by Kelley Parsons
A few weeks ago, many of us woke to a media firestorm surrounding the question, ‘What color is that dress, gold and white or blue and black’? While many shrugged and said, ‘who really cares’, there were those of us who thought of it as a fun and interesting discussion to follow, especially those of us who find the topic of color perception to be fascinating. While in this instance it seems that the dress patterning and differences in lighting may have both played roles in the variant dress color, we should also consider color perception. The simple fact that much of how we experience color is subjective, that is to say, that color resides within the realm of human sensation. As it turns out, two things are certain; first, color vision is a complex topic and second, it is one that most of us don’t really think much about. Yes, we might delight in an especially lovely color or proclaim to others that of which is our favorite color but we rarely, if ever, wonder or question how it is that we ‘see’ color.
Many people, if they do give any thought to how we experience color, make the assumption that a color is a color is a color and that unless someone has a color vision deficiency such as color blindness, an object is seen as the same color by all. This is not the case: The way that we perceive color, like so many other facets of the human experience, is subjective (not only is beauty in the eye of the beholder, but as it turns out, so is color). Have you shopped with a friend and commented on a shirt or backpack, maybe referring to it as say ‘blue’ only to have your friend point out that you are clearly wrong, that the color of the item is obviously ‘purple’? If so, you have experienced firsthand that color is subjective and that people can and do experience the same item as being a different color or hue.
Upfront, let me say that color perception is far more complicated than will be discussed here, but an overly simplified explanation goes something like this (this assumes normal color vision):
Our visual system is most sensitive to that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum called visible radiation (or what we commonly refer to as ‘light’). This is approximately that portion of the spectrum sitting between 360nm – 760nm. If you think about the range of colors that you see when you pass a light beam through a prism, or when you witness a rainbow and that is the approximate range that we humans are visually equipped to see.
When ambient light is present, it strikes an object. Depending on the characteristics of that object, some of the spectrum’s light waves are absorbed by the object while some are not absorbed but, instead, reflected.
When we then view or see that object, the portion of visible light that is reflected off of the object enters the eye as a physical stimulus, where it quickly comes in contact with a small area at the back of the eye called the retina. The retina is tiny, but powerful. It is made up of specialized neurons called photoreceptors that are sensitive to light. Once the light enters the eye and comes in contact with these photoreceptors, the physical stimulus (light) begins a process that eventually triggers a series of neural signals that travel to the part of the brain responsible for vision and it is there that the brain attempts to process the neural patterns produced by this chain of events and make sense of them. Now, we are no longer experiencing the physical properties of the stimulus but are instead experiencing the ‘personal’ sensation of that experience. It is at this point in the process that the subjective or individual aspects of color perception begin and we can interpret the color of an object in different or individualistic ways. As is the case with any aspect of human experience, our perceptions personalize those experiences and they become a collective part of that which we jokingly say ‘is all in our head’.
There are so many factors and any one or any combination of several can influence our decision as we decide what color we believe an object to be. These factors can be past experiences, memories, expectations, age, education, culture – just to name a few. It is safe to say that we still do not know all there is to know about this fascinating aspect of the human experience.
So, now I will ask you again, ‘what color is that dress?’
by Kelly Nercess
Produce like Picasso
We all know Pablo Picasso and we all know he was a genius. Primarily known for his role establishing Cubism, he was also an efficient artist. He brought this discipline to each of his artistic periods including Traditional, the Blue Period, the Rose Period, his African-Influenced work, Neo-Classicalism and Surrealism. His innate talent and unstoppable drive meant that he produced an average seven new pieces of art every day. Today we have over 147,800 completed works of art from this amazing artist. At this point you may be comparing your own productivity to Picasso’s his jaw dropping feat; try not to feel too bad about yourself. There was a method to his madness.
The presentation was not a Picasso art history lesson, but rather a lesson on how to apply this work ethic to your daily tasks. How can we apply Picasso to our work? Brian Sullivan and J. Schuh presented their findings on how the average worker can apply these Picasso techniques to achieve success.
It all starts with the five P’s of Productivity: Passion, Purpose, Proficiency, Persistence and Partnership. These five components will pave the road to ‘producing like Picasso’.
The first words that came out of Picasso’s mouth was a form of the word ‘pencil’. Jose Ruiz, Picasso’s father, taught brush technique and was popular for his painting doves. When he noticed that his son loves to draw, he began giving him lessons. The start of his passion for art began at a young age and eventually led to his first oil painting at the ripe young age of 9. The name is the brand. Noticeably, Picasso has a different last name than his father. Could you imagine the iconic name being Pablo Ruiz instead of Pablo Picasso?
Picasso began art school and found himself daydreaming in class rather than focusing on what was being taught. “For being a bad student, I was sent to detention. I liked it there, because I took along a sketchpad and drew incessantly. I could have stayed there drawing forever.”
Passion Points of Picasso:
- Find your passion (drawing for Picasso).
- Family support for focus and education.
- Find a mentor, early on (Picasso’s father).
- Get an education (for the sake of learning).
- Know life events will fuel your passion.
“Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” Stealing allows you to make something yours.
“Copying is doing exactly like someone else does. Stealing is when you take something, change it so much, the innovation is so disguised, so changed, that it looks like it belongs to you.” Steve Jobs can be known to use those words to his advantage. He took the branding that Picasso created and made it his own. Jobs considered Picasso his mentor and built the Apple brand using the artwork that Picasso created. If you notice the famous Apple ‘finder’ symbol, you will find a very close relation to the artwork of Picasso. Steve Jobs was shameless to steal ideas and build his brand off the work of this extraordinary artist.
There was no stopping the Apple empire, Jobs also wanted to be considered the Ritz-Carlton of retail. Someone is always there to great you at the door and the genius bar is a place to get advice on your products, rather than drinking a gin and tonic. Again, this goes back to the idea that Apple was shameless bout stealing great ideas. In order to be the best, you had to follow the footsteps of the best.
Looking back at the work of two brilliant innovators, they both continued to reinvent their brand and give their work a purpose. Picasso established his work in the Blue Period, Cubism and Neo-Classical, while Apple continued to push the boundaries with new technology including smartphones, tablets and computers.
Picasso held a great influence to Steve Jobs. Without his impact on the Apple brand, I would imagine some of the products we use today would not be the same.
“Steve Jobs admired Picasso because he could have taken a conventional approach and done it well for the rest of his life, but Picasso (like Jobs) tried to change things.” – Dr. Enrique Mallen, Forbes 2013
Purpose Points of Picasso:
- Have an open mind to new experiences.
- Be original. Challenge the status quo.
- Look beyond your own design discipline.
- Steal great ideas, but make them your own.
- Take risks. Do not copy other people.
In part two of this article, I will deep dive into findings that Brian Sullivan and J. Schuh shared on the remaining three P’s: Proficiency, Persistence and Partnership. Stay tuned in our March newsletter for the final article!