Is yellow sweet like a banana or sour like a lemon? From casual observations of our own eating we know that the visual 'taste' of food can be just as important as the ingredients in a dish. But how much does your internalized color and food associations - the ones we started developing from the very first time we saw our mothers' arm reach across and place before us a dark green round leafy Brussels sprout - impact what you are tasting now, and how are food producers exploiting this information to influence consumers?
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Some recent research might make you think twice about what you are tasting, and whether or not you might just be seeing a difference.
Food Color Research
A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research entitled, Taste Perception: More than Meets the Tongue:
The researchers manipulated orange juice by changing color (with food coloring), sweetness (with sugar), or by labeling the cups with brand and quality information. They found that though brand name influenced people's preferences for one cup of juice over another, labeling one cup a premium brand and the other an inexpensive store brand had no effect on perceptions of taste.
In contrast, the tint of the orange juice had a huge effect on the taster's perceptions of taste. As the authors put it: "Color dominated taste."
Given two cups of the same Tropicana orange juice, with one cup darkened with food coloring, the members of the researcher's sample group perceived differences in taste that did not exist. However, when given two cups of orange juice that were the same color, with one cup sweetened with sugar, the same people failed to perceive taste differences.
"It seems unlikely that our consumers deliberately eschewed taste for color as a basis for discrimination," write the authors. "Moreover, our consumers succumbed to the influence of color but were less influenced by the powerful lure of brand and price information."
Meaning, people thought the orange juice tasted different when there was no actual taste difference just because it was a slightly different color, but when the color remained the same, and the actual taste was changed, people didn't taste a difference.
More Food Color Research
During one experiment in the early 1970s people were served an oddly tinted meal of steak and french fries that appeared normal beneath colored lights. Everyone thought the meal tasted fine until the lighting was changed. Once it became apparent that the steak was actually blue and the fries were green, some people became ill.
Studies have found that the color of a food can greatly affect how its taste is perceived. Brightly colored foods frequently seem to taste better than bland-looking foods, even when the flavor compounds are identical. Foods that somehow look off-color often seem to have off tastes. For thousands of years human beings have relied on visual cues to help determine what is edible. The color of fruit suggests whether it is ripe, the color of meat whether it is rancid. Flavor researchers sometimes use colored lights to modify the influence of visual cues during taste tests.
-Excerpt taken from Erice Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation
Examples of Food That Probably Shouldn't Be the Color It Is
I think my first experience with Crystal Pepsi went something like this: "Alright Pepsi has a new lemon lime soda! Oh, wait! Why does it taste like cola!? Weird."
The last time I saw a cow produce bright yellow milk was when I wondered off from Woodstock into a neighboring farm. There I met a sociable hen named Margery who introduced me to that magical and mysterious milk cow.
And any other highly processed food targeted towards the most rational of consumers, children. But the bright colors do make it more exciting.
- Check out these previous food color posts:
Color Guide to Staying Healthy and Eating Right
Wonders of the Food Coloring World
Though a lightning bolt radiates pure white light, various atmospheric conditions can tint the brilliant flash into a rainbow of electrical colors. Red, yellow, green, blue, pink, purple, violet, cyan, and orange are all possible lightning colors, depending upon the presence of water vapor, dust, pollution, rain, or hail.
Just as lightning is said never to strike twice in the same place, no two lightning bolts are ever exactly the same color. In fact, different branches of the same bolt can exhibit different colors, due to temperature variations. The hotter the bolt, the bluer or whiter it will appear, and the cooler it is, the more orange or red. Because lightning heats the air as it travels, the presence of different gasses will also lend color as they ignite.
Weather expert Dan Robinson explains that different film stocks, exposure times, and camera types can also bring colour to lightning. "The same lightning channel can appear blue, purple, red or orange depending on the type of film, length of exposure, and other factors. Slide film is more likely to produce a more purple/blue image, while print film tends to give lightning a more yellow/orange tint."
Tourists visiting Tokyo's Shibuya ward near the Harajuku Station may find themselves wondering if they have suddenly stepped out of the world and into a carnival of beautiful performers all in the split of a second. It does seem so, as the area is frequented by young Japanese teenagers who express themselves with such startling vibrance it can't help but remind one a bit of Noh theatre.
