Colour Theory and Sports Tape

It’s been a while since I wrote about colour theory, mainly because there is enough ‘out there’ on this topic already but I couldn’t resist a quick post after a visit to a physiotherapist last week. K tapeSo I turned up with Planter Fasciitis and a squeaky achilles, which I wanted fixed before a big walk I’m planning next weekend and the physio pulls out some K Tape and starts strapping up my foot.

“Dash”, she says “I’ve run out of blue”.

So, I enquired, did the black stretchy tape she was busy using on my foot come in different widths or stretchiness which are differentiated by colour?

“No, the tapes are all exactly the same but the colour is important” she says.

Yes! Music to my colour theory ears.

You will have noticed sports men and women in virtually every sport across the world strapped up in this magical tape which is amazing considering the jury is out on what exactly it actually does. The tape was developed over 30 years ago by a Japanese Chiropractor Dr.Kenso Kase and the idea is that as the tape is highly elastic you stretch it over an area of your body which is injured, stick it down, and then allow it to ‘recoil’, exerting a pulling force on your skin which can help mechanical and inflammatory injuries. It works partly on a subconscious level as it cues a motor response through somatosensory (information received in the skin and deep tissues) and feeds back to the brain.

As we all know, colours have proven physiological effects on our psyche so it makes sense for this somatosensory tape to be available in a range of colours. My physio was keen to use blue because my injury was slightly inflamed so the cooling blue would be the obvious one to use. The bright red tape, ‘rage red’, is often used when the athlete feels their injury is of particular significance and they need recognition of this. It is also used when an injury would benefit from warmth, the kind of injury people would spray deep heat on. You may have noticed David Beckham is partial to the pink tape, one he maybe feels reflects his interest in fashion, who knows.

So, my physio told me it’s really important to ask the patient which colour they would like, it’s all part of the way it works. Proof yet again of the significance of colours in our human mind. All I can say is that the black tape worked well for me –  and it matched my Pilates gear perfectly 😉 and I’m now on course to post some nice photos from my walk next weekend.

Have you used K tape before, did it work and which colour did you use?

Colour Theory Tested

I’ve been keen to produce some designs while experimenting with colour theory.

Pear Drops and Toffee Apples are both designs where I chose analogous colours, i.e hues adjacent to each other on the colour wheel, red and pink for Toffee Apples and green and blue for Pear Drops. As I like simple flat designs, I outlined some of the shapes in black to act as a fence to contain the colours from spreading. You will see where I haven’t done this, the green and blue on the pears blend together and reinforce their similar hue parentage.

Having been blown over by the movement that Sol Le Witt created in his Wall Drawing 1136 I was determined to design something where some physical energy might appear. So for Funky Apple, I butted up complimentary colours i.e opposites on the colour wheel because these are groups of colours that spar beside each other and reinforce their differences causing a perceived vibration which in turn can give a design some energy and movement. As the colour bands are almost circular, I hope your eye will be taken on a journey around the apple.

Before I get too theoretical, there is always a danger in applying theory directly into designs, and almost always a bad idea getting too theoretical when selecting interior paint colours as there are far too many other factors to consider in a space, my final design is simply because I like vegetation and I was keen to see it on a natural linen back ground.

The cushions are all 40 cm square and printed with pigment inks onto a linen cotton blend and will be appearing in my etsy shop soon.

It’s a fabulous sunny bank holiday weekend here in Edinburgh so I’m off to prepare a picnic, with plenty cushions to sit on…

Colour at the Edge

It gives me great pleasure to be asked by Wendy Murray to be a guest blogger for The Velvet & Silk Cafe.  For my own readers, I hope you will find a little about my background and work of interest.

Although officially, a geographer (obviously attracted by the heavy use of coloured pencils) I have been working in the design industry for the last twenty years specifying contemporary brands of European furniture, lighting and modern art works for domestic and commercial spaces. I then began to specialise in restaurant interiors where I became increasingly interested in the use of colour as a design tool. This passion for colour led me to consult for Valtti paints where I designed colour palettes including ‘Fauvism 55’ which was awarded a Living etc Loves Award. I am currently working on a range of home wares and consulting on colour choice and placement in public spaces.

My work in colour simply relies upon the 10,000 hour rule, I do not have a colour qualification but I have probably read most books ever written on  colour theory (!) and I am in frequent discussions with members of the IACC (International Association of Colour Consultants) and Colour Group GB.

The place where two colours meet is my real passion. The perfect fusion of art and science exists at this point. Being able to alter a perceived colour by placing another colour next to it gives designers a very powerful and dynamic tool. I’m sure you know that placing two complimentary colours side by side strengthens their respective hues and allows them to be more luminous. In their fight for leadership the two colours ‘tout’ or strengthen their parent colours and retract any common hues resulting in a greater contrast.

