Harmonious colors: from alchemy to science

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There is a very long tradition in designing color palettes for various applications. Although color palettes have been influenced by the available colorants, starting with the advent of aniline dyes there have been few physical limits on the choice of individual colors. This abundance of choices exacerbates the problem of limiting the number of colors in a palette.

The traditional solution is that of "color forecasting." Color consultants assess the sentiment or affective state of a target customer class and compare it with new colorants offered by the industry. They assemble a limited color palette, name the colors according to the sentiment, and publish their result.

The color forecasting business is very labor intensive and difficult, thus for years computer engineers have tried to come up with algorithms to design harmonious color palettes, alas with little commercial success. Contrary to the auditory sense, there is no known physiological mechanism sustaining harmony and the term "harmonious" just has the informal meaning of "going well together."

We argue that the intellectual flaw resides in the belief that a masterful individual can devise a "perfect methodology" that the engineer can then reduce to practice in a computer program. We suggest that the correct approach is to consider color forecasting as an act of distillation, where a palette is digested from the sentiment of a very large number of people. We describe how this approach can be reduced to an algorithm by replacing the subjective process with a data analytic process.

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Harmonious colors: from alchemy to science

  1. 1. Harmonious colors: from alchemy to science Giordano B. Beretta Nathan M. Moroney Printing & Content Delivery Lab Hewlett-Packard Laboratories Palo Alto, California Color Imaging XVII: Displaying, Processing, Hardcopy, and Applications San Francisco Airport, 24 – 26 January 2012Beretta & Moroney (HP Labs) The Dark Side of the Color EI 2012 paper 8292-17 1 / 12
  2. 2. Color palettes cannot be assembled color by color Beretta & Moroney (HP Labs) The Dark Side of the Color EI 2012 paper 8292-17 2 / 12
  3. 3. Historical palettes can be reconstructed. . . but today there are no limits on color specification other than gamut hulls Beretta & Moroney (HP Labs) The Dark Side of the Color EI 2012 paper 8292-17 3 / 12
  4. 4. Color theories are tempting 1070-Y Gelb 1070-Y30R Gelborange 2070-G50Y Gelbgrün 3060G 1070-Y50R Grün Orange Blau- Rot- 4040-B50G 1070-Y80R grün orange 4040B 2060R Blau Rot Rotviolett 3560-R80B Blauviolett 2060-R20B 3055-R50B Violett. . . but symmetries in a color space are not useful in practice, other than forteaching Beretta & Moroney (HP Labs) The Dark Side of the Color EI 2012 paper 8292-17 4 / 12
  5. 5. Color palettes by professional designers more recent: Adobe Kuler, COLOURLovers, MTurk designer’s palettes are typically small, how can I extend a palette? how can I find the best palette in a large collection? how do I know a palette is still en vogue? Beretta & Moroney (HP Labs) The Dark Side of the Color EI 2012 paper 8292-17 5 / 12
  6. 6. The many meanings of harmony no visual mechanism for color harmony prophet / philosopher harmony = go well together, an informal concept alchemist: no scientifically rooted basis archetypes for a tool archetype: palette engrained in a culture’s collective mind, based on harmony / colorant availability, etc. color consultant: capture the sentiment Far East: harmony = people = sum Beretta & Moroney (HP Labs) The Dark Side of the Color EI 2012 paper 8292-17 6 / 12
  7. 7. The third Millennium StorageWorks MSA1000 UPS 3000 XR DL360 cloud computing data mining crowd-sourcing sentiment analysis big data everything has to scale Beretta & Moroney (HP Labs) The Dark Side of the Color EI 2012 paper 8292-17 7 / 12
  8. 8. From West to Far East new concept of harmonious color palette as a collective sentiment crawl the internet for data and annotate it with metadata reduce the information through categorization store and maintain knowledge on color palettes in the cloud suggest small numbers of palettes though a simple application Beretta & Moroney (HP Labs) The Dark Side of the Color EI 2012 paper 8292-17 8 / 12
  9. 9. Algorithm 1. harvest images from the Internet cull icons, logos, people, . . . 2. categorization quantize images lexically by color terms weigh colors by area, saliency or regions of interest 3. annotate collect simple metadata like date and geolocation harvest keywords by parsing captions and surrounding text 4. store in a database periodically update by repeating steps 1–3 add usage data from clients provide a feedback mechanism to the end-users 5. simple cloud application query service by keywords or sample image query result is clustered (greyworld!) and top 7 ± 2 palettes are served collect feedback from end-users Beretta & Moroney (HP Labs) The Dark Side of the Color EI 2012 paper 8292-17 9 / 12
  10. 10. Current status use Wikimedia images color categorization using Moroney and xkcd corpora analyzing robustness studying scalability and asymptotic behavior prototype: mobile application on TouchPad, Android, iPhone Beretta & Moroney (HP Labs) The Dark Side of the Color EI 2012 paper 8292-17 10 / 12
  11. 11. Beretta & Moroney (HP Labs) The Dark Side of the Color EI 2012 paper 8292-17 11 / 12
  12. 12. Definition of sentiment a feeling can be almost any subjective reaction or state—pleasant or unpleasant, strong or mild, positive or negative—that is characterized by an emotional response (a feeling of insecurity; a feeling of pleasure). an emotion is a very intense feeling, which often involves a physical as well as a mental response and implies outward expression or agitation (to be overcome with emotion). passion suggests a powerful or overwhelming emotion, with connotations of sexual love (their passion remained undiminished after 30 years of marriage) or intense anger (a passion for revenge). there is more intellect and less feeling in sentiment, which is often applied to an emotion inspired by an idea (political sentiments; antiwar sentiments). Sentiment also suggests a refined or slightly artificial feeling (a speech marked by sentiment rather than passion). affect is a formal psychological term that refers to an observed emotional state (heavily sedated, he spoke without affect). Beretta & Moroney (HP Labs) The Dark Side of the Color EI 2012 paper 8292-17 12 / 12

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