How Do You Feel About Color?

Feeling blue? Maybe you need a change of color.

Finding the right color for your environment can be a challenging and difficult decision. During a recent AIA/LA discussion with Frances Anderton of KCRW/DNA, Snyder Diamond’s very own color scientist Gillian Rose offered her expertise in navigating the complex relationship between color and how it impacts our mood and productivity. Anderton brings up the example of one designer who loves yellow and another who says they can't stand yellow, and poses the challenge of finding a democratic solution "When something like yellow can be so polarizing?" 

One of the colors from Rose's own paint collection with Paints of the World.

According to Rose, color omits a vibration and energy that triggers a primal response which, in turn, determines how we feel in that space. "Feelings differ depending on whether we are outgoing or reserved, extrovert or introvert,” Rose explains. “Color has a deep, physical and psychological effect on us - especially within the built environment - and greatly impacts how people function in their spaces.” The key is in identifying the sweet spot on the spectrum and prescribing an individualized color palette based on both emotional responses as well as personal intention. 

Illustration of Diana Vreeland, former Vogue editor with a passion for RED.

Equipped with the knowledge gained studying under renowned color authority Frank Mahnke at IACC-NA as well as extensive field experience and years of pouring through the latest clinical studies, Gillian Rose is uniquely positioned to harness the power of color to promote her client’s vision. A color consultation to discover your Primal Colors with Rose is as easy as child’s play—literally; Through word play and exploring color swatches, she measures how colors resonate within you to make you feel balanced.

Rose gave this example of her work to emphasize how even slight color sets the mood.And if you are wondering how her theory applies when designing for public spaces, you will find her insights along with a case study of her Boston Convention Center project in the AIA/LA video below. In a nutshell, she acknowledges that there is no “one size fits all” answer when varying levels of stimuli are required and the solution relies on intention. According to Rose, “We are designing for intention when we are creating an Intentional Palette, based on all of the programmatic requirements of the space as well as who is going to be in that space. Intentional Palettes are by design, meant enhance your vison, while supporting your client’s requirements. Intentional Colors are all about finding the right balance to support the human experience-- One method is to create ‘color zones’ which provide areas for both extroverts and introverts.”

The Boston Convention Center carpet color & texture selection by Rose.

Rose's Beaverkill project

About 5 years ago, Fine Paints of Europe invited Rose to create a paint color collection under the label "Color Our World'. The palette of 48 colors are a stand-alone collection that can be used independently whether you engage Rose or not. The collection is called ‘Associations' and consists of a palette of 48 'clear colors' which refers to the absence of gray or black as those palette’s stop one's eye and subdue our visceral responses. 

 Paint Color Collection: 

Watch the AIA/LA discussion on The Science of Color below, and read on for a piece that Rose wrote herself on Color & Light and the way it makes us feel. 


Color & Light… What is it to us? 

By Gillian Rose

Many of us have come to realize that color has something vaguely to do with our wellbeing. Asking, what are the benefits to our understanding on how color actually impacts us?

Often when we hear the term ‘neuroscience of color’, our eyes glaze over and we tune out. This simply refers to how our brain informs and signals our body and mind to respond to color. 

80% of our visual perception is color, anywhere. That’s a lot. That’s not merely a sweater or our beloved shoe collections. 

Since 80% of how we think, feel, and behave are involuntary responses to color, wouldn’t that make color a major factor in our own understanding of self & our surroundings? It has for me. My passion project is to bring internal balance & harmony to everyone, through understanding our primal responses to color.

The universe has recently given us all something we don’t usually have, a bit of time. Time to reflect, time to connect, time to create, time to build and in some cases time to heal. 

Los Angeles is unlike any city in the world, in that finding our path and fulfilling our personal journey, is in many cases, why we choose to be here. 

Let’s Color…

Color remains a key element in our lives. Throughout our evolution, color had two main purposes that we are hardwired with: 1. To warn us against food/poisons/mold. 2. To stimulate our minds to grow and develop. 

As we evolve, it seems these elements continue to remain relevant in our world. 

