Meaning and Preference of  Color Palettes
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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures. Youngsoon Park , Ph.D Yonsei University, Seoul Korea Jiyoung Yoon, Ph.D Dongseo University, Busan Korea Denise Guerin, Ph.D University of Minnesota, U.S.A Sep. 2002.

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Drs common ground international conference exhibition

Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes

Among Four Cultures

Youngsoon Park , Ph.D Yonsei University, Seoul Korea

Jiyoung Yoon, Ph.D Dongseo University, Busan Korea

Denise Guerin, Ph.D University of Minnesota, U.S.A

Sep. 2002

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Drs common ground international conference exhibition

Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Introduction

Color is an inherent visual property of form in the natural and designed environments.

As part of the designed environment, interiors are designed using color as well as the

elements of light, space, form, shape, line, and texture to meet a variety of human needs.

Interior designers consider many aspects of color when specifying the color palette of an

environment in the process of solving a design problem. Functional and aesthetically

pleasing interiors have color palettes that reflect the meanings users attach to specific

colors. That works well when working within a homogeneous culture where color

meanings are common to all, however interior designers are frequently working within

multi-cultural environments, which may result in people attaching various meanings and significance to color.

Color researchers have investigated peoples’ social meanings and responses to individual

colors and their separate dimensions, but what is lacking in past research is the use of

an instrument to study the meaning of color in interior environments based on an integrated

view of colors within an interior, or an integrated color palettes.

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Introduction

An integrated color paletteis the combination of several colors that are used for

interior components such as walls, floors, ceilings, window treatments, and

furnishings. It is characterized by combining hue, value, and chroma as well as

color contrast, overlapping, and adjacencies. Park and Guerin (1995) developed

such an integrated color palette to be used as a visual research instrument to allow

subjects to focus only on the meaning of color in the interior environment without

influencing cultural factors of furniture or artifacts.

This study used this integrated color palette to identify

differences in color meaning and color preferences in

interior environments in four different cultures, American,

English, Korean, and Japanese.

palette A

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Review of Color Study

An important distinction, however, was that previous studies investigated a

single color hue, not a designed selection of colors, or the color palette, which is

more representative of how color is actually viewed by users in the interior

environment. The following literature review summarizes some of the studies

related to color preference, color meaning, cross cultural studies, and the method

and instruments used to investigate color.

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Review of Color Study

Theme

researcher

Findings & Suggestions

defined meaning as a representational mediation process that includes the

interpretation and expression of ideas

Color

Meaning

Osgood (1961)

Sharpe,(1982)

Webster’s(1992)

Butterfield (1990)

Meaning occurs when a significance is formed in the mind and may differ for each

individual; it is subjective and based on various experiences, education,

and culture

Rapoport (1982)

socio-cultural forces are important in meaning formation. different meanings are inferred by different socio-cultural groups and similar meanings occur across

groups in relation to shared experiences

Albers (1975)

In addition to the dimensions of hue, value, and chroma, the relationships of

color olor contrast, overlapping, and adjacencies are important factors in understanding color meaning in the designed interior

Whitfield (1984)

His results showed that individual differences in age, gender, and social status

were related to color selection and preference

Color

Preference

the high-anxiety subgroups preferred less saturated shades across the six colors

tested than did low-anxiety subjects. This may explain some environmental

differences in the experience of anxiety or in reactions to physical settings in

general.

Ireland, Warren, and Herringer (1992)

Kwallek (1996)

assessed environmental characteristics of office environments including a sense of spaciousness, pleasantness, and unpleasantness in comparing monochromatic red, green, and white office color palettes.

The white office was rated as the most spacious and the most pleasant.

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Review of Color Study

Theme

researcher

Findings & Suggestions

Contrast is a distinct difference between two parts of the same color

dimension, such as the lightness or darkness of the value and the

weakness or strength of the chroma

Doyle, 1993

Color and

Environment

Adjacency of colors considers the effect of colors that are next to one

another in an interior (). This must be considered when determining

the total color palette; one color may appear different when viewed

with a group of colors.

