vignettes of the night XXIX: the color of utopia


Ever heard of Baker-Miller pink? Me neither. I came across it randomly on a recent image search and it intrigued me. The idea of a color that could calm violent prisoners. It was devised by a researcher, Alexander Schauss, in the 1970s. He wanted to know, specifically, if various wavelengths of light – ie. color – could trigger “profound and measurable responses in the endocrine system”.

Well, as someone who’s had her share of hormonal issues, ha!, I thought it was rather telling that my bedroom walls, while not this particular chemical mix, have been some shade of pink for years. And increasingly hot and saturated, lolz. I’ve also been drawn to vivid yellow, which I call “artificial cheer” because it instantly elevates my mood (like the Christmas lights I keep up all year).


Growing up though it was all about purple. Perhaps as a rejection of pink, or the kind of baby pink associated with girls?

One of Schauss’s primary influences was the work of Swiss psychiatrist Max Lüscher, who argued that color preferences were psychologically revealing. He theorized this using four fundamental colors/associations:

Blue: Contentment[1]

Feeling of belonging, the inner connection and the relationship to one’s partner.
“How I feel towards a person that is close to me”

Green: Self-respect[2]

Inner control of willpower and the capacity to enjoy.
“The way I want to be”

Red: Self confidence[3]

Activity, drive and the reaction to challenges.
“How I react to challenges”

Yellow: Development[4]

Attitude of anticipation, attitude towards future development and towards new encounters.
“What I expect for the future”

I recall being aware of some of these associations as a kid, which makes me wonder if the choice to identify with a certain color reflects not what’s intrinsic psychologically, but what’s desired/projected. I also remember wanting to know everyone’s favorite color. My dad’s was green and my mom’s was red, both reflecting a pretty accurate correspondence to not just their personalities but how they strove to define themselves, I think. Also, I remember in high school when a good friend of mine became obsessed with orange, I found it inexplicably repulsive. Somehow it seemed garish and synonymous with Orange Crush – all sugary and fake. Or maybe it just didn’t go with her blonde hair and pink skin? Who knows. I actually love orange now and have a lot of it in my apartment (mostly in the form of 1960s space age furniture, which no doubt helped recalibrate my relationship to the color).


So obviously associations are environmental/cultural too. Regardless, one ever told me yellow represented development and the future. I thought it was just symbolic of sun and light and joy. I think that brightness has come to signify optimism (sun cults, etc.), and perhaps that’s what Lüscher means when he describes it as a future-oriented attitude. So maybe yellow should be the official color of utopia (notify pantone immediately)! There’s no coincidence that it dominates my blog design. And as for Baker-Miller pink, the color of calm, it has a place in the future too (my bedroom walls, no doubt!)