Do you speak colour?

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15 May 2023

Colour is often described as a secret language. A language that can teach you many things about life, yourself and others - you just need to crack the code. Design consultant Judith van Vliet introduces you to colour psychology for beginners and the trend editor of pej gruppen shows you more of this season's key colours for AW 23/24.

By Judith van Vliet and Emilie Victoria Raundahl

Everyone interprets colour differently. So instead of seeing colour in a physical form, it's about the story that our brain tells us and what we think the colour means.
We all communicate in colour whether we are aware of it or not, and once you tune into the colours you surround yourself with, the way you experience life may change.
Colours are joy, passion and love. In short: Colours are emotions - and thus a powerful tool to improve our lives.

Colours influence 85 percent of our purchase decisions

One of the first questions to ask yourself when choosing a colour is: What do I want to represent? As colours have inherent effects on our psyche, the impact of colours should also be considered in design processes. Research shows that colours influence almost 85 percent of our purchasing decisions and that 95 percent of the time this happens on a subconscious level.

However, choosing the right shade is more complex than you might think, as each person perceives colours differently due to various factors. This could be gender, nationality, ethnicity, geographical location or the language we speak.

This underlines how nothing about colours is objective. Although each colour may evoke different reactions among different people, each colour holds universal connotations that may serve as a basis for answering the question: What do I want to represent? So before you can answer this question and choose a specific colour, you need to know the psychological effects of each colour.

Colour psychology for beginners

The first thing you learn in colour psychology for beginners is that grey does not evoke any emotion as it is a neutral colour. So unless you want to convey neutrality, grey might not be the best choice.

So where does that leave white and black, the two colours that make up grey when mixed?

• Black symbolises experience, elegance and knowledge but on an emotional level it may make you seem invisible. Also, remember that black doesn't reflect light. It absorbs it. Think about this when decorating a room or an exhibition.

• White symbolises clarity, purity and credibility. It is the colour of the pure and airy, but it may also sometimes create a sterile appearance. White emphasises shape, structure and texture rather than the colour itself.

• Yellow, on the other hand, makes you stand out. It will grab attention as the colour lights up. Surround yourself with yellow and be ready to be seen. Yellow also represents intuition and clear thinking.

• Orange is a social colour as it connects and enables communication. It not only increases our appetite for food but also for adventure and creative experiences.

• Red is all about the excitement in life. It symbolises energy and its effects are deeply rooted in our human psyche. Red is dominant, determined and irresistible.

• Purple has been called the colour of mystery.
- Purplish red is perceived as warmer, more sensual, dynamic and exciting than pure purple.
- Blue-violet symbolises dignity and serenity.

• Green is the colour of compassion, self-care, growth and balance. Green revitalises and also has a calming effect as it encourages us to breathe.

• Blue is the colour that relaxes the mind. It calms our nervous system. The psychological effects of blue are trust and consistency and reliability.

Colours are complex and fascinating but once understood, they are very powerful.

The colours of the season - AW 23/24

The positive effect of colours on our mood becomes essential in a future characterised by polarised attitudes and thought-provoking events. This is why we're heading for yet another season with a prevalence of optimistic, spiritual, natural and calming shades. We will also see an increase in anti-gendered colours that embrace all skin tones, ages and genders.

Colour palettes become sustainable by breaking the traditional seasonal mindset, as they must be able to be functional across seasons in both existing and future product ranges. New colours must not retire the old ones. In the future, novelty will not lie in colour itself, but in unexpected colour combinations and the use of materials where colours are pre-defined.

Almost blacks

We welcome a shadowy palette of 'almost' blacks, each rooted in the grey, blue and green colour universe. The colours are either dim and quiet or deep and dramatic - radiating an almost smoky and rich sensation. The 'almost' blacks add naturalness, luxury and mystery to the other colours of the season and create strong contrasts to everything around them.

Anti-gender pinks

At a time when taboos are breaking down and boundaries of diversity, gender and emotions are expanding, a new group of powerful and shiny pinks with a lot on their minds is emerging. They convey tenderness and surprise at the same time. As stand-alone colours, they don't stand out from the crowd as something new, yet novelty and interest arise in unsightly and unexpected combinations with other colours.

Spiritual aura

The effect of colour on our mood is more prevalent than ever, and the spiritual shades of colour offer a sense of healing, soothing and meaningfulness. Combinations of delicate pastels in dark and light purple, yellow and mint green open the mind to another world with a revealing aura of light, mindfulness and otherworldly beings. The colours speak to a curious time in which we are fascinated by what we don't understand.

Therapeutic browns

Soft, warm and grounding browns play a wider and more important role in wellness, beauty and therapy. They are experts at elevating the beauty of other colours and are able to connect us to the real and raw nature that we often cannot see with the naked eye. Although brown offers an entire universe of many different directions to take, it always appears humble and familiar.

(Un)real greens

This season's greens are deeply rooted in the authenticity and virility of nature, but one of the greens takes a new path to a sharper, digitised world as a fresh alternative to the neon fascination. The natural greens become deeper, murky and rich, taking inspiration from dense, dark forests and moss-covered rocks, while the dried and dusty greens still stand out as beautiful colour choices.

Orange ochres

The orange shades of the season take us back to a time when colours were naturally occurring from the pigments of the earth. Their traditional hints of ochre create an archaeological, burnt and modest feeling, yet, in the right combinations, they still create warmth. By contrast, the luminous coral orange screams 'Here I am!' and passionately bridges the gap to the season's anti-gendered pinks.

Blue dreams

The blue colours continue their status as a universal favourite based on their calming and comforting effect. The classic dark blues feel sumptuous and reflective, bringing us closer to the cosmos. At the same time, the pure and dreamy light blues lift us up above the clouds and into a peaceful atmosphere. This season's blues are cleansing and gentle, suitable for both surfaces and details.

Rainbow of hope

An everlasting love for residual and recyclable materials with history and the marks of time is creating a new fascination for patinated and sustainable colours that take responsibility. With the rainbow as an enduring symbol of a better future, the colours are dissected and recombined in a more muted universe. The colours feel retro, bold and fun, but they also have a dusty, faded and mature presence.

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