Design Essay: The tactility of color
by Marie Rouillon (WGSN - homebuildlife)    11 Dec 2012
Lightspot by Robert Stadler. Click for larger images
Colored flames
Colorscape by Peter Jones
Philips Hue
Plexus by Gabriel Dawe
Ascension (Red) by Anish Kapoor, 2010
Food coloring
Vegetable bleaching

Material illusion

Sophie Smallhorn

  • Artists and designers play with juxtaposition of warm and cold colors to trick our vision: warmer colors appear to move toward us, while the cooler ones seem to recede, creating the illusion of distance separating them, and also creating visual textures
  • In Shading, designer Robert Stadler has designed the pieces to look like shades of light, so that the tinted flat surfaces of color begin to look like a 3D object. This also gives a more dramatic effect to the lighting of the piece
  • Sophie Smallhorn creates colored installations made of painted wooden blocks, in which the order is carefully considered to create an impression of lightness or heaviness

Color temperature

  • It is natural to think of color having temperature; red is universally considered the warmest color and blue the coolest one, even if physically a blue fire is much hotter than a red fire. Some associative meanings also make us perceive some colors as lighter or heavier than others
  • Originally created by artist Peter Jones in the early 1970s, Colourscape is a walk-in structure of color and light. The different colors of each room create completely different atmospheres and trigger different emotions: wellness, oppression, etc. It also feels much cooler in the blue room, while it feels warm and suffocating in the red one

Color of Memory by Jinhyun Jeon

Tangible color

Wolfsburg project by James Turrell

  • Gabriel Dawe carefully places colored threads in a space, creating a sense of a larger colorful mass when only using ultra fine threads
  • James Turrell plays with the haptic density of colored light. The light seems to become tangible. What appears to be a plain opaque surface of color floating within the architecture, starts moving along and dematerialises to become a colorful mist as the viewer moves within the space. Turrell is of the opinion that light has weight, pressure and feeling

Solid Light Films by Anthony McCall

  • Anish Kapoor's Ascension(red), a proposal for an intervention at New York's Guggenheim in 2009, is another attempt to materialise color, to make it look tangible, even if for just an instant. In the digital print, a wisp of coloured smoke descends from the ceiling through a huge extractor fan
  • Anthony McCall's light installations provide the viewer with a strange haptic experience, columns of light fall from the ceiling, in a completely dark room. The dust and particles lightened seem to form a palpable curtain

Crystal Pepsi

  • Our perception of color influences our idea of food. As the color level increases, so does our perception of taste and intensity of flavour. Color blind people are sometimes unable to tell the taste difference between two dishes with the same consistency, while others will find them very different. Similarly, we have difficulty identifying foods that are uncolored
  • We also associate taste with color if we've never tried a food before. For example, some people would expect a yellow-colored food to taste sour, like that of a lemon, while others would expect it to taste sweet, like a banana. While not everyone's color-taste perception is the same, most of us will expect a certain food to taste a particular way based on its color. In 1992, when clear Pepsi was put on the market, consumers thought that the drink tasted like lemon-lime - even though neither of these flavours were present - because lemon-lime sodas are clear. For more on this subject, see 'Personalising Flavour' in our report 'The Secret Life of Food'
  • Some cooks add sodium bicarbonate when cooking green vegetables to maintain the color. Water softener is also used because it is believed that the calcium ions in hard water affect the color and texture of cooked vegetables, and therefore alters our eating experience.


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