Hope & Walch, 1990

subjects made significantly fewer errors in a way-finding task in a color

coded building when compared to subjects in a non-color coded building.

They suggested that color has enough meaning to be used as a

communication tool.

Evans, Fellows,

Zorn, Doty , 1980

Mikellides (1990)

chromatic strength, and not hue, appeared to be the key dimension

affecting how exciting or calming a color was perceived to be.

'weak' colors in a room give subjects the impression of calmness while

'strong' colors made it appear exciting. They used descriptor words to

investigate color characteristics in several different studies (1967; 1968a;

1968b; 1968c; 1969; 1972). Five representative factors of interior color

were found among the different experiments - pleasantness, social,

spatial enclosedness, complexity, and unity.

Description

of Color

Meaning

Acking and Kuller

(1972)

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Review of Color Study

Theme

researcher

Findings & Suggestions

culture is one of the main underlying reasons why individuals of various

cultures prefer different colors. color preference changed from earlier

developmental stages to later adulthood.

Choungourain,

1968; 1969,

Cross-cultural

Color Studies

conducted a comparative study on color preference of 474 subjects in

Tokyo, Taiwan, and Tianjin. preferences of associative images of color

are based on environmental and cultural aspects and may be one of the

important factors that influences color preference.

Saito (1994)

These studies indicate that there is a different interpretation of the meaning of

color based on the subject’s culture. However, color meaning was studied as

it related only to a single color, i.e. red, blue, yellow. Until the recent

development of an instrument to study the meaning of color in interior

environments based on color palettes (Guerin & Park, 1995), it has been

difficult to comparatively study the cultural meaning of color palettes.

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Hypothesis

The previous studies raise the following questions: Does the culture of a

subject affect the cultural preference and meaning of color palettes for

users of interior environments? If so, what are the implications for interior

designers and the color palettes they use when designing for diverse

cultures? From the literature review these three hypotheses were developed.

HO1: There is a significant difference in the meaning of interior color palettes

among English, Korean, Japanese, and United States subjects.

HO2: There is a significant difference in the meaning of color palettes

between Eastern cultures (Korean and Japanese) and Western cultures

(United States and English).

HO3: There is a significant difference in color palette preference among the

four different cultures.

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Methods

The purpose of the study was to use Guerin and Parks’s integrated color

palette to identify differences in the meaning and preference of interior color

palettes in four different cultures. To collect data to explore this issue, slides

of six interior color palettes were shown to subjects of four different cultures,

English (N=115), Korean (N=103), Japanese (N=99), and United States (N=108)

subjects. As the subjects viewed each palette, they completed a

questionnaire comprised of descriptor words. The subjects indicated the

degree of presence of that description in each palette.

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Color Palette Instrument

In a previous study (Guerin, et al), an integrated color palette was developed

is an instrument to measure the meaning of color in the interior environment.

The integrated color palette was a computer generated composition of color

including hue, value, and chroma variations

The integrated color palette is composed of vertical and horizontal lines and

shapes representative of those that occur in interior environments. The

proportion of the two-dimensional shapes or sections represents the

different components in an interior.

1) Large planes represent the walls, floor, and ceiling.

2) Medium size planes represent furnishings and window treatments.

3) The smallest planes represent accessories.

4) The asymmetrically balanced arrangement of various sized rectangular

shapes simulates the relationships of interior color contrast, overlapping,

and adjacency.

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Color Palette Instrument

All six color palettes to control for the effect of shape juxtaposition.

Additionally, the proportion of colors is represented by the various

sizes of color planes. The six integrated color palettes were

developed from six pictures of residential living rooms, one palette

represented one picture. (For a complete description of this process

see Guerin & Park, 1995).

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Description of Color Palette

Fourteen words that described characteristics of interior environments

were used to determine meaning subjects gave to each palette (see Table 1).

