There is no colour without light and there is nothing that can beat natural sunlight for effect when it comes to Autumn. This year, like last year, we enjoyed blue skies and beautiful sunshine until mid-November, rendering even the olive harvest – usually accompanied by bitter winds from the north - a pleasurable experience. Even now, despite the drop in temperature, the vast array of autumn colours is still spectacular, even more so when the sun shines.
In colour psychology, Autumn colours are generally considered to have a positive effect on us. The rich blends, the range of hues and the extent of colour saturation – especially in natural sunlight -provide a sense of security, warmth and fulfilment. It is said that Autumn is a balm for the psyche, with its (generally) temperate weather and bursts of colour that provide visual and sensory satisfaction.
The basis of colour psychology is founded on the premise that colours have an effect on our emotions, our moods and more often than not our (consumer) choices. Naturally, it has evolved into big business. Anything with a commercial value, is branded and marketed by colour association, to tempt the consumer to buy.
(Very) basically, an object will appear coloured because of the way it interacts with light. The eye and the brain respond to this light and produce sensory data. The mind will process this data – drawing on information stored in the memory - and convert it into visual data interpreted as colour. Not everyone will perceive exactly the same colour i.e. one person might see red while another sees orange, but what’s important for the men in suits, is the colour associated memory.
Cultural differences also play a part in colour psychology: what we in the West might consider a ‘positive’ colour might be considered ‘negative’ elsewhere. The colour of mourning, for example, is generally black in the West, yet in other cultures, white, purple, or gold are adorned for funerals. All these factors are considered when applying a colour to a product.
There is a great deal of information on colour psychology, some of it even dedicated to mental health issues. The psychological perception of colour is subjective and can therefore affect people in many different ways; while some people may find a grey, dull room gloomy, for others it can trigger serious symptoms of depression.
The marketing of clothes and cosmetics, for example, is closely associated with colour psychology: skin, hair and eye colour will all determine the seasonal colours best suited to you. In the world of marketing, these colours will even label you - as a spring, summer, autumn or winter person. An Autumn person is largely defined as, “someone warm and medium or deep".
Autumn colour palette
Translated, this means, “the person has warm undertones and has some depth to their colouring. They're not necessarily very fair. They will likely have red, auburn or brown hair. The colours best suited to them are rust red, mustard yellow, medium olive green, mid-browns and camels”.
Interestingly, winter people – which is where we’re headed, after all - are bold and bright, and often have high contrast in their colouring: “Winters are generally dark haired with cool, light skin or dark hair and dark skinned. The key to whether or not someone is a Winter is that they are most harmonious in intense, cool, and contrasted colours. Holly berry red, emerald green, cobalt blue and stark black and white, all worn in high contrast are colours best suited to them”.
Winter colour palette
Unsurprisingly perhaps, it is said that yellow is the happiest colour in the world, able to stimulate the nervous system and lift our mood…but only because we associate it with the feel-good effect of sunlight itself. However, bright colours such as orange and yellow are said to overpower pale skin and wash you out, so not necessarily a colour to be worn.
Here is a fun summary of what each Autumn colour broadly signifies to the individual in colour psychology.
an emotionally intense colour, can evoke feelings of passion and desire. It is also associated with danger making it an uncomfortable colour to live with. It has been known, in certain environments to increase heartrate. During the autumn its many hues – more than any other colour – blend easily with the greens, oranges and browns, adding a warmth and richness that evokes sensory well-being. It remains a colour that stimulates and demands attention even in this mellow period, but its brashness is muted. One could say, Autumn turns red into a prima donna without attitude.
Orange is a colour which is associated with energy, enthusiasm and warmth. The colour of fire and the citrus fruit, it is a positive colour often paired with joy and fun. It tends to enhance a feeling of vitality and happiness. Like red, it draws attention to itself, but is less overbearing and is generally seen as an inviting and friendly colour.
Yellow is the colour of happiness, supposedly the world over and is dominant during the shorter autumn days for its bright intensity during the day and its rich, softer tones at dawn and dusk. It radiates energy and hope and like sunlight, can lift up one’s mood.
Brown is often seen as solid, much like the earth, and it's a colour often associated with resilience, dependability, security, and safety. In Autumn brown becomes an important blender, softening the more vivid colours by enriching their depth. Brown can symbolise strength and reliability.
In many environments and cultures green is seen as a very positive colour. It can evoke powerful emotions and signifies growth, health and fertility often symbolising wisdom and wealth too. Green has many layers and can give feelings of inner-peace and wellbeing, as well as bringing balance into your life. It evokes a feeling of abundance and is associated with refreshment and peace, rest and security.
Grey represents neutrality and balance. It is strong and steady and can symbolize the wisdom and dignity that come with experience and age. From a colour psychology point of view, grey is considered moderate and dull, but at the same time it can have its moments, by looking elegant and formal. It’s an autumn blender, indistinct in itself, but its absence would be missed amongst the colours whose subtler hues it augments.
The colour blue is one of the most popular colours loved by people across cultures and generations. Popular shades of blue are royal blue, pastel blue, dark blue, midnight blue. Its many shades and hues apparently delight our visuals - blue sky, blue ocean, and even blue eyes. In Autumn the more metallic blues are predominant, with glimpses to be seen amidst the browns, the greys and the blacks. Blue calls to mind feelings of calmness or serenity. It is often described as peaceful, tranquil, secure, and orderly. Blue is often seen as a sign of stability and reliability, a colour associated with trust.