psychiatrist friends, the psychiatrists themselves are now going crazy, not just because of the physical difficulties of maintaining a practice when they’re afraid to be in the same room with the patient, but because they themselves are just as sad and frightened and apprehensive about the current situation as the patients are. Everybody is looking for reassurance, and few are finding it.

 

Does it carry over into our field? What are the colors of sadness? Of depression?

 

Now is the time when color companies announce their predictions of what the trendiest colors will be for the coming year, based on what they think clients are looking for. Pantone is the most well known, but many paint manufacturers and style/fashion firms do the same thing. You can see some in this article.

https://people.com/home/new-year-new-hue-all-the-colors-of-the-year-brands-have-chosen-for-2021/

 

To save time, here are nine swatches of the Colors of the Year, the two Pantone choices and the top choice from seven other vendors.

<Colors_of_the_Year.jpg>

 

This year’s choices IMHO reflect the current mood better than the vendors believe. Pantone’s introduction to its announcement of its two Colors of the Year reads:

 

As people look for ways to fortify themselves with energy, clarity and hope to overcome the continuing uncertainty, spirited and emboldening shades satisfy our quest for vitality.

 

These words are hardly backed up by what they picked: a yellow to which they give the name Illuminating,  and Ultimate Gray. Here is the description:

 

Illuminating is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power. Ultimate Gray is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation.

 

I guess they are trying to be uplifting in trying times. But how Illuminating (middle row left in the graphic below, 87L 0a 71b) can be described as a warming yellow without a positive A channel is unclear. And Ultimate Gray (62L (2)a (2)b, middle center) just a gray with an unpleasant cyan tinge IMHO. 

 

These two, along with a few other pastels that Pantone recommends, are shown in this fashion galleryI don't care for it. Maybe it’s because models can’t be attractive if we can’t imagine ourselves within two meters of them but to me it’s more a matter of color.

 

I admit that the yellow swatch in the graphic below does look somewhat warm—next to this collection of faded Covid chilliness. We’re used to speaking of “warm, happy colors”. Not a single one of these qualifies. A “warm” color, by my definition, is one that is significantly positive in both the A and B channels. In a normal year, I’d bet that four or five of these nine swatches would meet it. Here, there’s only one, and that just barely: Transcend (PPG Paints, 72L 6a 14b, middle right). Their description:

 

A midtone, shaded, brown sugar beige with a gingerbread undertone. It is a perfect paint color for any space where warmth and elegance is requested.

Warmth, eh? Here’s how they continue:

 

Pair it with muted blues and subdued greens.

Muted blues, or more accurately muted cyans, is a good description of three of these Colors of the Year: Blissful Blue (Valspar, top left, 57L (2)a (13)b, “designed to mimic the organic tones of a morning mist”); Aegean Teal (Benjamin Moore, 55L (9)a (4)b, top right); and Blue Jean Jacket (York Wallcoverings, 55L (5)a (16)b, bottom right)

 

Cyans (and there are four of them here, technically) are strange things to find on a list like this but the two colors at bottom left are even stranger: Urbane Bronze (Sherwin Williams, 34L 0a 3b, bottom left); and Epoch (Graham & Brown, bottom center, 26L 17a (1)b, bottom center). Very desaturated dark yellows and dark magentas are unusual in the first place. But the real strangeness is that these come from manufacturers, respectively, of paint and wallpaper.

 

Strange, because for many years now we homeowners have been told to use light wallcovering because it makes the space look bigger. Beiges are very popular now, but generally much lighter than the swatch at middle right. My wife and I, for example, chose one for our living room called Peau de Soie, 87L 1a 7b. My sister, when she was preparing a house for resale, chose Desert Sand, 88L 3a 8b.

 

Coverings as dark as the two at bottom left are claustrophobic, making a room feel smaller. If that’s truly a color that people would prefer now, I’d surmise that it has something to do with the current feeling that one’s home is not one’s castle, but one’s prison.