The words were listed in random order on a questionnaire with the same

order for each palette. A five point (0-5), single-word, Likert-type scale was

used to measure the degree of presence of the characteristic, or meaning,

in each palette. Zero indicated the characteristic, in the subject's opinion,

was not present; five indicated the characteristic, in the subject's opinion,

was present to a large degree. The degree of presence of the characteristic,

or meaning, increased as the number increased. These words had been

vaidated as appropriate descriptors of interior environments in other

studies (Acking & Kuller, 1967; Guerin & Park, 1995).

Words selected:

Calming, Comfortable, Coordinated, Expensive, Intricate, Inviting,

Modest, Open, Ordered, Pleasant, Rich, Sophisticated, Spacious,

Unified

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Color Dimension Measured

Five dimensions of each palette were measured: hue, value, chroma,

value contrast, and chroma contrast. First these components are

discussed then each palette is described based on these

characteristics.

1) Hue is defined by Munsell (1946) as the distinctive characteristic of

any chromatic color distinguishing it from other hues, such as are

found in the spectrum or between the ends of the spectrum. It is

described by using the color names red, yellow, green, blue, or

purple.

2) Value is defined as the lightness or darkness of any color(Munsell,

1946). Value is described as dark, middle, or light. Munsell (1946)

defined chroma as the strength or weakness of a Chromatic color.

3) Chroma is described as weak, moderate, or strong. Contrast I

defined as the form that appears when two colors in contact seem

different from what they would when viewed separately (Munsell,

1946).

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

<Table 1> Color Dimension Measured

Palette A Palette B Palette C Palette D Palette E Palette F

Hue Neutral (64.8%) Warm (79.9%) Warm (68.5%) Neutral (76.5%) Neutral (45.0%)Warm (84.1%)

Cool (27.3%) Neutral (18.8%) Cool (23.8%) Warm (21.2%) Warm (30.7%)Neutral(15.9%)

Warm (7.6%)Cool (1.2%) Neutral (7.6%) Cool (2.1%) Cool (28.3%) Cool (0.0%)

Value Light (70.2%) Light (59.2%) Medium(63.8%) Light (57.9%) Medium(72.3%) Medium(50.0%)

Medium(24.6%) Medium(27.5%) Light (36.6%) Medium(28.9%) Light (27.2%) Dark (35.1%)

Dark (4.9%) Dark (13.2%) Dark (0.0%)Dark (13.0%) Dark (0.5%)Light (14.9%)

Chroma Weak (64.8%)Medium(44.9%) Medium(62.4%) Weak (76.6%) Weak (45.0%) Medium(63.3%)

Medium(21.0%) Strong (36.2%) Strong (29.9%) Strong (21.2%) Strong (29.5%) Strong (20.7%)

Strong(13.9%) Weak (18.8%) Weak (7.6%)Medium(2.1%) Medium(25.5%) Weak (15.9%)

Value High Low Low High Medium Medium

Contrast (6.3/5.4) (4.5/5.4) (6.6/5.4) (4.4/5.4) (4.9/5.4) (5.9/5.4)

Chroma Low Medium Medium Medium HighLow

Contrast(8.2/10.1) (10.3/10.1) (10.2/10.1) (10.4/10.1) (13.5/10.1) (7.8/10.1)

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Characteristics of each palette shown in Table 1

Palette A: neutral hues, light value, weak chroma, high value contrast, low chroma contrast.

Palette B: warm hues, light value, moderate chroma, low value contrast, medium chroma contrast.

Palette C: warm hues, middle value, moderate chroma, low value contrast, medium chroma contrast.

Palette A

Palette B

Palette c

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Characteristics of each palette shown in Table 1

Palette D: neutral hues, light value, weak chroma, high value contrast, medium chroma contrast.

Palette E: neutral hues, middle value, weak chroma, medium value contrast, high chroma contrast.

Palette F: warm hues, middle value, moderate chroma, medium value contrast, low chroma contrast.

