Three colours: green

Three colours: green

1 November 2016 |
Posted in Colour

“The colour comes in a number of emotionally appealing tones such as emerald, jade, olive, grass and racing green”

Many children dread its presence on their dinner plates. It’s a stage beyond ‘pale’ when referring to the sickly pallor of a person’s skin. And it’s associated with jealousy. But it’s not all bad news for the colour green.

Futility to fertility – green in history

Green has, however, had its share of ups and downs. According to The Guardian, it was largely ignored by the Ancient Greeks in its humble beginnings, and later labelled ‘deceptive’ by the Europeans of the middle ages because of the difficulty they had in retaining the correct shade in their clothing after dying it.

But green came to represent good fortune for many. During the 1400s, it became a symbol for fertility and eventually a popular colour for wedding gowns. And today, Ireland proudly identifies green as its national colour in honour of its patron saint St Patrick and the shamrock he’s said to have used in his 5th century teachings.


Meanwhile, back in his St Nicholas days, it’s thought even Father Christmas wore a green hooded cloak before various modern influences transformed him into the red-suited character we know today. And in pagan mythology the Green Man symbolises man’s union with nature.

Calm to kitsch - green in design

The colour has made only fleeting appearances in catwalk trends throughout the last century. But green emerged with confidence in the psychedelic shades of 60s culture, and has made a number of dramatic appearances since.

Considered restful, green is often used by design-conscious individuals who choose calming shades from lime to forest green for living rooms and bedrooms. The colour comes in a number of emotionally appealing tones such as emerald, jade, olive, grass and racing green. And in holistic kinesiology, the highly valued emerald stone is thought to help channel positivity and love.

But certain shades of green represent an era of interior design some would rather forget. Covering everything from wallpaper to carpet, lurid greens were the epitome of chic in the 70s. And whatever you may think of it, the avocado bathroom suite was an iconic design that’s inspired generations of retro looks. Some even say it’s making a comeback.


Go to whoa – green in culture

In the west, green is a term widely used by politicians and businesses to reflect their ethical and social responsibilities, as climate change remains one of the world’s biggest headlines.

Green is also the colour for ‘go’ with few exceptions worldwide. We understand green to mean we can move forward both literally and metaphorically when shown the ‘green light’.

Many eastern cultures embrace green, says Shutterstock, associating the colour with fertility and youth. But in parts of Indonesia, wearing green is said to be forbidden. Folklore in Java speaks of a vengeful queen who rules the sea and lures people wearing green beneath the waves to become her slave for eternity. So if you’re planning to use green in a design, it really is worth checking the cultural significance of the colour to your audience.

Seeing green

We all see colours differently. But also, colour influences the way we perceive light. Our eyes are more sensitive to green light, according to Explainthatstuff! and that’s why green is used for night vision goggles – because small amounts of light are easier to see when they’re green.

For the colour blind, red-green confusion is its most common form. The National Eye Institute explains that those affected see green as other colours, including red, orange and yellow. Many designers like to make their work more accessible for colour blind users by applying highly contrasting colours, patterns and shadows to ensure the user can see everything that’s necessary. Colour blind simulators can help people understand its effect.

For information on colour consultancy services, call Silk Pearce on 01206 871 001.