I always like to start at the beginning. Not the beginning of time of course but taking us back to all of our early childhood color questions. For many of us, this is where the disconnect started and stopped. If you’re like me, as an artist, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why color was in the science department. From where I stood, color was about art, beauty & feelings, not neuroscience. 

So, if you will, let’s venture back to the 6th grade where for most of us, our understanding of color left us. Forcing us into the arms of paint, markers, construction paper, crayons and art for our color salvation. 

Remember being told not necessarily taught, in 6th Grade: There is no color without light. What? What does that mean, and why does it matter?

As far as I was concerned, many of our elementary school color questions where never answered. If they were, the answers rarely made any sense, no matter how many times they were answered. This may have been where The Peanuts, discovered the Wah, Wah, Wah sound for all speaking adults. My guess is this was true largely because the adults in our lives didn’t know or understand the answers either. Unless they were hard core scientists. They all spoke a completely different language than I understood, as both an artist, and shall I say, an emotional being. If anyone asked these questions of us today, we still would most likely not know the answers. 

Top 10 Least Understood Color Questions from the 6th Grade:

  • What are wavelengths? 
  • Why is the sky blue?
  • Do we all see color the same?
  • What is color?  
  • Why is blood red?
  • Why are plants green?
  • Why is the sun yellow? 
  • Is water blue because of the reflection of the sky? 
  • Why are tropical fish and many flowers such brilliant colors?
  • Why are Kings & Queens, robes always violet/purple?


  • What are wavelengths? 

Wavelengths are simply a form of measurement used to annotate a vibrations length and strength. Wavelengths describe the vibration lengths and strength of light, color. In color, Violet has the shortest/weakest vibration, with red having the longest/strongest vibration. Ultimately, Ultra-Violet colors have the longest/strongest vibrations, but the human eye cannot perceive them. 

  • Why is the sky blue?

Blue light is scattered in all directions by the tiny molecules of air in Earth’s atmosphere. Blue is scattered more than other colors because it travels as short, smaller wavelengths. Typically, all other colors, red, orange, yellow & green are absorbed by the light. Blue has the second shortest wavelength (amount of vibration), violet has the shortest wavelength. Which is how we often see beautiful violet sky’s, depending the light and the wind.  

  • Do we all see color the same?

We do not all see each color the same. There are a few factors for this. First, it depends on our rods and the number color cones we have. Our rods and the number of color cones we have. Our rods and cones sit just behind our retinas; Most people have Red, Green & Blue cones. Color Blind people typically have Green & Blue cones and are missing the red cones. People with exceptional color vision (this is quite rare), have an additional orange cone. Women typically see more shades than men in general. While women can often see 20+ shades of red, men, typically (not in all cases) often see less then 10 shades of red.  

  • What is color? 

Here’s where the importance of color & light come into play. In order to see color, you must have light. Remember seeing sunlight being refracted through a glass prism? Well, when light bounces off an object, some colors bounce off of it and others get absorbed by the light. So, when something looks blue, the red, orange and yellow vibrations/wavelengths, have been absorbed by that object. Leaving blue and often a bit of green wavelengths that enter your eye. Object verses light reflection = perceived color.

  • Why is blood red?

Blood cells are red because of its interaction between iron and oxygen. In this case it’s the cells are made up of iron, which we learned in chemistry iron being red. Our blood carries a protein called hemoglobin. Are you still with me? The red comes through because of how it bonds between the iron and oxygen – oxygen in this case, is the reflected light. When iron is oxygenated (due to reflection of the light) all other colors are absorbed, red is the only color not absorbed. 

  • Why are Plants green? 

The answer is always about color and light. In this case it’s a bit more complex than seeing any object through the light prism. Similar to the iron in blood, there is a pigment that remains the strongest. Here the object itself contains a pigment called chlorophyll. When chlorophyll absorbs light, green is the only color not absorbed. Therefore, pants typically appear as green. 

  • Why is the sun yellow? 