Palette D

Palette E

Palette F

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Procedure

The subjects were shown slides of the six color palettes in a darkened auditorium. As each slide of a color palette was shown, the subjects completed the questionnaire containing the descriptor words for that palette. The subjects also responded to several demographic questions such as age, gender, and major.

Sample Description

The sample was a convenience sample drawn from universities in England, Korea, Japan, and the United States. Each group contained males and females with the proportions of females slightly higher. Each group had a similar number of subjects (about 100) with a similar mean age. The students majored in social science, architecture, design, business, and psychology with an almost even distribution among the five majors. It was important to have both design and non-design students in the sample.

<Table 2>

Culture

number male female age range mean age

England 115 55 60 20-24 22

Japan 99 60 39 20-24 22

Korea 103 43 69 20-24 22

United States 108 40 68 18-40 26

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Limitation of study

The palettes developed for this study were based only on residential interiors. They

were also limited in their range of hues, values, chromas, and contrast. The subjects

selected were from the student populations of major universities in each country. The

age range among the samples were not significantly different, but the age range was not

representative of the population of each country. Finally, all cultures were not asked to

select their preferred palette. The researchers used a method to extrapolate preference

responses from the meaning responses for two of the cultures. Finally, there is always

some apprehension that the meaning of words changes when translated from one

language to another. A different method of translation has been developed for future

studies.

Statistics

An ANOVA and multiple range tests (Scheffe method) were used to identify the

similarities and differences among subjects’ responses in the four cultures related to

color meaning in interior environments. The cultures were separately compared to one

another to examine how they differ in expressing the meaning of each color palette:

United States and England, United States and Japan, United States and Korea, England

and Japan, England and Korea, and Japan and Korea. Additionally, the Eastern cultures

(Korean and Japan) were compared to the Western cultures (United States and England).

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Hypothesis 1 :

there is a significant difference among subjects in different cultures as related to the

meaning of interior color palettes.

Findings

In five of the six palettes, over 60% of the words

showed a significant difference among cultures.

Palette C was the highest (93%) with only one

word rated as the same among cultures. Palette

C has warm hues, medium value, medium

chroma, low value contrast, and medium chroma

contrast. It seems that the cultures have a

significantly different meaning for palette C,

that is, the presence of the descriptor words

were significantly different. Palettes B and F

have significant differences in 12 words (86%).

Palette A and palette E were slightly less. Palette

D was the only one with less than half of the

world (43%) having significant differences.

Palette C had 93% of the words found to be

significantly different among cultures. This

palette has warm hues as do Palettes B and F,

which also had significant differences in the

vast majority of the words.

<Table 3> Differences in Color meaning

Palette

# of words with SD ratio

Palette A 10/14 71%

Palette B 12/14 86%

Palette C 13/14 93%

Palette D 6/14 43%

Palette E 9/14 64%

Palette F 12/14 86%

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Hypothesis 2 :

there is a significant difference between Eastern culture (Korea and Japan) and Western

cultures (United States and England) in the meaning of color palettes.

Findings

Hypothesis 2 was supported with 50% of all cases (words and palettes) different for the Eastern versus Western cultures (see Table 5). However, when we look closely at the data, the Eastern cultures of Korea and Japan had 45% of the cases the same and 20% cases were significantly different. Between Japan and Korea, there is similarity in the meaning of color palette. In the Western cultures of England and the United States, 22% cases were the same and 42% of the cases were significantly different. The similarity between U.S. and England in the meaning of color palette is not as great as that between Japan and Korea.

<Table 4> Color meaning bet/ Western and Eastern

meaning

Western vs Eastern U.S. vs England Japan vs Korea

same 51( 22%) 13 (22%) 27 (45%)

neutral 69 (29%) 22 (37%) 21 (35%)

different 120 (50%)25 (42%) 12 (20%)

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Total 240 (100%) 60 (100%) 60 (100%)


Drs common ground international conference exhibition

Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Hypothesis 3 :

there is a significant difference among cultures as related to color palette preference.

Findings

To determine preference, four words (comfortable, coordinated, inviting, and

sophisticated) had the greatest amount of presence as identified by the subjects.

