Use colour. Use it in the food that you serve, your home, the clothing that you buy because it is an outlet for your creativity.


Colour is a fundamental part of the human experience. As we move through life, colour has the power to alter our pyschological perceptions of ourselves and environment.

In our inquiry into the power of colour, we speak to world-renowned Colour Expert and Executive Director at Pantone® Color Institute, Leatrice Eiseman. Enchanted by the evolution of colour and the fluidity of our relationship with it, she explains, ‘my goal as a colourist, is to educate people more about how colour can affect us and that colour awareness can bring us such joy.’

Featuring the expertise and insight of Pantone’s leading colour specialist, we explore the persuasive potential of to colour to shape our mood and rouse our emotions.

Colour & Therapy

Faber Birren, Colour Consultant, Interview with The New York Times, 1982

It would be delightful, if a thing of such psychological beauty – color –  held a mundane role in human physiological well-being.

Over the years, designers and colour specialists have explored the suggestive potential of colour to affect a person’s mood and psyche. In his famous 1969 “Lüscher color test,”  Swiss psychotherapist Max Lüscher developed a system that drew a direct link between colour and one’s psycho-physical state. As an effective system of psychotherapeutic measurement, the test attributed colour to a range of psychological and emotional symptoms. Blue, for instance, denoted “depth of feeling” and related to emotions such as calm, tenderness and tranquility. Whilst other more vibrant hues like Red, were indicative of more “forceful” emotions – aggression, action and desire. Since its inception, this test has been a popular fixture in defining the visual vocabulary of those in the advertising, fashion, and automotive industry.

Within the wider practice of wellbeing, the power of colour has been harnessed and applied in various contexts, to instill holistic harmony and balance. Discussing the way the associative power of colour can be used therapeutically, Eiseman explains, “it is the colour that creates the mood, it brings the initial emotional reaction”.


Since 1982, the Japanese ritual of Shinrin-Yoku ( 森林浴) or ‘forest bathing  has been recognised by the government as an effective means of profound psycho-emotional therapy. By immersing oneself in the canopy of the forest, the practice of contemplative walks through nature have been proven to restore holistic internal equilibrium and alleviate the anxieties of urban life.


It is no coincidence that Pantone have named ‘Greenery’ as 2017’s chosen Colour of the Year. Demonstrating the psychology behind colour, this hue was chosen in response to the ‘stressful and tense world’. Evocative of the colour of fresh spring shoots, greenery evokes a sense of renewal and fresh beginnings. Eiseman explains, “if you live in a big city you don’t always have the opportunity to walk in a forest but you can create the illusion. We can appreciate the need to include more greenery in our lives and most of all being able to take that deep breath that green encourages us to do.”



We may eat with our mouths but it is our eyes that lead us to our food.

“Food,” Eiseman explains, “like anything else, is an art. You want to place food on the plate that is visually appealing and creates some kind of colour arrangement”. This concept finds succinct expression in Sophie Calle’s series “The Chromatic Diet”. For this piece, French artist Sophie Calle ate a single, different colour for a consecutive period of six days. Inspired by the fictional character Maria in Paul Aster’s Leviathan, the process prescribes and reinforces the singular relationship between the diner and form.

In our conversation about the power of colour to psychology  shaping our dining experience, Eiseman encourages mindfully incorporating colours in our meals. Quoting her publication ‘The Colour Answer Book’  Pantone’s Executive Director explains, “Our eyes tell our brains what the meal in front of us will taste like via a chain of learned responses”.


“Typically,” explains Eiseman, ” we would expect colours like ‘Greenery’ to taste fresh and pink coloured dishes to be saccharine. From a personal perspective I feel that a dining area in a home is very important. I have deliberately used what I call a cayenne pepper red, it a very bold colour and an appetite stimulant. It stimulates conversation and it is a familiar food colour too, it expresses deliciousness.”

Looking to Sophie Calle’s work, ‘The Chromatic Diet’ as an exaggerated use of colour in food, it is interesting to observe our aversions and inclinations towards the food on our plate. Leatrice points out, ‘I think we’ve all had the experience of making a salad, which is mainly green (and we all appreciate that) but what happens if  we add a few curls of carrot, a few red radishes or a sprinkle of violets?’



Colour plays an important role in all my works and it’s never to comfort. Colour itself, is a statement.


“The connection between colour and human emotion is much studied, and one that most people relate to”, observes Eiseman. Our experience of colour is inextricable from the way we perceive and experience our environments.

In artist Filippo Minelli’s sublime series Silence/Shape, colour fills urban spaces with plumes of coloured smoke. The artist’s  images create a powerful dissonance between the stillness of the landscape and the invasion of alien colour. In Minelli’s work, these vivid clouds of smoke hover in space as visual metaphors to the shape of silence. “Coloured smoke helps me visualise the presence of something so intangible as silence”, the artist explains,  “it permeates the surroundings and changes the light of the setting”. For Minelli, the draw of colour has inspired his creative explorations around the world,  “colour and light are the main reason why I moved to Barcelona years ago, and will move to South America in the near future”.

Geography profoundly affects our experience of colour. “Closer to the equator people, are more open to the use of colour,” Eiseman remarks, “because the sun has a tendency to draw colour out”. As a country and people are shaped by their environments, their use of colour becomes symbolic of a socio-cultural identity. Whether thinking of the bold Marimekko colours associated with the nordic countries of Sweden and Finland, or the red that dots the grey urban landscape of London, Pantone’s specialist concludes, “colour awareness can bring us such joy. It is a huge form of expression for the individual and one does not have to be an artist to enjoy that”. 



Known as ‘America’s colour guru’, Leatrice Eisman’s colour expertise is renowned worldwide. She heads the Eiseman Center for Colour Information and Training and is also Executive Director of the Pantone Colour Institute. Eiseman is the author of six books on colour, among them: Colours For Your Every Mood, which was chosen as a Book of the Month Club selection and received an award from the Independent Publisher’s Association, the :Pantone Guide to Communicating With Colour”, “Colour Answer Book”, and her most recent book, “More Alive With Colour”.




Filippo Minelli (Brescia, IT 1983) is a contemporary artist living and working between Barcelona and London, analyzing and researching architecture, politics, communication and geography to create installations and performances documented through photography and video.
After attending the course in Art and New Media,  he graduated with honors from the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan. Interested in the landscape and public spaces Minelli initially engages in unauthorized actions, which in the early two thousand made him a pioneer in Italy, of what will later be labeled –  ‘street art’. He then continued a personal path based on the aesthetics of protest, by decontextualizing the use of tear gas, reversing the function of flags and borrowing from the aesthetics of protest slogans.

  • “Shape/Silence” Fillipo Minelli, Courtesy the artist and Beetles+Huxley gallery, London”Le régime Chromatique” / “The Chromatic Diet”, 1997, Sophie Calle
    7 photographies couleur encadrées, 7 menus sur présentoirs, une étagère, un livre encadré / 7 framed colour photographs, 7 menus on displays, one shelf
    30 x 30 (x6 prints) + 49 x 73,5 cm (1 colour print) / 11 3/4 x 11 3/4 inches (x6 prints) + 19 1/4 x 29 inches (1 colour print)
    Photo : Claire Dorn
    © Sophie Calle / ADAGP, Paris, 2017
    Courtesy Galerie Perrotin