The connection between colour and mood, colours that aren’t colours

In looking at the connection between colour and mood, we begin with a colour that isn’t really a colour. Black is the absence of colour. Like white and grey, it is an achromatic color, literally a color without hue.
In the West, it’s associated with death and mourning, but also has an authoritative, social feel. Black was one of the first colors used by artists in neolithic cave paintings. In the 14th century, it began to be worn by royalty, the clergy, judges and government officials in much of Europe. It became the color worn by English romantic poets, businessmen and statesmen in the 19th century, and a high fashion color in the 20th century.

It can sometimes be used in branding to give a sense of style; a classy touch. In this sense, black can suggest wealth and oppulance. Black should be used sparingly, though, especially on the web, due to its value of perceived weight. A user will always think a black web page loads quicker than a white one.


White, too, isn’t a colour. Again, there are cultural differences. In the East, white is associated with funerals, death and mourning. In the West, the opposite is the case, where white is associated
with simplicity, purity and goodness. An incoming light to the human eye that stimulates all its three types of color sensitive cone cells in nearly equal amounts results in white. White is one of the most common colors in nature, the color of sunlight, snow, milk, chalk, limestone and other common minerals.

In ancient Egypt and ancient Rome, priestesses wore white as a symbol of purity, and Romans wore a white toga as a symbol of citizenship. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance a white unicorn symbolized chastity, and a white lamb sacrifice and purity; the widows of kings dressed in white rather than black as the color of mourning. It sometimes symbolizes royalty; it was the color of the French kings (black being the color of the queens) and of the monarchist movement after the French Revolution as well as of the movement called the White Russians (not to be confounded with Belarus, literally “White Russia”) who fought the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War (1917–1922). Greek and Roman temples were faced with white marble, and beginning in the 18th century, with the advent of neoclassical architecture, white became the most common color of new churches, capitols and other government buildings, especially in the United States. It was also widely used in 20th century modern architecture as a symbol of modernity, simplicity and strength.

We see white everywhere in branding, businesses and buildings where we want to feel calm. White is perhaps the most important component of most colour palettes because it provides a base colour on which all other colours will work.


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