Shampa Dhar-Kamath News

Fifty shades of coloured judgement

Published: 25th September 2016 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th September 2016 11:43 PM   |  A+A-

When’s the last time you thought about colour? Any colour? Did you know that men in general prefer shades that have black added to them while women are more receptive to hues with white tints? Also, that blue is most favoured by both men and women while brown and green top everyone’s list of the least favoured?

But then, unless you work with Pantone, or pants, or paints, few people would consider colour to be a crucial aspect of their lives. They could probably cite a preferred shade if pushed to it but it’s more likely to be a by-the-way choice rather than something pondered over and precisely picked. And yet, experts say colour is as essential a life element as fire and water, that people make a subconscious judgement about a person, environment or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing, with 62 to 90 per cent of that assessment being based on colour alone.

Find that difficult to believe? Australia certainly doesn’t, if its winning initiative to stop people smoking is anything to go by. In 2012, GfK Bluemoon, a market research company working with the Australian government, asked 1,000 of the country’s smokers to identify the shade they found most repulsive. The answer was a dark greenish-brown shade (Pantone 448C) that goes by the exotic name of Opaque Couch. The shade must have been popular once, considering that it appears in Van Gogh paintings and on Mona Lisa’s gown in the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci, but modern-day Aussies apparently thought it looked like dirt, death or, worse, baby poop. The government, looking to kill the glamour associated with smoking, immediately made it mandatory for all tobacco products to be packed in Opaque Couch wrappers. Voila, smoking stats started dipping across the country.

Inspired by the results, global health authorities have, ever since, been trying to get more countries to leverage the “world’s ugliest colour” to put people off their smokes (or at least the boxes they come in). They’ve met with little success in the US, where the tobacco lobby sees red at the hint of any impediment to business, but Great Britain, Ireland and France have begun wrapping tobacco products in greenish brown.

The results for those countries aren’t in yet but Pantone, the company that sets the tone for the commercial use of virtually every colour in the world, isn’t particularly pleased with the treatment being meted out to its No. 448C. The colour-maker has spent the last few years insisting that far from being the world’s ugliest colour, Opaque Couch is a deep, rich earth tone that works beautifully in décor and shoes. Finally done talking, it’s just revealed its top colours for Spring 2017. Heading the list is Kale, a hue that looks suspiciously like Opaque Couch with dollops of green thrown in. However good the intentions, life reveals its true colours in the end.

Shampa Dhar-Kamath

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