 

Of these nine, the only one I’d say is typical of the colors usually chosen is Aloe (Stitch Fix, 83L (20)a 31b, top center)

 

I think this year’s apparent preference for cool, subdued midtone colors is indeed a reflection of the times. I believe it carries over into color correction of photographs. According to polls in my classes, most people believe that upwards of 80 percent of photos are intended to provoke positive feelings in the viewer. Bright, happy colors are appropriate. A much smaller percentage are somber or depressing in mood. There, we don’t want to suppress the most vivid colors, that would look silly, but we take steps to prevent excessive color and excessive warmth. I think this is happening now, since today we are much more likely than usual to be processing images that are depressing.

 

I’ll discuss techniques to cater to this in another post. Meanwhile, I’d be curious to hear if others think that there is a current trend toward “Covid chilly” in our color preferences.

 

Dan

 
 

Laurentiu Todie
DIGITALIS.ART




Henry Davis
 



On Dec 19, 2020, at 9:34 AM, Dan Margulis via groups.io <dmargulis@...> wrote:
<Snip>

Ultimate Gray is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation.


For the past 2-3 years in my neighborhood grey has been the choice for exterior house color by companies that specialize in refurbishing older homes for putting them back on the market.  Not kidding, in a lot of cases they use the same grey - you can see the same color scheme in more than 75% of the houses.  It’s not a single company - it’s several playing copy cat.  Must there be a rational reason?

My wife commented that grey has been and continues to be a trendy choice.  Her degree is interior decorating though photography was her calling.

Maybe it's just a matter of grey being a ‘safe’ color.  Maybe people are looking for safety. Maybe they’re trying to avoid clashes with furniture and stuff.  Maybe people figure they won’t have to re-paint for a while.  The effect of seeing a lot of the same gray houses is kind of depressing to me.  It also somehow communicates a sense of ‘government’ and ‘rules’ - also depressing.

Of these nine, the only one I’d say is typical of the colors usually chosen is Aloe (Stitch Fix, 83L (20)a 31b, top center)

To me these represent more of a desert theme, a desert coming out of winter with a hint of wildflower beginning.  Depressing with a ray of hope.  Probably not how they came together as a group.  It makes me wonder what was really guiding the selection.

Colors_of_the_Year.jpg
 

I think this is happening now, since today we are much more likely than usual to be processing images that are depressing.


Is that preferable to ‘disturbing’?  Maybe we’re in store for some disturbing color phases.
 

I’ll discuss techniques to cater to this in another post. Meanwhile, I’d be curious to hear if others think that there is a current trend toward “Covid chilly” in our color preferences.


I wonder if the colors represent more fear than it does depression.  That thing about it being more safe not to stick out in the crowd.  The covid has changed attitudes about crowds.  Maybe fear leads to depression for lots of people while other people see and accept the challenge.

And hey, who decides who's in charge of colors:

“what about this wheel thingy? It sounds a terribly interesting project.” “Ah,” said the marketing girl, “well, we’re having a little difficulty there.” “Difficulty?” exclaimed Ford. “Difficulty? What do you mean, difficulty? It’s the single simplest machine in the entire Universe!” The marketing girl soured him with a look “All right, Mr. Wiseguy,” she said, “you’re so clever, you tell us what color it should be.”

― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe


Henry Davis


Henry Davis
 

On Dec 19, 2020, at 10:47 AM, Laurentiu Todie <todie@nyc.rr.com> wrote:

Architects, interior and fashion designers may think about those colors; photographers and painters—not so much.
Covid anything as a suggestion seems to me opportunistic and lame.
(just my opinion)
I’ll dare to agree with you although there are trend setters and trend followers. They associate with causes or justify their status (and palettes) with some philosophy or another.

