When I was five years old, my father and I were together in a car crash, in a newly purchased car. I, survived unscathed. He, died after 24 hours in a coma and after repeated surgical operations to save his life.
As a way of grieving my dad’s tragic death, my mother wore black for more than 15 years after the accident.
As a result of growing up with a monochromatic parent, I have always been fascinated by colours - and their powers.
When I eventually became familiar with my first computer, despite my desire to master essential technology, I was totally underwhelmed by that dark screen with a ridiculous green, flashing little square.
Stunned by that techno-drama, I set aside my computing literacy until some visionary would come along and decide to do something about that unengaging, underachieving screen.
Then, like late buses, four of those minds turned up at once: Bill Gates, Paul Allen; Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak. Luckily for me, I was still of school-learning age by then!
At last, long-sighted individuals were putting brighter or more colourful visions where their mouse was!
They all understood that, in addition to offering more commercially viable solutions for any business (Gates) and enhanced functions for personal development (Jobs), they needed to distance themselves from cavernous cathodes boxed into clinical ‘greige’ cubes and offer - alongside friendlier forms, formulas and wrapping - brighter (Gates) and elegant (Jobs) visuals too, in order to stimulate our future interaction with precious, innovative instruments.
As well as being grateful to them like the rest of humankind, I also like to speculate that the legendary Gates/Jobs rivalry perhaps stemmed from a chromatic dilemma: was it preferable and more appealing to use primary - and honorary primary - colours (Gates) on Microsoft BASIC or crisp white and raven black (Jobs) on MAC? I can see their respective psychological arguments there: Gates needed more colour on his screen, as he was based in often overcast and rainy Washington State, whilst Jobs could lean more towards boringly elegant silvers and neutrals, as he had plenty of lights from the spectrum in sunny Southern California!
Whatever the reasons for their falling out, I personally believe that this was the original milestone in the crucial use of colour into technology.
That shift from two-hues video processing to polychromatic video playing has made a world of difference, especially in changing the universal perception that technology resides in a sterile ‘metalness’ of frozen territories.
Let’s extend that same principle of ‘more coloured approach’ to cell phones. They have gone from being portable call centres to computers’ miniature siblings. Did they have a chance in heaven to be our best mates when they were just a leather-clad builder’s brick, weighing a ton on the wrist? Exactly. Within a few decades, they have become a flat, palm-friendly gallery hosting a plethora of colourful little gems that we delight in scrolling left, right and centre in front of our transfixed eyes. Sadly, most brands behind those little squares and circles seem to stop just at the first six colours on the chromatic scale, when designing their icons. Social media outlets are obsessed with shades of blues when they should consider instead subtler oranges (epitome of gregariousness, fun, and sharing); mobile phone networks flaunt bright reds when they ought to flash rich or textured yellows, a symbol of wit, brave disposition and vital energy. The only companies splashing more blues and greens - for their natural association with growth, evolution, experimental and pioneering spirit – should be financial institutions and banks.
All these paint-brushed arguments bring us to our main point: the choice of colours for the technology-based brands of the near and distant future. Let’s face it, EVERY company will have to be technology-based AND technology-experimental, in the foreseeable future.
Colours ignite some of our strongest emotional links, even more than scent and language. A poem learned in primary school might fade in time, but the colour of our favourite toy will stay with us forever.
All companies, old and new, will have to face sooner or later the importance of choosing their True Colours, if they wish to impress themselves in our Collective Emotional Memory, in order to create our Individual Expressive Memory - therefore loyalty to them.
Paradoxically but understandably, the more technologically advanced we become, the more emotionally we connect with brands. The ease and speed in mobile communications have created alienation and competition since everybody wishes to be original, popular and ‘liked’, by a blue hand or a purple heart.
In an ever-expanding narcissistic global society, we should expect more and more brands making a bigger effort in conquering the human, emotional, and colourful side of communication, to promote engagement and LATER create a commercial co-operation.
Right now, we are witnessing more and more branding in white (once again, a narcissistic trait, due to its apparent purity but with colour-filtering properties), black (arcane sophistication but also inclusion – of most other colours) and orange (gathering effect, need for fun). Is it any wonder that the most successful, digitally inspired brand in recent years, Amazon, features all three of those colours?
In a pan-business, pan-reaching world, it will be essential to be fluent in the language of colours, if we all wish to connect deeply and efficiently to our users, followers and finally clients.