RED, WHITE & BLACK True colors?

Hildebrant's picture

Im looking for "quotes" and written information, to back up the ideas of these three colors being the "ultimate combination" of colors... ie: roger blacks ideas and such... I have a presentation to make to a group, and Im looking for information to backup my ideas...

rcapeto's picture

Well, a quote for you:

Miss Tiffany's picture

I could be wrong on this one, but I also believe that red was the least expensive color to produce. During the period of the Incunabula that is.

For today, Red is a great color because, IMO, it can hold its own against black.

Seems we have a bunch of Massimo Vignelli haters here, which I am not one of, but he as well at Kit Hinrichs (Pentagram et al) use red a lot as well. I'll bet they have some quotes. And Olgilvy.

matteson's picture

I believe it's Brent Berlin and Paul Kay, in Basic Color Terms, who say that the third color term in the development of natural languages is the one for red. And I think R L Gregory says in Eye and Brain that red is the third color that the eye perceives (after black and white, of course). That could have something to do with it. That's a lot of guessing and hedging though - I'll try to look those up when I get home tonight.

capthaddock's picture

I believe it's Brent Berlin and Paul Kay, in Basic Color Terms, who say that the third color term in the development of natural languages is the one for red.

I've heard something of the kind from other sources. And I believe (going from memory here), red is followed by blue, and then yellow, and then green in language development. (and then colours like orange, brown, purple, and so on)

That's responsible for part of the in-born misconception that yellow is a primary colour.

Not only "primitive" languages show this phenomenon. Japanese people still call many green things blue (aoi, and in fact they had no common word for green until Crayola needed one for their green (midori) crayon.

And in English, we say people have red hair, even when it's clearly a shade of orange or amber.

What this has to do with typography, I have no idea.

Paul

John Hudson's picture

Mary Kay Duggan has written some interesting articles related to the use of the colour red in European manuscripts and early printing. See, for example, her essay on early printed Missals in the journal of the Printing Historical Society No.22 (1993). She has some beautiful images online.

Of course, the use of red for instructions in the Missale Romanum has given us the word rubric, which in one meaning is a law or unbreakable rule.

The use of black and red in Ethiopic manuscripts is extremely important. Although an exact parallel cannot be made, one can think of red being used in Ethiopic texts in the same way that italics or smallcaps are used in European typography: as an articulating, semi-semantic element. Arguably, religious texts in the ancient Ge'ez language cannot be correctly written without both red and black.

rcapeto's picture

one can think of red being used in Ethiopic texts in the
same way that italics or smallcaps are used in European
typography: as an articulating, semi-semantic element.
Arguably, religious texts in the ancient Ge'ez language
cannot be correctly written without both red and black.


Hmmm, this is interesting. Do you have references for these?
Another case of semantic color is in certain precolumbian
Mexican scripts where the same pictogram can mean 'water'
or 'blood' depending on its color. But I wasn't aware of these
cases of semantic color in alphabetic scripts you mention.

hrant's picture

Here's an image:
(~180K) http://www.themicrofoundry.com/other/ethiop.jpg

> the same way that italics or smallcaps are used in European typography

Since those two are very different in importance, which one would you say the Ethiopian red best correlates to?

hhp

matteson's picture

Well, I couldn't find my copy of Berlin & Kay last night, but I found a study by Sarah Harkness ("Universal Aspects of Learning Color Codes: A Study in Two Cultures" from (I think) an early 70s issue of Ethos).


In addition to finding universal focal points, Berlin and Kay also produced a hypothesis based on a survey of color lexicons in 98 languages, as described by the ethnographic literature. They found that th eoccurence of "basic color terms" (which they defined as monolexemic, salient terms of general usage, whose meaning is not contained within any other term) was ordered and predictable. Specifically, which basic color terms a language encoded could be predicted from their number, and the presence of any given color term in a language predicted the presence of certain other terms. They found a total of eleven basic color terms, ordered cross-culturally as follows: [see below]



Harkness also speculated that the "cognitive ordering of basic color terms...may be found in the shape of the color solid, combined with current knowledge of human color perception." Basically, red and yellow are more highly saturated than blue and green and, hence, hore highly salient in the mind.

There's also a study by Kay & Kempton from the early 80s (sorry, I'm awful with references) in which they determined that linguistic knowledge (e.g., color terms) informed cognitive operations. From George Lakoff's Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things, University of Chicago Press, 1987:


Beyond confirming one of [Benjamin] Whorf's claimes, the Kay-Kempton experiment has an additional important consequence. It counters an all-too-common view in cognitive psychology that language plays no cognitive role other than to provide labels for concepts - labels that stand outside of "real cognition." The Kay-Kempton experiment has shown experimentally, if only for one small case, that language is part of real cognition. this is true not just for grammar, but for the lexicon as well.



Not so related is the fact that "red" ("rogue," "rot," etc.) are derived from the Sanskrit rudhira or "blood." Perhaps that makes red cognitively more salient in some cultures.

You might also check out Wilhelm Ostwald's color model that the de Stijl painters were ever so fond of. Ostwald was a retired chemist who set about attempting to psychologically, as well as physically, quntify color relationships based on geometry. Oddly, though, green outnumbers the primaries in his formulation.

Anyhow, that's what I found.

hrant's picture

This is all highly interesting.

One related thing I've come to believe is that colors have played a role in human evolution. That's why red is so important (it's an alert of blood loss), as well as green (something to do with vegetation?).

hhp

matteson's picture

Christ, sorry for the typos in that last post. I forgot to mention that Berlin and Kay, after Basic Color Terms came out it 1969, set about extending their database of 98 languages. I'm not sure what the count is up to, but I'm pretty sure that all (or almost all) of them conform to the seven level model. It might also be noted that Berlin and Kay aren't without their detractors. Nor is Benjamin Whorf and his linguistic relativism, for that matter.

