Color Awareness

Color is sensed by the eye, but the perception of color takes place in the mind, and not necessarily at a conscious level. Colors are understood in context. They are experienced at different levels of awareness depending on how and where they are seen. Colors may be perceived as an aspect of form, as light, or as surroundings. Colors permeate the environment, are an attribute of objects, and communicate without words.

Environmental color is all-encompassing. Both the natural world and man-made environments immerse us in colors, whether they are the cold whites of Antarctica, the lush greens of tropical forests, the accidental color compositions of urban streets, or the controlled-color environments of architecture, landscape design, interior design, or theater design.

Surrounding colors have a powerful impact on the human body and mind, but most of the time they are experienced with an astonishing lack of awareness. Environmental color is noticed only when it is a focus of attention, like a dazzling sunset or a freshly painted room. Someone who expresses a dislike for the color green may nevertheless take enormous pleasure in a garden, describing it as a blue or yellow garden, when in fact the surroundings are overwhelmingly green, with blue or yellow present as only a small part of the whole.

The colors of objects are perceived very directly. The separateness of an object allows the viewer to focus both eye and mind on a single entity and a single color idea. We are the most consciously aware of color when it is an attribute of a defi ned object: a blue dress, a red car, a yellow diamond.