Gray is too a color

Have you ever been asked, “what is your favorite color?” and you didn’t know what to say? I’ve had it happen a few times. It made me feel like I was one of the characters from Monty Python trying to cross the bridge of death:


Have you ever had a moment like that, where you blurt out an answer without fully considering the question’s purpose and then retract the answer because you feel there is a deeper meaning to it? I often feel this way when asked what my favorite color is. Is there a purpose behind the question? A deeper meaning or ulterior motive? Is it okay to change my answer based on the circumstance or intended use? On the surface, choosing a favorite color seems inconsequential. However, I would argue that color choice can have an impact on how we (or our work) is perceived.

When it comes to simple preference, I would say my favorite color is blue. I like it because it reminds me of nice weather (blue skies) and tropical vacations (crystal clear blue water). However, if you asked me what my favorite color to wear is, I’d answer gray. My husband insists gray is not a real color, and won’t let me go shopping unless I promise not to buy any more gray stuff. In web design and graphics, I tend to like colors like green and orange; bright, festive and trendy feeling. I look awful in both green and orange, as it doesn’t compliment my pasty white…er…beautiful porcelain skin tone. But I sometimes wish I could wear those colors. This is why I always list several colors as my ‘favorites’ when asked.

color wheel

Image by unleashingmephotography via Flickr

If we go a level deeper, we could find that color psychology suggests I like these colors due to the way they make me feel, or because they are indicative of a certain personality trait. Blue is a cool and calming color, and is associated with loyalty, stability, confidence, cleanliness and order. I don’t think there is any causality here, but it may say something about my personality in the process. Gray, on the other hand, is the color of knowledge, wisdom and intellect. It is viewed as classic, refined and authoritative. It also suggests reliability and compromise. As for orange, it conveys energy, enthusiasm and demands attention. Green evokes a sense of health, the environment and generosity.

When I designed this website, I knew I wanted to use black, white, grey and green. I knew I wanted a light, clean, simple design, and an accent color that would be bright but not imposing. It was only after I selected these colors that I looked into the color psychology behind it. I think the choices ended up supporting my overall goals, mission and design philosophy and I’m happy with the end product.

If I have to answer “what is your favorite color?” when attempting to cross the Bridge of Death, I’ll respond with “in what circumstance?” and hopefully the bridge keeper will be launched into oblivion. Perhaps the question “what is your favorite color?” should always be asked with a follow up of “…and why?”. Maybe there is a deeper meaning behind it, and we should pause to reflect before answering.



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  • Did you know that Athena supposedly had gray eyes and she was the Goddess of all sorts of things – including Wisdom, Intellect, Military Victory, even Crafts. (wonder if they had Michael’s stores back then? Probably not).

    These sorts of things make me wonder which came first – Athena and her traits assigned to gray or is it a coincidence? I am going to say that the color was assigned to the Goddess and things evolved from there.

    • I think traits like wisdom, intellect and the like would be assigned; just an assumption though. With statistics we can figure out that a certain personality type gravitates towards a particular color and perhaps that leads us to make generalizations about what a person is like based on their favorite color.

  • I understand grey being associated with wisdom if you consider that the elders in communities are usually older/have grey hair…it’s interesting to take that into consideration along with Bob’s comment about Athena’s eyes. Β (I hadn’t realized that before – thanks for today’s lesson in mythology, Bob!) …but I have to wonder, like Bob, do we place these particular traits of importance onto colors because of long-embedded cultural concepts? Or is there actually something about those colors that affects a certain area of our brain and triggers those associations? Hmmm.

    And I agree, grey is totally a color!

    • I think there are two separate elements at work: what we observe in relation to a color and what our body’s physical response is to seeing a color. I know that seeing the color red can actually raise your heart rate; it is also associated with passion, and anger. Perhaps we see aggressive people wearing red, so we observe that red is ‘aggressive’. I think there are a few ways to dissect it though πŸ™‚

  • In literature, especially the period of naturalism (1850 or so to 1900ish) eye color made it’s way into a lot of works, including The Scarlet Letter. It was especially pronounced in works immediately following the Civil War during reconstruction when people were trying to make sense out of their new reality and the marked loss of life. Gray eyes were commonly associated with wisdom and appeared often (even in Scarlet Letter.. someone had gray eyes)

  • Not as simple of a question as it may seem. Β πŸ™‚

    • …especially if you are trying to cross ‘the bridge of death’ πŸ˜‰

  • Well, I must say that your response was considerably more erudite than my own!Β  I never thought in terms of gray as the color of wisdom, etc.Β  If I had, I’d probably wear nothing but gray!Β  It wouldn’t make me any smarter, but it might make me feel smarter!

    • Well, I do tend to wear a lot of gray, but I don’t really feel any different. I guess I’ll let you know if anything drastic happens! πŸ™‚

  • Anonymous

    I don’t care about the colors, Monty Python rocks! And, no I don’t have a favorite color. But I know my name and my quest.

    • Haha, that is great. So I have to ask, what is your quest? πŸ˜‰

      • Anonymous

        I think you know the answer. Not to get the holy grail, but to follow the Holy One, Jesus Christ and some day here “well done.”

        • Ah, yes πŸ™‚ . Now wouldn’t it be funny if He asked, “Whaaaat is your favorite color?” once we get there? (Who knows, maybe He’s a Monty Python fan, too). πŸ˜‰

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