This information is an excerpt from the book Coloring the Cosmetic World: Using Pigments in Decorative Cosmetic Formulations. To learn more about this topic or to purchase the entire book, visit www.Alluredbooks.com.
Is color a necessity of life, in the same manner as food, water and air?
The answer is no, but try to imagine a world without color. Nature would bear no brightly colored flowers, no green grass, no festively colored birds or fish. The blue of sky—rich and deep one day, only to yield a softer eye-blue the next—would not be there. How could we call it sky without those colors? What would the word, the idea, sky even mean? There would also be no colorful man-made objects: automobiles gleaming red, silver, piercing black; brightly colored newspapers and magazines whose purpose is to give image and substance to ideas, concepts and actions; children’s toys and all that is implied by the joy given by their colorfulness; packaging materials that excite and endorse; the very houses we live in and countless other objects that make up the world as we know it. Even though color is not counted as one of life’s necessities, it is an integral part of every human being’s existence. It is a fact, beyond contestation; there is color. Color pervades human life on two levels, the visual and the psychological. Visually, it is a welcome companion to human life. It provides texture, differentiation, and emotional value. In addition to the esthetic enhancement of life, color is functional in several aspects. It is used to communicate information: think of a traffic signal. No matter in which part of the world a person may travel, he or she can, without speaking the local language, understand what the red, green and yellow lights mean when they are illuminated, and act according to that meaning. Along these same lines—and this example is nothing if not timely—it is possible to determine what the terrorist alert level in the United States simply by seeing what color it is. Color, in this case, corresponds to a set of criteria, upon which we may become informed, or if necessary, act.
A fine example of color communication can be found in the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) color coding system. This system assigns not only a valuation to color, as it is used in the public sphere of everyday American life, but it also goes further by offering common examples of color function in places such as public utilities, traffic coordination, and general public safety. Beyond these functional aspects, color brings other dimensions to everyday lives. First, it is a very powerful tool for use in brand identity.
There are many large multinational companies that use color as an integral part of their identity, as the following examples will attest. Coca-Cola has used red as an identifier for many years; in fact the Coca-Cola brand is so deeply tied to this color that one knows the brand identity by simply seeing this rich red accented by the silver wave, regardless of whether the words “Coca-Cola” are present or not. Royal Dutch Shell selected yellow as its brand color and have used it very effectively in the company’s seashellesque logo. Finally, the United Parcel Service not only uses brown as its identifier visually, but has also incorporated the word into its corporate tag line, “What can brown do for you today?”
Along the same identity lines, companies also use color to brand specific items within their product portfolios. Over time the colors chosen to represent a given brand, through exposure and consistent marketing plans, become practically inextricable from the product itself. To go back to Coca-Cola, no one picks up a Coke and expects to taste Pepsi, just as no one develops a taste for Coke and then looks for the Pepsi label’s color scheme. Other examples of this type of color association are the bright, clean-looking orange trimmed in deep blue and white of Proctor & Gamble’s Tide detergent; Kodak’s yellow film boxes; and Cadbury Eggs’ distinct shiny blue wrapper.
Moving from brand and product identification, color usage is also very much a part of the foods we eat, both overtly and covertly. With regard to the former, each of us, dating back to childhood, has been instructed to “eat our greens,” the idea being that green foods bear healthful nutrients beneficial to growth and development. Color is also a very prominent factor in prepared foods such as candies (the chocolatey brown wrapper of M&Ms), bottled and powder-mix drinks (the fun brightness of the Kool-Aid Man), and cereals (the “rainbow” of flavors suggested by Lucky Charms). From the latter, the covert role of color in food, color is used to enhance the appearance of foods from raw beef to McDonald’s golden fried Chicken McNuggets.
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