Imagine a colour you’ve never seen before
What do you see? Is it the indigo blue of your first lover’s jeans? Is it the emerald green of the ring you pawned some time ago? Is it the dark grey skies before a thunderstorm?
It is not possible to imagine a colour we’ve never seen before; we have indeed seen all these colour before. Whether it is the indigo blue of your first lover’s jeans; the emerald green of the ring you pawned some time ago; the dark grey skies before a thunderstorm; the intense red of your mother’s lipstick.
This was first mentioned in a TED Talk by Tim Brown on creativity and play that the brain cannot perform this task because we build new thoughts and ideas based on past experiences, emotions, and the knowledge we come across.
Yet as early as 40,000 years ago, artists were experimenting with colours never before seen in the history of painting using only a palette of five basic tones. One of these tones is red ochre. Red is perhaps the oldest colour in history.
Often associated with romance and passion, red is a colour that is defined by the cultural context. In 1888, Vincent van Gogh wrote that he “sought to express with red and green the terrible human passions”. While on the other hand, red has always symbolised prosperity and joy in China so much so that it is banned from funerals.
A relatively more modern invention is the colour blue. It was the Egyptians who first found the way to produce a blue dye. This was done through mining and unearthing lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone that was scarce and highly-prized. The bright blue robe in which painters depicted Virgin Mary in was not chosen because of its religious symbolism but because of its hefty price tag.
Soon, other ancient civilisations tried to create the colour blue using various methods. For example, in China, copper was blended with heavy elements such as mercury to create shades of blue and then attributed with healing qualities. As a result, about 40 per cent of the Chinese emperors suffered from heavy-element poisoning.
One of the more difficult colours to replicate is perhaps green. Because of the unstable nature of the dyes used to create green, what looks like green at first tend to turn brown or black. From this, the colour green derived its association with chance, which is why card tables and snooker tables are covered with green baize today.
The colour grey is mostly used as background colour in painting. Grey has become the most common background for the portraits of Rembrandt van Rijn. This is perhaps why the colour is associated with neutrality.
If any of the above colours piqued your interest, be sure to check out our PowerCube Colours series.
Allocacoc stands for a different standard. Since our establishment in 2010, the industrial design company has focused on redefining our everyday products with an innovative twist. One of our top-selling products is the PowerCube: an award-winning product in multiple categories, amongst which the coveted Red Dot Award for Industrial Design. Currently, Allocacoc operates in three offices worldwide and distributes to more than 80 countries. We are also helping other designers develop their ideas into products to be sold in the market through our crowdfunding platform called DesignNest. This is a one-of-a-kind crowdfunding platform that provides design knowledge, sourcing, production, and assembly together with distribution and sales.