The real color of the sun is white. The sun, like so many parts of our universe, is a true optical illusion. It’s still all about wavelengths/vibration. It appears yellow, orange or red, because all of its short wavelengths (violet, blue, green) are busy being scattered throughout the atmosphere, creating the appearance of the blue sky and bodies of water. As the sun lowers, the longer wavelengths reach our eye, which is how we get to experience the beautiful sunsets we enjoy. 

  • Is water blue because of the reflection of the sky?

Well, this is a yes & no answer. The same principles we’ve mentioned above all remain the same. Object verses reflection = perceived color.
Pure water is clear as we know. The same principles we’ve mentioned above are the same ones coming into play here. When it comes to deep seas, there are no reflections off of the sea floor. The deep blue color is due purely as the result of the absorption and scattering of the light. The wavelengths of light are scattered, similar to the scattering of blue spectrum of light in the sky. However, with large bodies of water, the red, orange, yellow light is absorbed faster, leaving only the blue to be visible. Same process as with the sky, but one is not a reflection of the other.      

  • Why are tropical fish and many flowers such brilliant colors?

Remember in the answer above, to #1, where I mentioned ultraviolet colors? The ultraviolet spectrum (single wavelength of light) have the longest wavelengths/vibrations, and we can’t ever see them. Well here’s who can - fish, bees & butterflies are able to see/feel ultraviolet colors. Mother Nature in her infinite wisdom, gave fish, bees, butterflies and many insects, the power to see/feel these wavelengths for their very survival. Did you ever wonder how bees know what flowers to fly to? It is the combination of their acute sense of smell along with their ability to see/feel, the powerful ultraviolet wavelengths/vibrations. In unison, they draw them to pollen rich flowers. Bees’ do not have ears, so they rely on the color vibrations they feel with their antennae and the fur on their legs. As an aside, bees’ sense of smell is 100 times more refined than ours. Bees’ can smell a flower from at least two miles away. They can even smell illnesses such as cancer. These are a few of the many reasons we need to save the bees. They are quite literally our lifeline. 

  • Why are Kings & Queens robes always violet/purple?

This question is a twofer. Let’s begin with the Kings & Queens robes. The color of Royalty's robes was a direct adaptation of the colors of Christian Church. The color violet was derived from the color of dusk. Thought being, that dusk was neither the beginning nor the end of any particular day. This being thought of as the inspiration & growth of spiritually. Originally Royally was thought to be a direct branch of the Christian Church. We first saw violet worn by the Virgin Mary and later by the Emperor of Rome. Now let’s delve into the actual color Violet, a bit. Violet, unlike purple, is at the end of our visual spectrum.  If you think of a rainbow, you’ll see what I mean. Violet is one of the seven spectral colors (a single wavelength), of the spectrum, first discovered by Isaac Newton, the Father of Color Theory in 1672. Purple on the other hand is a dichromatic color. This is a color made up of mixing blue and red together. 

Hopefully learning a bit about the neuroscience of color (the science of how we react & process color/light versus color theory which is the physics of color/light and the mechanics of sight) was more informative than off putting. Color and light are significant factors in how we think, feel and behave. Color is absorbed at the cellular level as a vibration and enters both through our eyes, but more significantly, through the Master Gland, our Pituitary Gland. Color is absorbed through our skin. Affecting every cell in our bodies. Our cells are light sensitive, and so color and colored light affects their growth and behavior.

Color is about Evolution…

As I am the resident color expert at Snyder Diamond, we invite you to come along on a personal color journey with us. Learning more about how & why you respond to color in and around your surroundings. Together, we can create personal balance & harmony within our own lives through the application of color in our environments. 

What it looks like to work with a Color Scientist: The answer depends on who's asking. 

1. Individuals_ through play, and exploration - you discover your Primal Colors. 

2. Developers/Architects/Designer_ together we explore your vision, and further refine it by establishing your 'Intentional Palette'.

3. Real Estate Mangers_ any and all properties can be sold by creating 'Intentional Colors', by specifically targeting your buyer profile.

Including Color Science in your projects is extremely nuanced, and only truly effective when applied to your specific project or intention. 

Gillian Rose

[email protected]




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