Harajuku kids, as they are called, have been called the modern geisha of today, and rightfully so. Their culture has been most famously documented in a series of photography books called Fruits by Shoichi Aoki, including small interviews and tidbits of information about the kids and their lifestyles.
The most oft-asked question seems to be: Why do they do it? There is no conclusive reason, although the simplest answer seems to be: Why not?
The emergence of the colorful dress seems to have been around since the 1980's, when Sundays at Omotesandō and the street that passes through Yoyogi Park were host to a gathering of bright costumes while the street was closed to traffic. The street was reopened in 1990 and the gathering seemed to die down at that time, but has since popped up sporadically in other locales, specifically the Harajuku Station area. Should you tour this area, you may also see what are called Visual Kei. This refers to a trend of Japanese musicians dressing flamboyantly -- think the hair metal era, but with vivid color replacing the ubiquitous black clothing. Visual Kei are also well known for favoring an androgynous look, which is a very popular look among Harajuku boys. The Japanese band Dir En Grey are the most iconic representation of this fad's origin.
It started as a simple exercise, a cure for writer’s block, copy a Van Gogh. Practice discipline in painting, work on mixing complex colors, capture vintage tones, and learn from the best. But, it is now late afternoon, the natural light is starting to fade and I,well, I am arguing with Van Gogh. “Why Vincent? Why? What color is it?”
It never is just ‘green’ or ‘blue’ with Van Gogh. Its more colors than one could possibly imagine, more hues than those contained within the range of my modern palette, more subtle variation of tone than my amateur skills are capable of; more madness than I care to explore. Oh Vincent…
His lines are simple, his subjects relatable, and despite his over popularity with the makers of screen savers and dorm room posters, Van Gogh had something I believe no other artist has ever managed to replicate for me: an internal color palette that is uniquely his, wonderful and frustrating.
"Display your soul by colourcode."
German designers, illustrators, photographers, painters, musicians and paper toy makers, atelier | olschinsky, have a new line of colorful toys that allow you to, as the makers say:
Express yourself by matching colours – each colour code stands for a certain spiritual condition. Create your colourcode the easy way! it comes to you ready for assembling.
These motley, animated and vibrant toys truly display the designers' humour, appreciation for color and fantastic sense for composition. They also have a corresponding line of buttons that can interact with your colorcode.
If you can't, or just refuse to deal with the currency exchange and overseas shipping, you can still download backgrounds for your computer, and at least let everyone at the office know your current spiritual condition.
You can find the coloucode toys along with other colorful toys at their store.
Ron van Dongen
It was the beautiful red book titled Effusus sitting on a coffee table that first captured my attention and then my heart. For most of the rest of the evening, Ron van Dongen's photographs of flowers had me spellbound. Each image was striking with detail and seductive, sensual colour.
Since that evening, I've been lucky to have met Ron on several occasions and he graciously took time to share his approach and photographs with us.
CL: What is your background?
van Dongen: I grew up in the heartland of floral agriculture in the Netherlands, and later studied Biology and Health Scinece at the University of Delft. Despite my involvement with plants, I’d never thought they would become a subject matter for photography. Digging in the dirt and watching a plant’s life cycle in its own environment was, and still is, more rewarding than isolating it and documenting it on film.
CL: How did you get started making photographs of plants and flowers?
van Dongen: About fifteen years ago, while I was working as a floral designer and going to college, a friend predicted I would one day photograph flowers as a primary occupation. I thought the idea was ridiculous.
As a photography student, I was obsessed with the human form, and in my youthful ambition to be taken seriously, found flowers too frivolous a subject matter. I was determined to become a portrait photographer.
While I did photograph plants occasionally, it was only done to practice my 4x5 camera skills without burdening live models with my limited technical ability. When the flower pictures drew attention, I would respond by saying they were only meant as an exercise.
During the following few years, I built a portfolio of body and face photographs. These images were all taken in the studio with simple strobe lighting. I worked exclusively with Polaroid 55P/N for its instant results. Mostly high in contrast, with the light skin tones against black back drops, the pictures had a dramatic, but often static effect.
In a subsequent project, I photographed white bodies on white backdrops. In this series the light tones were meant to symbolize death and mourning. The white-on-white imagery created a feeling of eerie serenity but also of distance. As the project progressed, this concept changed to a more visual observation; it takes effort to see where a white-on-white image begins or ends. This ambiguous pictorial quality literally forces the viewer to draw in closer and examine the whole image area. It makes the imagery more challenging and dynamic.
