‘Colour, a visually oriented symbol, carries more information than words but is less exact in its signification’ 
 
 
This paper enquires how and why colour communicates meaning by deconstructing the colour red across screen based modes of communication. 
CONTENTS
 
INTRODUCTION.....................................................................................................................................6
 
CHAPTER1: ENCODED RED...............................................................................................................10
     
CHAPTER 2: HOW COLOUR COMMUNICATES I-Semiotics...................................................28
    
CHAPTER 3:  VISUAL CHAPTER-UNLIMITED SEMIOSIS.............................................................34
    
CHAPTER 4:  HOW COLOUR COMMUNICATES II -Colour Theory ....................................40
           
CHAPTER 5:  VISUAL CHAPTER- COLOUR IN NARRATIVE..................................... ...............48
    
CHAPTER 6: HOW COLOUR COMMUNICATES III-Chromaesthesia.....................................52
    
CHAPTER 7:  VISUAL CHAPTER-RED DECODED........................................................................59
 
CONCLUSION........................................................................................................................................76
 
CONNECTION TO STUDIO PROJECT............................................................................................81
FOOTNOTES
BIBLIOGRAPHY
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
                                   Introduction
 “Colour, a visually oriented symbol, carries more information than words but is less exact in its signification” 
 
 
    Colour is light, an energy-form more powerful than microwaves, and colour stimuli in the natural and man-made world are omnipresent, affecting every aspect of our lives. The analysis of colour phenomena by scientists into theory, and the shaping of colour experience by artists into ‘Art’ have an ancient and interconnected history that is ongoing today.
 
    Of all the fundamental elements of the visual language (e.g. line, shape, pattern, form, space and time) colour is the element that is often regarded as the most unquantifiable because a colour’s appearance is affected by its context, and because colour meaning is so connected with emotion and subjective personal experience. Colours affect us  emotionally because they are encoded with information that is communicated simultaneously at an intellectual and intuitive level.  As well as being intrinsically ‘loaded’ with information (content), the meaning of this information varies in relation to the context of the colour, including both the media being used and the affect of surrounding colours. 
 
    This research paper will examine why and how colours ‘carry more information than words’ but are ‘less exact in signification’.  In order to carry out an in-depth inquiry within 
such a vast subject area as ‘colour’, this study will be limited to only the colour red with a view to defining criteria for understanding colour meaning that could be applied to any 
colour.  As well as being a primary colour, red is one of the oldest known pigments and, due to its visual power, is also arguably the most ubiquitous colour in visual culture.  While the motivation behind this research is to examine and decode the multiple meanings of the colour red, this paper will also test the limits of existing methods (such as semiotics and colour-theory) for understanding colour and discuss the effect of subjectivity (the agency of the beholder) on colour meaning.
    
    In order to observe the effect of context on the appearance and meaning of red, I will discuss a range of ‘red-icons’ from a variety of media with a view to quantifying the shifting meaning of red in each case. Much of the visual syntax of new media is rooted in  ancient media,  and there is a correlation between the old master’s canvas, the printed page, and the screen as a window on the world.  With this in mind the red-icons referred to in this discussion will be chosen from a broad range of (flat) screen-based media including painting, photography, graphic design, cinema, television, video-art, and web-graphics.  The screen is the device which was central to the onset of the mass-media age, and today, with the proliferation of computer monitors, digital advertising billboards, laptop computers and camera phones, the screen not only holds a central place in contemporary society ( a society that has become increasingly reliant on visual modes of communication) but has become the window through which we experience the world.
 
    This inquiry will be carried out with the assumption that colour meaning is not universal, and colour meaning will be discussed in the context of its associations in the West.  The red-icons will be chosen from American and European culture, the predominant forces in the emergence of mass media.
 
    In his seminal work  Ways of Seeing
 a study of coded messages in visual images, the cultural critic John Berger discusses ‘the gap between seeing and words’ stating that ‘seeing establishes our place in the surrounding world: we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it (the world).’  To accentuate this point Berger presents a series of chapters which are purely visual or have very minimal text. In response to this work and to emphasize that the visual can paradoxically ‘say more’ than the verbal, I will present a series of ‘visual chapters’ which will allow the selected ‘red icons’ to demonstrate that colour communicates more than text based signifying systems.
 
    This paper will begin in Chapter 1 by discussing why colours are encoded with information and present a history of the use of red in art and culture, and discuss the correlation between the old masters canvas and the screen, while also discussing the impact of the screen on art and culture. Chapter 2, 4 and 6 will examine ‘how’ colour communicates by looking at established methodologies for understanding colour meaning, such as semiotics, colour theory, and a discussion of chromaesthesia. In order to accentuate that  ‘seeing comes before words’ Chapters 3 and 5 will be purely visual, while Chapter 7 will decode red by presenting a number of red icons accompanied by minimal text to indicate meaning in certain contexts. All images discussed in the main body of the text will appear in these visual chapters, and to reinforce the visual nature of these chapters, all titles and information relating  to the images is listed in the ‘List of Illustrations’ at the end of this paper.
1 Colour as Sign--Icon Index Symbol 
 
Signifier and Signified
 
 
3
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