The science and perception of colour

by Tania Wannenburg
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The NCS Colour Centre South Africa under the guidance of Lisa Taylor has played a key role in standardising colour in South Africa. We look at the Natural Colour System that has since become the industry benchmark.

The Swedish government initiated colour determination and classification in the 1950s. Since then, it has evolved into the natural colour system (NCS), which has become the international standard for colour classification.

A local benchmark
The corporate colour consultant and colour specialist Lisa Taylor played an instrumental role in persuading national authorities to adopt the NCS. Taylor has worked with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) to translate the National Colour Standard into NCS (SANS 1091 – 2004).

Since then she has converted various other public and private sector manufacturing and colour-specifying bodies to NCS because of the ease of design and the accuracy of the sampling which translates into any industry system. Every NCS notation has a CMYK, RGB and LAB value – this means that any material can be formulated into an NCS colour.

Logical colour notation
NCS Colour Centre South Africa explains that the logical colour notation system builds on how humans see colour – a notation represents a specific colour precept and describes the colour visually. It does not depend on the limitations caused by pigments, light rays or nerve signals.

Visual perception
Colour is what people see and is a result of visual sensation. To characterise a colour, a person has to describe what he sees.  It is not enough to identify a colour with its pigments and mixtures or with wavelengths and physical stimuli. How the colour is mixed and the measurement data is necessary for production, but to communicate one needs a system that describes how people see colours.

A perceptive system, such as NCS, begins with colour appearance according to the perceptual attributes of hue, chromaticness, whiteness and blackness, which enables one to use the system within various areas of colour design. An NCS notation represents a specific colour precept and says nothing about which pigments, light rays or nerve signals have brought about this perception.

Colour-coding our lives
Psychologists have tried to explain to what extent people react similar to different colour stimuli and whether colours have a specific effect on human behaviour. In research, NCS is often necessary when sampling colours for psychological tests, when making general conclusions throughout the colour space and when illustrating this.

An industry benchmark
Since its inception in 1978, NCS has become a colour-designing system for projects in which colour plays an important role. NCS is a tool that makes it possible to communicate, analyse, plan, choose, produce and control colours in an unambiguous way. When working on a colour proposal, you can use NCS to analyse existing colours, for example on walls. In the building trade, materials such as decorative laminates, wallpaper, flooring, textiles and paint materials are often in the NCS notation as standard to show their colour range. This is because NCS is the common language in colour design.

It is also easy to illustrate ideas and present proposals with NCS samples, even when doing colour planning for entire cities. NCS is used whenever colour is needed and is the most specified colour system in Europe. It is the official standard colour system in several countries and unofficially the de facto system in many others.

NCS Colour SA
Tel: 011 486 3190
E-mail: info@ncscolour.co.za
Website: www.ncscolour.co.za

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