Project: Emotional Jewellery – for mindful living

Research diary: 17/04/19

My current explorations in sensory design have taken me towards colour and our emotional relationship with it. So, this morning I am researching why sweet companies use the colours that they do and the psychology behind it.

Dr Charles Spence of Oxford University writes in his article called “the psychological impact of food colour” says that :

Colour is the single most important product-intrinsic sensory cue when it comes to setting people’s expectations regarding the likely taste and flavour of food and drink To date, (..) the hue or intensity/saturation of the colour of food and beverage items can exert a sometimes dramatic impact on the expectations, (…) should the colour not match the taste, then the result may well be a negatively valanced disconfirmation of expectation. Food colours can have rather different meanings and hence give rise to differing expectations, in different age groups, not to mention in different cultures.’

He also talks about how the intensity of colour can make us assume there will be a higher intensity of colour. Although other senses are mentioned too, like olfactory cues…which makes me wonder about using smells as well as colour to create my mindfulness jewellery. The two combined could be very strong allies…. anyway, back to colour. Scientific studies have shown that the colour red reduces our perception of bitterness, green reduces our perception of sourness and yellow both sweet and sour. It has been suggested that the correlation is due to the occurrence of these colours in nature. A red apple is often sweeter than a green one, and when berries are ripe they are red, but when they are green they are bitter.

So that is the basics about red. It makes us think things are sweet and our instinct is to eat little berry like forms that are sweet. Or at least that is the case in countries where fruit is predominately red and green.

What about other colours…Cadbury’s purple for example. I read an article today [i]about Cadbury’s losing a long battle to patent their colour purple. The purple is meant to describe a luxurious silky side, so works well for chocolate as it is generally sold as a luxury item and aimed at an older market.

Mostly it appears that the colour of a products packaging is more relative to the brand identity which includes the product but has more layers than that. So, to get a real grip on the basic human emotional reaction to the colour of food it is important to look at the colour of the actual food itself.

This portion of my research into colour was focused on joyful feelings. And I felt that sweets were the most widely represented expression of joyful, childlike happiness that we have in our popular culture. it seems like a good avenue to take in respect of colour choices for my jewellery that represents a feeling of excitement and joy.

As was described above, Dr Spence wrote that the higher intensity the higher the expectation of flavour. And I think it is fair to assume that the brighter and more intense the colour the more intense the emotional representation would be.

When looking at sweets it also becomes apparent that size and texture is important. As my creative juices begin to flow it makes me want to change one of those key elements…. always the first thought that occurs is go BIG!!!!!!or furry? or change the texture… enough writing now…time to experiment.


[i] https://www.packagingnews.co.uk/features/colour-sweet-success-category-focus-confectionery-06-03-2019)