The greatest energy or dynamism is found along the boundary where the colours touch – further away from this point the effect diminishes. However, if you wish the entire block of colour to have equal strength a simple ‘fence’ or boundary can be added around the colour block which prevents the colours sparring along the ‘front line’ and the heightened contrast will be spread evenly across the block.

red & green showing different strengths

Look at the energy where the colours touch compared to the outer edges. See how the 'fence' allows the energy to be equally spread.

There are far too many examples of colour physics to discuss in one post and there are plenty of examples on previous posts (including one on the effect of colour perception on ageing eyes which is relevant to Part M building regulations – although brand new research now questions this theory but its still too early in the research to change building regs).

In January this year I spent some time in Reykjavik and was astonished by the use of colour in the Harpa Concert Hall.

Harpa Concert Hall

As many members of The Silk and Velvet Cafe are architects I won’t begin to describe the building on its architectural merits although I do think Rowan Moore’s review of the building for the Guardian gives an excellent overview.

In a country full of colour contrasts, fire and ice, darkness followed by eternal day light and torn in half by the North American and Eurasian plates, I guess it is no surprise that Henning Larsen Architects and artist, Olafur Eliasson who designed Harpa have used dramatic colour combinations to full use.

I was stunned by the scale of the building and even more surprised to see the solid walls inside the building were black concrete. Considering the the lack of winter light, I did not expect the architects to choose black walls. Another surprise, is the white floor. Generally we humans feel more comfortable with ‘heavy’ colours below our feet, and ‘lighter’ colours above, (probably because that replicates nature). Entering this interior instantly made me feel very small and extremely aware of the building itself.

The insertion of bright yellow upholstery is a brilliant addition. Black which has a very low LRV (light reflective value) is the perfect back drop to clean bright yellow which has one of the highest LRV’s – the contrast allows the colours the greatest impact.

Image on left is untouched, image on right is inverted. The interior uses unorthodox colour placement to great effect.

The main concert hall, Eldborg or ‘Fire Castle’ takes inspiration from a volcanic crater in the East of Iceland. Red, well known to heighten ones emotions has affected some recent performers who claim their senses have been so sharpened they have been reduced to tears while on stage.

Photo by Ari Magg

The recital hall, Norourljos or ‘Northern Lights’ is shrouded in a vivid blue light to signify endless horizons and also to create a peaceful ambiance for smaller groups of performers.

Photo by Eypor Arnason

The Kaldalon or ‘Cold Lagoon’ has the ability to change colour depending on what event is being hosted. Inspired.

It is exciting to see bold colour choices and unusual colour placement  being used in such an important cultural building and a building which has become a symbol of Iceland’s new energy and optimism.

For me, it is the colour choice and placement that saved this over sized building from becoming an impersonal space. The building provokes powerful emotional and at times unexpected reactions which makes it an exciting and dynamic place to enter and a place that has firmly stuck in my mind.

Finding Your Dominant Colour Personality

Scientists, philosophers and artists have been working on colour theories since the beginning of time but the Swiss artist Johannes Itten is the one I keep returning to.

Itten, one of the first teachers at the Bauhaus school of design, approached colour theory not in a purely scientific way like Sir Isaac Newton but from an angle that incorporated a human element. Of course he studied the physics of light waves and the chemistry of how to mix and produce colours but he also acknowledged that “the deepest and truest secrets of color effect are, I know, invisible even in the eye, and are beheld by the heart alone”.

Each quarter depicts a season

While teaching colour harmony to a class of students in 1928, Itten realised that what he found pleasing may not in fact be pleasing to his students. In fact some of them found his harmonies quite discordant. He realised that colours are subjective and individuals have their own personal harmonies.

Itten carried out an interesting experiment with his students. All the students had access to a large array of colours and he asked them to depict (in abstract form) the four seasons using whatever colours they wanted. To his astonishment all the students used completely different sets of colours from each other but everyone could easily depict which seasons their piers were expressing – I am sure you can figure out the seasons I am depicting above.

Following this revelation, he encouraged his students to paint using their own personal spectrum of colours from their four seasons and their paintings that followed were some of their most successful they had created.

Itten’s experiment is such a good example of why it is so important to work out which colours you alone are attracted to. A designer should not push their personal spectrum on to their clients because if the clients are not attracted to the colours they will never feel comfortable no matter how well the project is composed. A designer should encourage the client to find their own spectrum and from there help them to work with their colour palette. Or as Itten put it, “to help a student discover his subjective forms and colours is to help him discover himself”.

The Importance of Seasonal Colour

I rather liked this “test” Resene Paints have added to their site to help clients discover their colour personality (although I came out two seasonal….I always wanted a Winter and a Summer home……