And one more person worth looking into along this same methodology might be Eleanor Rosch. I know she did some work with the Dani culture - who have only two color terms (one for dark/cool and one for light/warm).

Nate

matteson's picture

Feel free to tell me to shut up at any time, but I thought of something else on the bus just now. Red seems to be the only basic color term in Berlin & Kay's model that has a "secondary" term: pink (i.e., light-red). I remember Jim McCawley bringing this up during my semantics work in grad school, so maybe I'll look through my old notebooks and see if I can't find out what he had to say about red and pink. In Spanish, or in some dialects, there's a word celeste that means "light blue." Why it doesn't count as a basic term, I'm not sure. And I also recall hearing (perhaps from Jim) that some Japanese dialects have a word for Wittgenstein's supposedly absurd "reddish green." Although this has precious little to do with red. Cheers.

John Hudson's picture

Rodolfo,

I don't have a lot of references on hand re. the use of colour in Ethiopic, but I have certainly seen a lot of examples. As I indicated, pretty much every Ethiopic manuscript was written in both black and red. Here is an image of the first printed book in Ethiopic and here is the manuscript on which it was probably based. Note, in the latter, the punctuation marks that include both black and red; these bi-chromatic glyphs are normative for the Ethiopic script.

By the way, Ethiopic is not an alphabetic script. It derives from the Sabean abjad (consonant alphabet, e.g. Arabic and Hebrew) of Yemen, but developed into a syllabic writing system in which most signs represent a consonant+vowel combination.

Hildebrant's picture

THIS IS PERFECT!

Thanks for all the references and quotes. This will prove to be very helpful.


hildebrant.

rcapeto's picture

I don't have a lot of references on hand re. the use of
colour in Ethiopic
[...] these bi-chromatic glyphs are
normative for the Ethiopic script.


Thanks. In fact, my interest is not so much in the Ethiopic
and Ge'ez scripts per se, but rather in the use of color as
a semantic element in writing systems in general.

By the way, Ethiopic is not an alphabetic script. It derives
from the Sabean abjad (consonant alphabet, e.g. Arabic
and Hebrew) of Yemen, but developed into a syllabic writing
system in which most signs represent a consonant+vowel
combination.


Interesting evolution. There are authors, BTW, that argue that
these vowelless semitic alphabets are in fact an intermediary
state between a sillabary and a true alphabet.

angel_of_harlem's picture

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text/html
April Fools' Day Article.htm (5.3 k)

William Berkson's picture

Can someone enlighten me on which inks actually are vermilion (cinebar) or which pantone colors match it?

Hildebrant's picture

Im interested in this too.

mdavidconrad's picture

Wasn't there a quote by Paul Rand that said something like, "If you can't make it bold, make it red?"

mason's picture

I want to say that it was Ivan Chermayeff that said something like, "when in doubt, make it big

pat a.'s picture

if you can't make it good, make it big.
if you can't make it big, make it red.

...which is a pity, because i really like red.

also: i read somewhere (no sources to back this up, sorry) that black, red, and white were the three colours babies responded to best.

dan's picture

I suggest you research Chinese Calligraphy, the only colors they used were black and red on white silk.

William Berkson's picture

Any takers on my & Kyle's question of which pantone color matches the traditional vermilion red?

The dictionary says that vermilion comes from the mineral cinnabar, "a form of mercuric sulfide".

Miss Tiffany's picture

The best pantone red, IMHO--and I apologize because I'm home and I don't sleep with my swatchbook--is the new 4-- series red. 439? I don't know the exact number but it is richer than 185/6 and more saturated than 19-

gabrielhl's picture

Even though this thread is a year old, I'll add something that popped to mind when reading it: in portuguese, the only term for red is vermelho which would 'accurately' translate to vermillion, and not red or the spanish rojo.
I wonder why?

jlt's picture
aluminum's picture

Also, a lot of new lines of infant toys are red/black/white...apparently due to the colors most recognized by developing eyes.

The problem with red is that anything BUT 100% turns pink. ;o)

William's picture

As this thread has been resurrected, I'll ask my and Kyle's question again, as we didn't get any takers:

Which pantone color matches the traditional vermilion red?

Is there a particular spot color that is in fact the traditional vermillion or cinnebar?

Miss Tiffany's picture

William. I've never handled vermillion myself and I'm doing this from memory and so could be entirely wrong. That said, and remembering vermillion to be more or less a red-orange, I would suggest 173 or 179.

Digging around I found this sample

William's picture

Thanks Tiffany. Sorry I didn't see your posting of 05-06 above - or was it there? With the bugs to be ironed out, I'm not sure now.

Now I've got two answers: you say "the new 4— series red. 439? I don’t know the exact number but it is richer than 185/6 and more saturated than 19-" and now "173 or 179." I will working on getting a good red for my book, but right now I'm confused. Also I don't have own the pantone colors, so I will check them elsewhere, and look at all you have mentioned. Your link to 'this sample' just goes to 'typophile.com'. Is this a bug?

Miss Tiffany's picture

William, I will post a link to samples tomorrow (Wedn) for you.

485 is richer by far than 185/186, it is also less pink. 173/179 match, sort of, the red used in the William Morris sample. I assume WM would have wanted to use something as close to vermillion as possible. No? ::shrugs::

Miss Tiffany's picture

William, here is the swatch I promised you.

hrant's picture

Something I used to know that I failed to mention back then:
> red was the least expensive color to produce.

Which is actually why barns (being generally large) are painted red.

And something new:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4559071.stm

hhp

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