A few weeks ago, I participated on a conference on color. Kaleidoscope: New Perspectives on the Humanities explored how color is interdisciplinary. Color is used not only in artistic practices, but is a common theme in literature, design, politics, and communication. While there, I met Maryam Mohammadzadeh Darrodi, an expert and PhD candidate in color semiotics. Having studied literature, I was familiar with the concept of semiotics.
Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols as elements of communicative behavior – including language, gestures, and fashion. But I had never really considered that colors have encoded, semiotic meanings. Maryam is conducting a fascinating study on how we respond to color. She graciously allowed me to interview her on color semiotics and her study. (Please take 30 seconds to participate in Maryam’s study. Visit Colour Semiotics)
Q) What is color semiotics?
I have to say using the word “colour semiotics” is just a more efficient way of describing colour emotions. As semiotics includes the concept of symbolization. Colour has certain properties, which I would like to categories as colour preference, colour harmony and colour semiotics. So it is clear that colour semiotics is not about liking a colour or not (colour preference), and not about finding its combination pleasant or not (colour harmony), but rather; how we feel about it. Do we feel that the certain colour is heavy or light, soft or hard and etc.
Nature has been the first to teach us about colour semiotics: we know that a green tomato is not as ripe as a red one. So instantly, different meanings are communicated through colours. Nowadays, successful marketing has a crucial role in selling goods, on the other hand people make decisions about purchasing a product in less than 90 seconds which 60% of their decision is based upon colour. So there we go, it is very important to be able to build the right impression through colour semiotics.
Q) Is color and the ways we respond to colors constructed by culture and society? Or is it innate to the human experience?
Unfortunately it is both and even more, gender, age, culture, geographical location, season and many more parameters which are directly involved in the human psychology affect individual’s decisions about colour. This makes it more and more challenging for colour researchers which is why they often try to restrict the parameters to one or two.
Well, I have a statistical background! In the lectures they use to say that statistics is a science which has the ability to work in “All aspects”. I use to wonder how I can challenge my statistical skills towards a notion that nobody has ever done before. Of course, with all the interest I had in colour, I thought colour semiotics, which is all about emotions; can be the best to become my subject or in other words a weapon for my battle with statistics. And I must admit, up to now statistics has truly proved its effectiveness to me, by building a beautiful model that relates colours and emotions together.
Q) Tell us about your survey – what is it, what are you hoping to achieve?
So for my research, I am carrying out an experiment which I wana see how all parameters effect the human response to colour semiotics. But the thing is all the experiments up to now have been carried out in controlled conditions with few people but this experiment is novel in the sense that it involves all possible conditions which can be effective, such as cultural, age and gender differences. People around the world communicate and understand their emotions in different terms so that’s why I have also made this survey multi-lingual so people can be more comfortable.
The survey takes about 30 seconds to complete. It will ask your primary language, age, gender, and a few other questions. You will then be giving a color and asked to respond. Screen shots of the survey are below. Please take a few moments to participate.