Gurus don’t always have all the solutions

Catching up on my reading over Christmas, I came across Fay Sweet’s piece about Tom Porter (Rainbow Warriors, DW 8 November 1996). I don’t wish to offend, but I have to say I found the article somewhat basic. To read of the problems designers face in obtaining employment, and then to read some of the banal points made by Ms Sweet on colour and design, I wondered if there was a connection.

To be told that “guru” Porter states “colours seen in different lights will change dramatically, as will colours with different textures” is hardly new. I recall my history of art and colour theory lectures quoting examples going back centuries. And to make statements like “…plenty of authors have cashed in on the psychological ticket…” attempts to belittle and malign all that has gone before in the subject.

However, all is forgiven in a final paragraph, with the profound statement that the more you ask the less you know. Quite so. But as designers strive to position brands, with the help of colour, to the liking of marketers whose current credo appears to be “act global but think local”, some thoughts from Africa:

The predominant colour for vehicles in hot climates is white or cream. Reason: a local guru discovered that the interiors of vehicles covered in these colours are cooler than those with dark colours – research continues as to the reason why, but even British Oxygen Corporation has accepted this local reality and the tops of all trucks are white while the bottoms remained red.

While red is the most positive and aggressive colour, it is the quickest fader, so its upkeep is highest (just ask Coca Cola).

In Africa, where tribalism remains rife, certain colours are an anathema to some while finding flavour with others. So when international gurus come here exhorting locals to develop Afrocentric solutions, they show a singular lack of local knowledge.

The local national flag has a strip of red at the top and blue at the bottom. Urban legend has it that the blue is at the bottom as the Commies ended up on top.

Jeremy Sampson

Managing director

Sampson Associates


South Africa

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