A TEMPORARY MESSAGE:
This is a post I’ve temporarily placed due to all the hullabaloo about the xkcd colour survey. Please note that I am writing this purely from the point of view of an architect/designer who has dealt with colour schedules and graphic presentations for many years. It is not about the X and y chromosome controversy Randall faced.
And the following is from the perspective of colour ‘verbalizing’ vs. colour ‘perceiving.’
Just so you know, I’ve been a big fan of that site for a long time. But I will still question the accuracy when certain conclusions of colour and gender are claimed on softer-data without a background in neuroscience or genetic sex studies.
Perhaps it’s best for techno-geeks to not give stereotypical qualities to ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ and ‘girl-brains’ and ‘boy-brains’ without a more balanced-across-the-population-cross-section study, though I do understand that the mistake here was made by the DD strip, which was not even scientifically based. If you are stereotyping for fun, then great, and I certainly enjoy the humour – but remember that non-mushy girls (like myself who have more technical brains and are not too sappy even though we may look quite feminine) are really SO underrepresented in our world that we are really sick and tired of the giggly, vacuous, hyper-materialistic cosmo-girl types representing ‘womanhood’ to the media or even how girls and boys view ‘colour’. Although, compared to the enforcement of cliches by the D – Diaries, at least the xkcd survey debunked some of the gender-polarity differences. Let me give here my two cents based on a discussion on colour and gender with a real neuroscientist. And why you cannot base ‘expressions and perceptions of color’ solely based on the X and Y chromosome but more on ‘brain – wiring’ and the ‘language-function’, regardless if you are a boy or a girl. Because ‘conclusions’ drawn like that only succeed in leaving out women with technical brains in its quest for girl-boy generalizations.
Having worked in the design industry for 10 years, the ‘color survey’ Randall Munroe has done is truly a HUGE and very detailed amount of work (if you see his actual survey on his site.) Of course, all types cannot be accommodated when results are based on averages and/or extremes. I had a fascinating talk on this survey with a social cognitive psychology grad and a Harvard neuroscientist – and we started concluding that the ‘naming’ of colors (and the differences you find amidst the way men and women name) is quite different than actual ‘perception’. And this has to do more with brain wiring and the LANGUAGE-expression vs. hue-saturation PERCEPTION. So while a man (and women with-‘male’-aspie-type-brains, or INTJ on the Briggs-Meyers, like myself) DO see the shade difference, we don’t use the effeminate adjectives like ‘blush’, ‘dusty’ , ‘buttery’etc. to name the shade. We’ll just put them under a ‘red category.’ Similarly women (the more ‘expressive’ types) and gay men – and I do have many dear gay designer friends – will be more creative in the NAMING of the colors – even though the latter have a Y chromosome– although both the more systematizing men and women AND the more verbalizing men and women might or might not be seeing equal variations of the shades and hues. If this survey had been done by 50,000 gay designer men (XY) and 50,000 technical-brained-geek-girls (XX), the results might have been quite something different! And a result that would have put the DD cartoon to shame.
Hence language and hue perception cannot be measured on the same barometer as true ‘color recognition by the brain’. Basing colour ‘perception and naming’ by individuals also purely on their X or Y chromosome is reductionist if this is seen from a brain scientist’s point of view. Women whose brains are wired more like mathematical men’s even if they have XX will not be as ‘effeminate’ in their expression much like men who do see the hue differences but don’t use too many sappy adjectives. So the ‘non-sappy girl’ (or women who might think in more technical terms and spend less time obsessing about matching-designer-purses) have been dismissed off as ‘noise’ in the rush to prove that ‘women name colours in flowery ways’ (blush, dusk, buttery etc.) and ‘men give macho names’ (penis, gay, wtf. etc.) Oh, the reductionism! But on the other hand, which probably also explains why the readers who are largely geeks – both male and females in the survey results had more equality than the DD strip (which makes me sigh at the latter’s stereotypification).
Since the paint industry is a HUGE one, I wondered what would happen if a similar laborious and exhaustive survey is done in the design and construction industry….since I’ve often pondered on the paradox of choice. And since I’ve seen more women to be ‘sensitive’ to color with their moods. (Or who knows – they might be women with mood swings.) The way that works I find amongst architects and interior designers is: when we choose a color – we generalize the shade when we name it but are completely anal about the NUMBER that each paint company designates for a shade and specify it on our drawings. Then I realized that’s exactly what I do too due to my abnormally high brain systematization quotient (brain-maleness if Simon Baron-Cohen’s tests are taken into consideration). I like naming colors by their number rather than inventing mushy adjectives.
In the architectural world too we all say that we’ll give the numbers to the painting contractor and the flowery names to the lady of the house/ museum curator et al. That’s how we reach a middle ground and everyone is happy. A painting contractor and/or site engineer will understand BM06754 much better than ‘morning pink’ (as a hypothetical example) Or – as in the survey, the RGB values under the shades.
Conclusion: At the end numbers and not ‘words’ turn out to be the most accurate description to depict shades. Regardless of sex or gender-based perception of color. Or color blindness. (Because believe it or not, there are quite a few color-blind architects and interior designers too.) Also when I color plans and elevations in Photoshop I always make a note of the RGB number for the shade that is being used for consistency. And numbering comes out as the objective resolution. When a client’s wife argues that was not the shade she wanted, we say – but m’am you did pick up BM 03356 and not BM 03357 so that’s what we gave you ; -) And if the complaints continue – we politely do Rhet Butler’s closing line. You can’t please all the people all the time, as they say….
But regardless of errors in the survey, one of the best results Randall has provided is this uber-geek range of colour names on the screen for colour-blind people, which had been one of his tertiary aims of the survey (and because of which he unfortunately ended up with the x, y question.) With this map and the color pick, you can confidently select shades without having to refer to numbers. Ok – it’s been done before but when you have the cult-leader-of-geekdom do it, it just has far more accessibility. Cheers to that! (P.S. I am not colour blind, but have a couple of friends who are.)
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The geek-guy version of the stereotypification of ‘women’. Darn! Hilarious. And no – all women are not like this.
(1) For THE “ART’ OF COLOURING THROUGH RGB COMPOSITES OF LANDSAT7 & TERRA SATELLITE IMAGES click here
(2) The ‘search’ for the rare women who combine beauty, ethics, intellect and femininity with feminism – Racqueting on a grass court
(4) Thoughts on the relativity of happiness….This too shall pass.
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