Henry Davis


Dan Margulis
 



On Dec 19, 2020, at 12:35 PM, Henry Davis <davishr@...> wrote:

For the past 2-3 years in my neighborhood grey has been the choice for exterior house color by companies that specialize in refurbishing older homes for putting them back on the market.  Not kidding, in a lot of cases they use the same grey - you can see the same color scheme in more than 75% of the houses.  It’s not a single company - it’s several playing copy cat.  Must there be a rational reason?

In our community the experience is just the same. One realtor who specializes in gutting older homes for resale always paints them the same color, we call it Northfield Gray after him. He may monopolize the market or there may be copycats. And yes, it is depressing, and somewhat reminiscent of Soviet architecture, to see so many old houses treated in this fashion.

The same thing happens in the interior. The renovator has to put in all new appliances. They are always white, never almond, black, or anything else. I’ve asked them about this and there is indeed a rational reason, although I don’t think it’s a correct one. They believe that the absolutely worst thing in the world is to offend the sensibilities of a potential buyer, and neutrals will generally not do so. To which I think the correct retort is that it doesn’t matter how many people dislike a certain house, what matters is how many like it, and I can’t see anybody thinking that neutrals help achieve that.

Another consideration may be that any defects in the siding, which are common in older houses, are better hidden by a dark gray than any other color.

Another thing to think about is the nature of the market: the cost of repainting a large house a different color is not trivial, but it’s chump change compared to the cost of the house itself, at least in this community.

Still another: the prevailing laws. In most states, if you sign a contract to buy a house, you have to put down a certain amount of money, say $5,000, which is lost if you walk away. And the owner can generally not walk away at all. In New Jersey, where I live, the “earnest money” requirement is much higher, usually $50,000, but it goes into escrow, and then there is a mandatory three-day cooling-off period during which either you or the owner can cancel the contract for no reason at all, without penalty.

The obvious result is that each party spends the three days trying to fork over the other by finding a better deal elsewhere. This can result in bidding wars where the sale price is far higher than the asking price. Given this reality, it makes more sense to me to choose a color scheme that might appeal so much to a particular person that he would become fixated on getting this house and no other. Let the auction begin! Dark gray would make more sense in other jurisdictions.

Finally, our community features large, well-spaced houses with easy access to a train line that services Manhattan and is particularly convenient to Wall Street. As it happens, at this moment there is a huge exodus out of Manhattan by those who can afford to do so, which has driven up our prices by about 20% since “before”. These buyers don’t have sticker shock, but they do look shell-shocked, like refugees from a war. If I were trying to attract them I’d want to choose some more “optimistic” color than dark gray, to give them the promise of a new and better life.

But hey, what do I know. Right around the corner from me a renovated house went on the market two weeks ago, asking price $950,000. A few days later it sold for $1.2 million. The color? Northfield Gray, of course.

Dan

P.S. In choosing colors for any purpose, one might well keep in mind the advice of Benjamin Franklin: “If all Printers were determin’d not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed."


Henry Davis
 



On Dec 19, 2020, at 2:45 PM, Dan Margulis via groups.io <dmargulis@...> wrote:
<Snip>



On Dec 19, 2020, at 12:35 PM, Henry Davis <davishr@...> wrote:

For the past 2-3 years in my neighborhood grey has been the choice for exterior house color . . .

. . . As it happens, at this moment there is a huge exodus out of Manhattan by those who can afford to do so, which has driven up our prices by about 20% since “before”.

But hey, what do I know. Right around the corner from me a renovated house went on the market two weeks ago, asking price $950,000. A few days later it sold for $1.2 million. The color? Northfield Gray, of course.

Probably better to bet on the dynamics of supply and demand before placing the chips on a particular color, but likewise, what do I know.

I'm curious what comes up on this thread regarding the psychology of color and if there is proveable connection with historic periods and social conditions.  It’s probably wide open to speculation but it’s a fun subject.  Printed war-time posters seemed to share some characteristics.  Fonts seem to trend in time periods, I wonder if they figure in a psychiatric analysis of their day. 

Henry