This is Paper submited for my MFA Graduate Seminar under the same title.
Identity constitutes the way we see ourselves and the world. We see the world has been varied and differentiated through the mental images we created from them. Taking this into consideration, we could ask how form and color are related to the idea of identity. In most cases, identity is related much more to our conception of form in an object/concept/entity than color. We could imagine our faces in black and white or in different color hues and that would still be ‘me’. We could imagine the United States being green, red or blue on a map, but if the shape changed it wouldn’t be the same country. Different car models are sold in a wide array of colors, but if the form changed it would stop being that car model and would have earned another name.
The idea of naming object is very much tied to forms. It would be grammatically correct to talk about a red square or a blue circle, but incorrect or silly to talk about a squared red (as in a red that has been wrangled into a square) or a circled blue. Color is mostly used as an adjective, used to describe things, while it is form the one that constitutes things. The thing-in-itself is always imagined by its form, while color is secondary to our process of naming. This is particularly interesting, considering that sight (our most active and important sense) works through light and color, not form(1). All this concedes with the Kantian view of form as preceding color(2).
In design this can be utilized in interesting ways. Knowing the human tendency for the relation between form and identity, color can be used more independently for the subject at hand. Should the fact that the concept of ‘form as identity’ is more common mean that design must utilize this rationale? The reverse can be attempted. The possibility might arise to use color as a stronger signifier of identity or meaning than form, as a way to differentiate one design from the norm. Good design should also attempt to challenge the viewer to experiment with what is possible.
1. Pg. 9-10. The Color Tree. Interchem. 1965. 1st Edition “There are four parts to the story of color, color in light, color in objects…. the eye that sees color… and the brain which responds to what the eyes show it”.
2. Pg 20. Color Codes. Charles A. Riley. University Press of New England. 1995. “Here it is not what gratifies in sensation but merely what pleases by this form that is the fundamental prerequisite for taste.”