Nerve Collective

Thoughts & Musings

What One Dress Teaches Us About Color

Ah, the wacky world of the Internet. By now I’m sure you’ve come across this dress on *insert social media feed here*. Some of you have maybe even engaged in, ahem... “spirited” debate on the subject. We at Nerve wonder how can something this seemingly insignificant become so polarizing to so many people?

Two extremely emphatic camps — those who see white and gold and those who see blue and black — went toe to toe yesterday, proclaiming their rightness in a battle akin to a modern day Waterloo. While there are numerous scientific reasons for the split, the debate also brings to the surface something that we designers deal with as a daily part of our professions: colors simply look different on different sources.

I could go into a long discourse on color theory and the classic works of Seurat, but suffice it to say how we see color isn’t always as important as where we see color. The digital age has put devices into our hands that, as amazing and technologically advanced as they may be, are still unable to consistently and accurately represent color. Whether it be personal brightness and contrast settings, the lighting of the environment you’re in, or the device you’re on – MacBook, PC, iPad, Samsung Galaxy, whathaveyou – you will often not see colors as they were intended. This leads to many a discussion with many a client about colors looking off or not accurately representing a printed piece (which is whole other subject that we’ll tackle at a later date). It can quickly become a struggle. A First World struggle, yes. But a struggle nonetheless.

So although we might never be able to agree on the color of the dress*, at least we can all agree on one thing: the Internet is a marvelous place.

* It’s blue and black.

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