I was thinking the other day about how my color preferences have changed over time, and that got me looking at a few pop psychology websites about color preferences.
The basic problem with these sites is that there are particular hues and then there are their concepts. So if a site asks you to rank your preferences by clicking on color swatches, you might say, “I like red, but I don’t like that red. Whereas if you are asked to quickly name your favorite color without thinking about it and you name red, you are most likely thinking of the concept of redness rather than of a particular hue.
Of course the notion of a favorite color is ultimately absurd. Red would be meaningless without all of the other colors to juxtapose with it. From the designer’s point of view, colors take meaning from how they are used in relation to other elements.
But as a sort of amusing parlor game it can be interesting to wonder about why one’s preferences change. As a child if you asked my favorite color I would have said blue — that’s the color I usually picked when choosing board game tokens, for example. As a young adult I would probably have given you a lecture about color philosophy and how existence precedes essence and why that is relevant to de Saussurian linguistics, but if (quite justifiably) hit over the head and forced to pick I would have said yellow. Now I find myself increasingly drawn to green, and when I go clothes shopping I often wish there were more greens offered (there are few).
I noticed that there is a great deal of disagreement on the various sites about what your color preferences “mean.” According to one representative site, a preference for blue reflects a conservative, reliable, sincere, trusting, and trustworthy personality; a preference for yellow a cheerful, fun, creative, and analytical bent; and a predilection for green a practical, down-to-earth, stable, balanced, compassionate, and calm nature. Sure.
A few years ago I read a couple of erudite books on color in art by John Gage, former head of the Department of History of Art at Cambridge University. Gage looked at color from a variety of different disciplines. I found his surveys interesting, but I find I have retained little of what I read in his books. It’s probably because I favor the wrong colors.