Behind the scenes story of the colour orange & I
Fig 1 Treasured gift of my own colour crayon from friends
Natasia Moose & Amy Hackman. 2016. Photo credit: author
Most people who meet me know that orange is my favourite colour within a relatively short space of time. It has been known to be the first thing I tell people about myself, “hello my name is Ann Marie and my favourite colour is orange!”. Having a favourite colour is a fascinating concept, especially when we consider what it might say about us, and how much it becomes a part of your identity. I have heard people call me the ‘orange lady’ for example. It is also interesting to think about what the most popular favourite colour is, spoiler alert : it’s not orange! Although my love for the colour orange is no secret, not many people know how, when or why that came about, until now…
Fig 2: From authors sketchbook 1998.
It was the summer of 1998 in New York city, USA. In the third year of my design degree I was very fortunate to obtain an internship at the Color Association of the United States, with my friend, designer Rebecca Lee. Led by director Margaret Walch we were plunged into the wonderful world of colour trend forecasting. Whether we were picking out colour chips to send to clients, reviewing colour palettes of seasons past, attending exhibitions or conducting a shop report, the focus was most definitely colour and I loved it! Fig 2-5 show some of the pages of my sketchbook that I kept that summer, these images give some insight into my life at the time, and the variety of visual stimulation. I remember being inspired by so much-from arts and crafts tapestries to plastic bins in the museum gift shop.
Fig 3: From authors sketchbook 1998.
At some moment during that summer orange became my favourite colour, although I can’t pinpoint the exact day, hour & minute it happened. Perhaps it was the use of orange in the Pierre Bonnard exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, or the tones seen in various shop windows, perhaps it was the vibrant flowers in Brooklyn Botanical Garden, or all of the above. Colour has always been important to me but elevated to another level after the internship. I became drawn to just about any shade of orange that I saw. When I returned to Scotland at the end of that summer, orange had become my favourite colour, and was going to have a big influence on my life in the years to come.
Fig 4: From authors sketchbook 1998.
When asked why I like orange so much, I like to reference that orange is a mix of both red and yellow. In pigment terms it is made when we combine red and yellow together and in light terms orange lies between red and yellow wavelengths. Orange has the fire of red but is tempered by yellow, so it doesn’t burn. Orange elevates the happiness of yellow with extra warmth from the red. Orange is taking the best of both worlds. These ideas are echoed in the book ‘Color Healing’ by Sue and Simon Lilly. Here they describe other facets of the colour orange. “Curiosity is one of the driving characteristics of the orange vibration and this brings exploration and creativity, particularly on a practical level” (Lilly & Lilly, 2001: 34). As a curious, creative person this resonates with me and helps me to understand why I am drawn to orange on a deeper level.
Fig 5: From authors sketchbook 1998.
When I look at the colour orange, especially a bright hue, I feel happy. This is not, however, a superficial reaction, it is as if all the cells in my body react too. They become energised and joyful! My love of the colour orange is evident in different ways. I like to wear orange clothing, but not exclusively (I do love a pink and orange combination). I like to surround myself with orange items. Orange notebooks are my favourite to write in, with an orange pen or pencil. My office has orange walls and I painted my filing cabinet orange. When it came to our wedding in 2016 there was no question as to what colour my dress would be. Orange has become an integral part of who I am, my identity. I would say that orange is one of the key things that people remember about me, having orange as my favourite colour helps illustrate who I am, it also explains some of my key values, skills and approaches.
Orange as my favourite colour plays a massive part in my life, however, there are varying degrees of having a favourite colour. Some people claim they have favourite colour, some don’t. Some people say their favourite colour changes, some have favourite colour clothes to wear, some won’t wear anything but that colour. In a 2015 YouGov study, blue was cited as the world’s favourite colour, with 10 countries from the around the globe choosing blue. Considering there are 193 countries in the world I find it hard to understand why the world’s favourite colour is based on these 10, it might be more impactful to discuss in terms of population, room for more research, I think.
Despite the numbers, the choice of blue as a popular favourite is not surprising given the abundance of blue in our environment, blue skies and blue seas. According to the colour standards and trend forecasters Pantone, blue is a calming relaxing colour, and Classic blue is their choice for colour of the year 2020. In the 2015 study, in Great Britain 33% of people cited blue as their favourite colour versus 3% orange. That’s alright with me, I don’t mind fewer people loving orange, what was exciting is that this study showed over 90% of people identified with a colour they liked the most.
"For me orange exemplifies creativity, curiosity, warmth that I think of as care, happiness, learning and exploration."
Identifying with a colour for me, as I mentioned has really impacted all aspects of my life from the clothes I wear to the colour of my walls. For me orange exemplifies creativity, curiosity, warmth that I think of as care, happiness, learning and exploration. These attributes align with my core values and articulate my approach to well, just about everything. They materialise in the work I’m currently engaged with whether that is facilitating an innovation workshop, learning to lecture online, or imagining a fashion pop up that is both fun and kinder to the planet. This is why I called my company Creative Orange Studio. Orange explains our approach. Having a favourite colour as I said has really impacted my identity both personally and professionally, I think orange found me by osmosis that summer in New York, and I’m so happy it did! Now my challenge to you is to recognises your favourite colour or colours! What are they and what do they say about you? I would love to hear your stories and comments below…
 Lilly, S and Lilly, S (2001) Color Healing. London, New York, Vancouver: Lorenz Books.  Jordan, W (2015) Why is blue the world's favourite colour?. At: https://yougov.co.uk/topics/lifestyle/articles-reports/2015/05/12/blue-worlds-favourite-colour (accessed 31/07/2020)  Pantone (2020) PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue. At https://store.pantone.com/uk/en/color-of-the-year-2020 (accessed 31/07/2020)  Ibid (2)