Indications for a Valid Colour Test to Measure Personality, Visual Needs and Preferences for Tailored Design Applications

AIC 2018, Colour & Human Comfort
Proceedings, Lisbon, Portugal, 25-28 September 2018.  Page 164.

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To design tailor-made products and spaces, with positive identification and client well-being as a result, designers increasingly want to gain insight into their customers’ personal preferences. Today, this happens through time-consuming conversations, mood boards or home visits. As designers are insufficiently psychologically skilled, the correct conclusion is not guaranteed. To accommodate the problem, the present study examines the validity of a simple colour test, which could rapidly and playfully provide insight into the design preferences of customers.

The basic assumption is that personality and colour preferences are innately determined. To fit in closely with this biologic-genetic aspect the 3-dimensional bipolar model of the Genetic Semantic theory is chosen as the framework of the present colour test. Each dimension contains contrasting colour parameters derived from the opponent colour system from the retinal ganglion cells, i.e. blue-yellow, green-red and black-white, supplemented with the three basic dimensions of colour experience, i.e. Hue (cold-warm), Lightness (darklight) and Saturation (grey-coloured). Thus, resulting in six bipolar colour questions, presented as colour and palette pairs.

Together with an abbreviated BIG FIVE personality test (NEO-FFI-20-item), with Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism as super factors, the colour test was presented to a random sample of 173 Belgian citizens within an age range of 18 to 89 years, of which 56% women.

Independent Sample t Tests show significant links between the BIG FIVE traits and the colour choices. Extraversion has an influence on the ‘blue-yellow’ choice. Conscientiousness influences the ‘black-white’ choice and Openness with Extraversion influencing the Hue choice. Less significant but still striking compared to the other results, are Conscientiousness with Neuroticism influencing the ‘green-red’ choice, Agreeableness affecting the Lightness choice and Openness with Neuroticism influencing the Saturation choice. Looking for Pearson Chi-square dependencies between the six dimensions of the colour test, the ‘blue-yellow’ dimension correlates with Hue and ‘black-white’ with the Lightness as well as the Saturation dimension. There is a striking result for gender, scoring solely and significantly on the ‘green-red’ and the Saturation dimension. Women go more for red and for a coloured palette than men. Both dimensions are likely associated with the Neuroticism trait. Additionally, more youngsters choose significantly black, negatively correlating with Conscientiousness, and the warm palette, correlating with Extraversion. Novel to this study is that these observations reveal a systematic genetic pattern of three dimensions with polar concepts, each of which seems to cover a domain of personality compatible with Eysenck’s three-factor personality structure with Extraversion, Psychoticism, and Neuroticism as super factors.

Notwithstanding the limitations of this study, the present colour test actually does provide information about personality and in extension about preferences and needs in terms of design. The overall results promise to have great relevance to designers and their clients’ well-being.