Simultaneously, I applied this idea to floral still lifes, using a 4 x 5 Sinar F1 camera. Although visually similar, the botanicals lacked the emotional tension and heaviness of the figure studies. Another difference was the circumstance in with I photographed them; at home using only natural light.
In the attempt to market my work to galleries and magazines, it was the flower portfolio that was consistently singled out. I chose--albeit reluctantly--to devote my time exclusively to photographing the botanical form.
Think you can't find beauty in a bank? Think again. The Dexia Tower, located in Brussels, embodies just that. Thanks to the creativity of LAb[au], a Belgium based digital design lab, the Dexia Tower has become infinitely more than just a home for paperwork and numbers.
The tower itself went up in 2006, and since then has been host to a variety of fantastic light shows. The third tallest building in Brussels has a lot more going for it than just height, however: Of the building's 6000 windows, 4200 of them contain an installation of 12 light bulbs, each housing 3 LED's (a green, blue and red) that can be combined to form a complete palette of color. The result is a tremendous canvas that can display anything from letters to geometric designs. Seem wasteful? It isn't --recent tests show that the tower uses 1/3 of the electricity that Paris' famed Eiffel Tower uses, thanks to a highly efficient energy saving LED lighting system.
The tower is currently exhibiting a show called "Who’s afraid of Red, Green and Blue?" which is shown in the picture above. In a two month collaboration with the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium, the tower exhibits the temperature of the following day using color. The color code follows a naturally coordinating scale, with violet symbolizing -6° or colder and warming through the color spectrum, red being at the opposite end and symbolizing +6° or warmer. The result is beauty with something useful below the surface, and while there is much to be said for beauty and art all on their own, the function of the Dexia Tower's current show lends a lovely depth to the spectacle. Hit the link below to see this stunning exhibit in action.
I've always liked the artwork of Mark Rothko. They are simple enough to enjoy with only a passing glance, but powerful enough to absorb large amounts of time considering the emotions and meanings behind the colors and how they interact with each other.
I share a similar appreciation for the hundreds of color palettes that are uploaded to COLOURlovers on a daily basis. They can be quickly appreciated as you scroll by them, but some of will jump out and grab you on personal level. And the ones that grab you could be the ones that another person scrolls on past... These little palettes become mini-artworks that can express emotion and ideas.
As basic as color is, it is a very powerful form of expression.
"Rothko's work is characterized by rigorous attention to formal elements such as color, shape, balance, depth, composition, and scale; yet, he refused to consider his paintings solely in these terms. He explained: It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing."
Mark Rothko - National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
There's an age-old debate in the Chess world over whether Black or White is the "superior" colour. Because White makes the first move, White wins an overwhelming percentage of the time. But what if both sides were Grandmasters? Would there still be a colour advantage, or would every game end in a stalemate? The Surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp found his own way to break free of this philosophical "gray area." In 1920, he invented a colour version of his favorite board game in an attempt to turn Chess into an artistic activity.
Duchamp's colour choices weren't arbitrary. Indeed, as Duchamp expert Francis Naumann points out, the colour of each piece served as a "continuous visual reminder of its movement and strategic power." Duchamp's two Rooks were light blue and dark blue. The Bishops were light and dark yellow. As the Queen is a combination of the Rook and Bishop (in terms of power and movement), she blended blue and yellow to form light and dark green. The Knights, sharing no characteristics with other chessmen, were light and dark red. Kings were white and black, and pawns were also white and black.
Naumann notes that Duchamp compared the black and white game of chess to a "pen and ink drawing," likening chess players to painters who created black and white artwork out of pre-existing forms. "Extending Duchamp's analogy," Naumann suggests, "we could then say that playing on the chromatic set would be the equivalent of drawing in color."
Bringing color into a living space isn't just about painting the walls. It's also about paying attention to the way the objects in a home relate to one another. A full spectrum of color resides on most bookshelves, but it takes a good eye to make an average shelf into a work of art.
If you're really lucky, you can find a complete set of color-coded books at a thrift store. A few collections that come in a colorful series: Wallpaper's City Guides, many of the old color-coded Penguin books, and World Book Editions. For inspiration, check out the Rainbow of Books Flickr Group.
How to Organize Your Bookshelves By Color