The Role of Context

By: Anna Franklin

Colour depends greatly on context. Our perception of, and response to colour therefore relates to several contextual factors.

The colour combinations shown here illustrate that how a colour appears can vary noticeably depending on the colour of the background on which it is viewed. The red circle in both diagrams are physically identical (it has the same RGB values), however, the two different background colours of purple and red cause the two red circles to appear different in colour.

The consequence for design is that one set of RGB values will not produce the same perceptual effect in all contexts; the perception depends on the colours of the background and surroundings.

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Professor Anna Franklin is a leading expert in colour psychology. She is a Director of the Sussex Colour Group in the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex in England.