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    From brendan
    Shape vs. Color
    Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
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    Shape vs. Color


    "The brain acknowledges and remembers shapes first. [...] Color is the second in the sequence. [...] The brain takes more time to process language, so content is third in the sequence behind shape and color."
    - Alina Wheeler, "Designing Brand Identity"

    "Angela Wright, a colour psychologist at agency Colour Affects, adds: 'Colour is noticed by the brain before shape or wording.' [...] The mind absorbs colour before design or wording and it is estimated that as much as 90% of the information taken in about a new brand is related to colour."
    - Ruth Mortimer, "The Colour of Money"

    So which do we process first, shape or color?

    Mon, Jan 7, 2008  Permanent link
    Categories: color, perception, shape
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    pacocamino     Mon, Jan 7, 2008  Permanent link
    I think color has a deeper perhaps more visceral effect on the brain than shape or context. The pairing of Red and Yellow in brands is ubiquitous, but could it stem from an evolutionary trait that causes humans to react or become more alert to these colors? Color symbology (context) has often conflicting meanings associated with the same color, so I don't think it offers a good explanation on the pulse quickening effect certain colors have on the brain.

    Plus we have all seen the many examples of color acting as stimuli (sex and danger) in the animal kingdom.

    I once lived in a loft that had a fairly large bedroom (20 ft ceiling) without any windows. I painted the bedroom a deep red. After a week of nightmarish dreams, I felt like the color I chose was throwing my inner psyche into turmoil. I repainted the room with a neutral color and slept like a baby from that point forward.





    meika     Mon, Jan 7, 2008  Permanent link
    depends whether the 'processing' is towards meaning or feeling:-


    • shape first for meaning, utility; but

    • colour first for feeling/judgment





    this is of course a complete poetical guess of mine.
    TheLogos     Tue, Jan 8, 2008  Permanent link
    Colors do seem to hold a more naturalistic impression on us, due to as stated before, the 'red=danger' etc., and yet I wonder if shaped do so as well? A sharp edge for instance can symbolize fear and intensity, and a soft edge being a soothing feeling and so forth. Processing information such as words however seems to be a uniquly human characteristic.
    Uppy     Tue, Jan 8, 2008  Permanent link
    In the example image above, my first reaction was to the shape of the colored graphic as a unified object, then on the color of that object. However, after processing the shape, I blue to be more appealing (probably because of the larger blue presence in the graphic as a whole).
    pointlessjon     Wed, Jan 16, 2008  Permanent link
    this image needs to be updated... I'm sure green has spiked now with the "gone green" bandwagon.

    and, though I'm not sure I can comment on what one processes first, (other than that fact that my brain is so radical that I process everything immediately! ) but this image was very interesting... thanks for posting.
    Robokku     Thu, Jan 17, 2008  Permanent link
    An interesting post - thanks.

    Is there anything in the old primary / secondary property distinction (or attempts to distinguish) that's relevant here?

    The thought is that properties such as spatial extension and location - so shape - are in some sense prior to properties such as noisiness and deliciousness.

    There is a sense in which primary properties are possessed objectively and secondary properties are ascribed subjectively. We could meaningfully disagree about a ruler's deliciousness without at least one of us being wrong, but, so the argument goes, we could not meaningfully disagree about a cake's spatial extension without at least one of us being wrong.

    If we're being physical scientists - and I think some of us round here are - then you could say that colour as a property of light or of an object's surface is "out there" in the world in a way that the experience of redness or greenness or Mineral-Hazeness is not. The latter group of properties depend on us - on some processing by us.

    Maybe you could say that the simple "reading" of shape from the world must be quicker than the more complex, internal "creation" of colour, which must after all be based on, and so come after, what is read.

    Personally, I don't buy that line of argument. But I just wrote it so I'll let you disagree with it yourselves.

    Could there be some evolutionarily advantageous aspects of favouring the rapid comprehension of what's out in the world over the production of an inner interpretation? Or vice versa?


    (Sorry: were you looking for an answer like "shape" ?)
    sjef     Thu, Jan 17, 2008  Permanent link
    I think the difference between those two apparently conflicting viewpoints can be reconciled by allowing for a gradiation of size and detail in shape. As Angela uses the phrase 'shape or wording' this could imply that she is referring to shape in detail.
    For example if you see a paragraph of text, you will notice its color before you distiguish between the shapes of the distinct letterforms, however if you are about to be hit by a truck, I'm pretty sure you will notice there is a big ass shape heading towards you before you register what color it is.

    Looking at it from an evolutionary standpoint, it would be likely that whatever form of detail (being shape/movement/color) brings the most advantage against competitors would be the one to develop first, and you could probably make a fair guess that the earliest evolved properties are the ones that take precedence now. I'm no biologist so that is pure speculation on my part of course.
    brendan     Thu, Jan 17, 2008  Permanent link
    It looks like the area which is able to process color is a very tightly packed spot in the retina. Almost all the photoreceptors that discriminate colors of light are in this area, the fovea. We don't perceive this narrow point of high resolution because the constant movement and scanning to a point of focus creates a process of active vision. A distinct shape which draws focus would seem to complement a strong color choice.

    I found it amusing that both sources were so adamant that one was more effective than the other without quoting the basis of their statement. I'm sure the context of the visual stimuli would affect whether shape or color were processed first. Both shape and color seem to have importance and complement each other so I'm sure one would never negate one for the other.
    Michael Garrett     Thu, Jan 17, 2008  Permanent link
    At the instant the post opened I registered blue triangle center top before I saw red shape left, another red shape right, a multicolor center line and then blue rectangle down. At nearly the same moment I saw the first blue triangle shape I was aware I was looking at logos and type, then after seeing the blue rectangle below the center line I slowed down and began to actually look closer at the logos and read type. Grist for the mill.
    meika     Thu, Jan 17, 2008  Permanent link
    YEs, Michael, but you're an artist.
    Robokku     Fri, Jan 18, 2008  Permanent link
    When I first saw the post, it was a map of the UK in blue, and Ireland, naturally, in green. Then that must be South America to the west - it's hotter there, hence red. and in the east... sort of Japan? Maybe it's not a map after all.

    Whatever my brain was doing, it's amazing how much I ignored while I built this stupid hypothesis about what I was looking at. I suppose the key question for designers must be about attention rather than raw neural processing.

    Both of the quotes are about the activity of the brain, not the attention of the mind. They'll be related, but I don't think you need to dig as deep as neurology to hit something useful. The distinction between active and passive attention (was it William James'?) would suggest that the designer's stuck at the passive end, but you can have an effect from there.

    A decent overview (first hit)
     
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