Colour in our environmentadmin
“Colour is a chromatic aspect of an object that makes it look different depending on the spectral position of light reaching the eye’s retina”
Like the air that we breathe, colour is all around us, filling our lives with its powerful energy and affecting our moods and emotions in ways that we often don’t even realize. Also like the air that we breathe, we don’t actually take time to think about the role that it plays in our everyday lives, and how much we take it for granted. However, evidence of the importance of colour is everywhere if we simply take the time to look around us.
Colour has played an important part in the history of mankind, for as far back as we can see. Cavemen mixed colours from the soil and plants nearby to paint murals on the walls of their caves. Of course, throughout the ages, methods of decorating progressed, as did fashion, and colours became more varied and more accessible as time went on.
In Ancient Egypt, the main colours used to decorate walls, floors and columns were red, yellow, blue, green, black and white. They adorned their clothing with precious stones and used embroidery and beading to add coloured details to collars. As we will see throughout history, the amount of adornment usually reflected the status of the individual and so became symbolic as well as decorative.
COLOUR IN OUR ENVIRONMENT
Have you ever just stopped and seen how much colour surrounds us in the natural world and in the environment we have created for ourselves? Today, more than ever, modern methods of producing colours mean that we have more choices than ever before. This is also the first time in history that people around the world have equal opportunities to colour. Whereas in historical times, many people were denied access to some colours because of financial or legal restraints, nowadays colours can be produced extremely cheaply, and in our democratic society, the only limitations are the ones we choose for ourselves.
We have already seen how colour is used to reflect status and has specific symbolic meanings within different cultures, but it also has many other uses in our environment. Since the first cavemen painted on the walls of caves, bringing colour into our home and working environments has been extremely important to people throughout history. Spending time in harmonious surroundings creates a sense of well-being within us, but it is not just aesthetics, colour has very practical uses as well.
Colour is a universal language and is used to alert people to danger among other things. Red is the most advancing colour, and this is used around the world for traffic signals to stop cars from proceeding and for warning signs on the road. Yellow and black are used in many industries to caution us when the danger is not as strong, but care is still needed. Yellow and black hazard signs are evident throughout factories and warehouses, and indeed on many road signs in several countries. In large factories, pipes containing hazardous chemicals or gases are generally colour-coded to warn people of the contents. We use colour in this way to draw attention to hazards, but colour can also be used to attract us to advertising and signs.
In the natural world, colour is not only rampant, but it is essential to the survival of many animals and plant life. Many animals use camouflage to blend in with their surroundings so that they won’t be preyed on by other creatures. This is something that has occurred during the animal’s evolution, whereby it matches its body colours to its surroundings, as an obvious way of protecting itself. By contrast, many hunters and fierce predators have strongly coloured markings on their bodies, which act as a warning to alert other animals of danger. In effect, this is nature’s particular way of marking ‘hazardous materials’
Colour also plays an important part in reproduction. Flowers use their strong colours to attract bees and other insects to them, to aid their pollination and so their survival. Most animals use colour to attract a mate and this is something that we humans do also. It is obvious that many women wear make-up to look more attractive, but even without this help, when we become sexually attracted to another person, our cheeks and lips redden and become fuller. So you see, there is far more to colour than initially meets the eye.