• Colour, even more than drawing, is a means of liberation (Matisse)
  • Colour must be thought, imagined, dreamed (Gustave Moreau 1893)
  • Colour is like a closing eyelid, a tiny fainting spell (Roland Barthes)
  • Colour precedes words and antedates civilisation (Leonard Shalin)
  • Colour cannot stand alone (Wassily Kandinsky)
  • Colour deceives continuously (Josef Albers)
  • Colour is an illusion, but not an unfounded illusion (C L Hardin)
  • Colour is accidental and has nothing in common with the innermost essence of the thing (Naum Gabo and Anton Pevsner)

Physiologically colour is a sensation of light that is transmitted to the brain through the eye. Tiny differences in wavelengths are processed by the brain into a myriad nuances of colour that convey meaning. Because each of us is unique – our eye/brain reactions and cultural experiences differ – we can only talk in terms of generalisations.

Colour involves three components:

  • a viewer
  • an object
  • light.

and can be said to work on 3 levels:

Visual: the objective process as light bounces off objects and is transmitted to the eye

What is Colour? light and pigments

Expressive: emotional level as the brain reacts instinctively to interprete the significance of the light signals it receives, evoking sensations that are ‘hard-wired’ by evolution, but also often subjective depending on individual physiology and involving non-visual effects

Colour Theory: Perception and Optical Effects

Symbolic: The cultural level, where the brain associates certain colours and combinations with culturally specific experiences and meanings that have been learned.

Colour in Design: Communication, Culture and Meaning

In Book Design a fourth element is inevitably involved: how to ensure colour consistency when translating designs into print and/or e-dissemination.

Colour Management


(to be done)

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