recently, i saw a video on instagram who argued that colorimetry —referring to the system of the four seasons— has a racist, classist and even fatphobic charge, and is responsible for outdated ideas like what brunettes should not dye blonde. He also affirmed that the meaning of colors is nothing more than an invention of whiteness whose rules exist to be broken. I was stunned.
The colorimetry, also known as seasonal color analysis, is a personal color scale measurement system based on physical attributes. It is based on the concept that harmonious colors enhance the natural beauty of the individual. Achieving visibly brighter skin, highlighting the natural charm and harmonizing the face are just some of the benefits that the personalized color study promises.
Colorimetry is based on the concept that harmonious colors enhance the natural beauty of the individual.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard reasoning similar to the one in the video, but as an image consultant, I find that theory refutable. First, because it is unfair to judge a methodology by its beginnings, considering that, for at least two decades, it has evolved significantly and much more comprehensive approaches have emerged that reflect current values. spoiler warning: there are no longer four, but 12 perfectly inclusive stations.
Colorimetry is not determined randomly, much less based on discriminatory precepts, but rather on studies of how human beings perceive color.
The concepts underlying the analysis of colors by season are anchored in theories developed in the 1920s by the Swiss painter and Bauhaus instructor Johannes Itten, who determined that colors can be warm or cool (temperature), bright or soft (saturation). ), clear or deep (luminosity), and their more or less complementary combinations.
Itten observed that when she assigned her students to paint a “harmonic color scheme,” each, with their own prior knowledge of the art, had their own interpretation of what constituted harmony. That being said, they tended to fall into patterns. His conclusion was that, beyond personal or subjective color preferences, what we understand as harmony is, to a certain extent, objective.
In 1981, the book Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson took up this knowledge to establish the principles of image consulting. So, he classified people into four categories: spring, summer, fall, and winter, based on the temperature (cold or warm) and lightness (light or deep) of their skin tone, hair, and eyes. Thus the spring was warm and clear; summer, cold and clear; autumn, warm and deep; and winter, cold and deep.
The method was a success for thousands of women in the United States. However, being designed for a primarily white audience, it was limiting and even discriminatory—like many other things in the ’80s that we weren’t proud of.
Since then, the necessary corrections have been made; although, because it is infinitely easier to understand than its updates, many people still resort to the old method, which for advanced image consultants has become obsolete, as too simplistic.
Many people still resort to the four seasons method, which has become outdated for professional image consultants as being too simplistic.
For starters, Munsell’s color system, which provides a standardized scientific method for specifying and reproducing colors, has replaced Itten’s theory. It consists of three color dimensions based on the human response to color: hue, value, and chroma. Tint refers to the dominant wavelength of light that forms a color (for example, red or blue). The value designates lightness or darkness (for example, light or dark blue). And the chroma defines the saturation (for example, pale or bright blue).
Modern color theory makes constant practical use of these concepts, which form a framework for all serious investigations of topics as diverse as color perception, harmony, and the emotional associations of color combinations.
In 2000, Kathryn Kalisz built on the work of her predecessors to develop SciART, the most advanced color analysis model in existence, with 12 stations that better serve the wide human color gamut.
The season to which each color belongs is determined by its interaction with the other colors within the group. To assign colors to the seasons, Kathryn understood how nature creates a visual arrangement from mixtures of pigments with different properties. This allowed him to result in sets of colors that humans perceive as visually harmonious when looking at the entire palette.
In a visual experience, harmony is something that is pleasing to the eye. It draws the viewer in and creates an internal sense of order. When something is not harmonious, it is boring or chaotic. In the first case, since the information is not very stimulating, the viewer does not get involved. In the second, the visual experience is so confusing that the viewer does not tolerate looking at it, because the brain rejects what it cannot organize or understand. Therefore, the task is to present a logical structure. Color harmony offers visual interest and a sense of order.
Color harmony offers visual interest and a sense of order.
Colors also communicate. White is purity, blue is calm and black is mystery. The psychology of color studies how it influences human perception and behavior. Stephen Westland, professor and chair of color science and technology at the University of Leeds, explains that these effects are based on light, not vision. When exposed to color, cells in the retina of the eye not only send signals to the visual cortex to recognize that color, but also to the hypothalamus, the part of the brain in charge of autoregulating the body, which cannot recognize visual images. Simply seeing a color—or rather, the light that a color emits—can affect a person’s mood, temperature, sleep, heart rate, ability to eat, and breathing patterns.
Colors are stimuli because they can be perceived by the senses. The stimuli act on perception and, thanks to the mental process, the receiver generates an image of the sender. It is inevitable to have an image: nothing and no one escapes being perceived by someone. What is in our power is to manipulate the code.
Colorimetry is a tool to raise self-esteem, expedite purchases and save time. Not all of us favor the same colors and that’s okay.
Of course, using the suggested palette is not anyone’s obligation. There are many other reasons why we prefer certain colors and we should not deprive ourselves of them because we feel the prevailing need to be radiant at all times. Also, if we push ourselves to choose exclusively the shades that flatter us, even if we are uncomfortable with them, we could end up feeling dissociated from our self-image.
Using the information at our disposal to look more attractive does not make us better or worse people. Beauty is a social construct—like education, marriage, and courtesy—but we live in society and it’s normal for us to try to navigate it successfully.
Although the discourse of positive beauty, which questions the canons and promotes diversity, can improve self-perception and mental health, it does not usually support the basic need for social acceptance and to feel that we make our own decisions. We don’t always have to like every aspect of our bodies and convincing ourselves otherwise can be just as stressful as living with the stereotypes that have made us feel out of place. While for some people self-love means embracing who they are, for others it means taking the first step towards a positive change in their appearance. Coco Chanel said: “The best color in the world is the one that looks good on you.”
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