Palette A is most preferred by the Eastern culture and the least preferred by the

Western culture. Palette C is the most preferred by the Western culture and, while not

the least preferred by the Eastern culture, it falls to number three in rankings. This

hypothesis is supported by the findings; there are preference differences between

Eastern and Western cultures and differences among the individual cultures. United

States subjects prefer Palette C, English subjects prefer Palette F, Japanese subjects

prefer Palette A, and Korean subjects prefer Palette E.

<Table 5> Cultural Preference

meaning

U.S England Japan Korea Western Eastern

Palette A 2.28 (5) 1.76 (6) 2.86 (1) 2.50 (2) 2.01 (6) 2.68 (1)

Palette B 2.46 (4) 2.42 (3) 2.04 (6) 2.29 (5) 2.44 (4) 2.17 (6)

Palette C 3.14 (1) 2.53 (2) 2.46 (2) 2.35 (4) 2.83 (1) 2.40 (3)

Palette D 2.11 (6) 1.92 (5) 2.24 (5) 2.20 (6) 2.01 (5) 2.22 (5)

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Palette E 2.81 (3) 2.39 (4) 2.45 (3) 2.59 (1) 2.59 (3) 2.52 (2)

Palette F 2.91 (2) 2.71 (1) 2.27 (4) 2.43 (3) 2.81 (2) 2.35 (4)

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Discussion

Palette A, most preferred by Japanese and least preferred by

England is comprised of neutral hues, light value, weak chroma.

Overall, there is high value contrast as it is simple and cool in

appearance. Palette C was most preferred by United States and

least preferred by Korea. This palette has warm hues, middle value

, moderate chroma, low value contrast, and medium chroma

contrast. Many hues are evident in this palette such as red, blue,

green and yellow, even though the hues are subtle. Overall, the

palette appears colorful. Due to the varied hues and low range of

variation in value and chroma,

it can be suggested that hue is more important than value or

chroma in determining meaning.

Palette E was most preferred by Koreans. It has neutral hues,

middle value, weak chroma, and medium to high contrast. It

shows obvious red and blue hues, which reflect the Korean

Yin-Yang principle of harmony. Palette F was most preferred by

England. This palette has warm hues, middle value, moderate

chroma, and medium to low contrast. Overall this palette is

monotone and low in stimulation due to the lack of contrast.

Interestingly, Palette D received a low preference ranking by all

cultures. Further investigation of this palette may help discover

some relationship between meaning and preference.

Palette A

Palette E

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Discussion

In summary, this study had three major findings.

First, it was found that cultures do differ in their preference and meaning of color palettes.

Second, there is a suggested relationship between preference and meaning.

Third, and most important for interior designers, the preferred hue temperature, value

level, chroma level, and contrast level was determined for four different cultures.

However, since there were limitations in the color palettes shown to the subjects,

these palettes and preferences must be further tested.

Implications

In future studies, the interiors could reflect award winning interiors so there is some

assurance that these are well designed and that the color palettes are appropriate

choices to reflect a certain concept.

The next study conducted by the researchers will include a set of palettes selected from

published non-residential interiors and fulfill the range of hues, values, chromas, and

contrast. By conducting this research with a larger sample, broader representation of

age and gender, and among several cultures and sub-cultures, a base-line of data could

be developed. Also, the question about the importance of contrast to color meaning

should be further explored.

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Meaning and Preference of Color Palettes Among Four Cultures

Conclusion

Color palettes are an appropriate way to test the meaning and preference of

color within and between cultures. Meaning and preference do vary by culture.

Continued study in this area can help designers determine which hue, value,

chroma, and contrast levels to use for specific cultures. As the world grows

smaller, designers will be called upon to design for more diverse cultures than

that from which they come. As further research refines the method and a larger

data base is developed for various cultures, interior designers will be able to

develop color palettes that reflect specific meanings for various cultures,

ensuring greater potential for success when designing for diverse cultures.

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