Color has this incredible ability to evoke memories. Sometimes we’re not aware of what’s going on in the back of our mind but have a strong like or dislike for a particular color.
Other times a color, or maybe more correctly a color in a specific context, can take us through the millions of images in our mind and locate exactly where we’ve seen that color before. Recently I was reminded of just how powerful this phenomenon is.
Over the past few days I received several emails from someone who uses a green rather than black font. It caught my attention not just because it was not typical but also because I had a strong association with words written in green.
Whenever I see his messages, I find my mind calling up images of my father’s handwriting in the green color ink he loved. Most of the time, my dad would write with ballpoint pens or flair markers with green ink. It quite literally became his signature color.
So although the context is a bit different when I see the green font it clearly brings my father’s handwriting into my mind that even many years after his death I can see his signature as clearly in my mind as if I was looking down at it on a piece of paper right in front of me. Amazing isn’t it?
This sign below is just outside of the door to the studio where I practice Bikram yoga. When I first saw the sign I wondered what the studio owner had heard or been told about the color green that made him think that this hue would have a negative effect on the yogis practicing in his studio.
Naturally I questioned him, ready for an explanation that vaguely referenced some scientific or psychological studies about color. Boy was I off target.
There was a much simpler answer. Bikram Choudhury, founder of the Bikram Yoga method, doesn’t like the color green! At some time in his past there was some tragic event that he associates with the color and doesn’t want to be reminded of it. Who can blame him?
The studio owner said he respected Bikram’s feelings and didn’t allow his students to wear green or use green towels or mats just in case the great master dropped by the studio unexpectedly. Now every time I see this sign it reminds to me of how strong our associations with particular colors can be.
Sometimes the memories and feelings a color evokes are very positive and sometimes negative but in either case they can have a long reaching effect on how we respond to a color.
Whether working with a corporate executive making color decisions for his company or an individual picking color for her home or wardrobe I am always aware that even if not stated as boldly as it is in my yoga studio, personal color memories can effect how someone feels about a color and thus their decisions about it.
I’m also very aware of my own color associations. Whether you are a color professional or just someone trying to agree with your spouse about a paint color you need to be conscious that history is at play. Accept that no matter how right the color is, it might be tough to sell someone on it if they have a negative association in their memory bank.
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