Color Theory

I am not really in charge of design decisions in my home, mostly because I prioritize function over finesse; you should never ever ever ask me if a given color goes with another given color because I have no sense of design. In my thirties I watched way too many HGTV shows and had tennis ball green bedroom walls, a baby aspirin orange library, and a dark brown powder room. (The name of the paint was “Praline”. It wasn’t until after the last coat was up and I had friends over for a dinner that I realized that perhaps a dark brown color was a little too “inspirational” for a powder room.)

A good 80% of my wardrobe is grey or black (or generic denim). The next 10-15% could be described as varying degrees of beige, oatmeal, or “sand”. The remainder gets right up there with a dark purple or red, but that’s strictly for when I’m feeling very adventurous.

I don’t get color the way some folks do; I am not colorblind but I don’t have that talent to know that X and Y should or should not go together. I mean, everything goes with black or grey; but there are some greens that can be paired with some blues and some purples but others that can’t and those “rules” just do not stick. However we as humans assign significance to specific colors and take specific meanings from them.

I write this from the pseudo-“purple” state of Arizona, with a Republican Governor and two Democrat Senators. I don’t actually know how “purple” Arizona is, but I do know that it’s “Republican Red” and “Democrat Blue” in terms of color associations, at least since 2000. (Interestingly enough, before that from 1976 it was reversed).

The color blue is associated with calm, peaceful, quality, neutrality, and trustworthiness. The color red is associated with energy, passion, danger. Your doctor’s office probably has a lot of blue elements in it. Your bank almost certainly does. The sale rack (attention!) has a lot of red signage; as does many fast food chains (Jack in the Box, McDonalds — while employing Golden Arches the other principal color is the Red on which it rests). Blue wants you to trust, red wants you to act.

As I was taking in a morning walk in the 90-odd degree heat, passing political signage and thinking about the color associations, I was trying to figure out that first one: if blue elicits trust (or tries to), and we are the most polarized we’ve been in a while (if not ever), how trustworthy is “blue” if I’m a Republican? That is to say, if I am a Republican and look across the aisle and say “anything Democrat is bad” (and that could be construed as a legitimate argument from a Republican given current discourse), does blue at my doctor’s office make me trust them any more… or specifically less? (Yes, I tried to find articles on this and no, I didn’t find any).

Is the inverse true: if red gathers attention and signals action, and if I am a Democrat, am I going to ignore that part of “red” and instead, well, “see red” when I see red? Am I going to tune out when I see initiatives or logos with a red color more than a blue one?

Republicans, at least those in office, tend to align to the party principal and requirement even if they don’t like it. The laundry will only rarely be washed in public if at all, the voting will happen with nose-holding and sticking to the party (or the person, in some cases). From the Republicans I’ve spoken with that holds: they may privately disagree with leadership or a given facet of the platform, but they will vote the platform for the cherry-picked 2 or 3 things they care about most. I suspect the same is true for Democrats.

If the party prefers to identify as red and as a party is “anti-blue”, how does this message trickle down to the primary constituency, which skews to 56% membership of over 50 (so… people who find themselves at financial institutions and doctors’ offices much more often than those who are younger)? And how does this work with other driven organizations, e.g., Koch Industries, whose own logo includes blue (and not red)? We are now in a state of affairs where we are aligning political party to how we respond to a global public healthcare crisis, both in terms of community health and our own; it’s not unreasonable to think that this polarization can/could extend to how we see heretofore “simple” color signals. But I can’t find anything credible that has tackled this, and it was just an idle stream of thoughts.

It was probably the heat.

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