When color-coding can go horribly wrong

When you are admitted to a hospital, you get a standard-issue, clear or white wristband made of reinforced paper or plastic with identifying data. Some hospitals have recently added bar codes that can be scanned to verify identity and check medications against the patient's medical record. In the future, hospitals hope to use snazzier technological advancements like embedded chips in the band to track patient data. But for the meanwhile, the majority of hospitals still use paper bands. Many use additional, color-coded wristbands to identify patient allergies, risks and special needs. There is no national, or even state-wide standardization for the color codes used, so you can only imagine the trouble this causes.
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Take this scary case, reported a few years back:

A patient nearly died in cardiac arrest because she had been mistakenly designated as “do not resuscitate (DNR).” The source of the confusion was the yellow wristband which the nurse had applied to the patient, thinking it signified “restricted extremity” for blood draw, as it did in a nearby hospital where she also worked. Fortunately, another clinician identified the error and the patient was resuscitated. (source)
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Another case:
A hospitalized patient with a known allergic reaction to latex was given a green bracelet which, at that hospital, signaled a latex allergy. During his stay, he was transported to a diagnostic center for a test. Staff at the center were not aware that green bracelets meant a
“latex allergy,” so they performed the test using latex-containing vials/syringes. The patient experienced an anaphylactic reaction and required medical treatment to correct the situation.(source)
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Pennsylvania conducted a study, and discovered that nearly 87 percent of hospitals and 67 percent of ambulatory surgical facilities use color-coded patient wristbands. Yet, there was little consistency in the colors used to communicate specific clinical information. For example, while DNR status was most commonly associated with the color blue, the same color was used to designate nine other patient conditions.
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Further complicating the situation are patients who wear their own colored wristbands, such as the popular yellow “Livestrong” bracelets worn in support of cancer survivors.
Pennsylvania implemented a grass-roots "Color of Safety" program to try and standardize color-use, at least within the state.

Can you imagine, there are no rules for color use within the hospital system. I'm appalled! Just think if street lights, or stop signs didn't use standardized colors. Yikes...

Gender color reinforcement

I might have shown you these images before, but I can't recall. The NYT has a great little slideshow with a selection of photo essays by JeongMee Yoon, who started this series by assembling all her daughter's pink possessions in an orderly display for a portrait. The article sums it up quite nicely: "Children of all ages are hooked on pink and blue, a trend ensured by parents who begin collecting for sons and daughters when they are infants."
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Can you find the little girl in this picture?

For those of you close to New York city, “The Pink and Blue Project,” will be on view from March 3 to April 26 at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery in Chelsea.

For more on gender color preferences, and some digging I did a while back about where this bias originated, check out my post from last year.

I'm curious, do these regimented, gender-assigned colors hold true in other countries?

added 2/26: P.S. Great article just published, entitled Pink is for boys, that ties into this theme perfectly...

Spreading the word about color

I belong to an organization that I have mentioned often on this blog: the International Association of Color Consultants (IACC-NA). The majority of everything I know about color, I learned through their accreditation seminar series. (Fabulous, fabulous education, if anyone is interested.) Yesterday, the Washington Post ran a great little article about using a color consultant to help select colors. They mentioned the IACC-NA and interviewed our president Rebecca Bushner. We're still a tiny little organization, all volunteer-run, so I'm thrilled that we got some press!

Picking Paint Colors

Thursday, February 21, 2008; Page H04
What do you need? Help navigating the thousands of paint chips out there. Paint paralysis comes in many forms. Maybe you're afraid of choosing the wrong shade. Maybe you painted patches of blues all over your walls, just like the pros advised, and now can't tell them apart...read article
(hopefully you won't have to sign up to read it. If you do, at least it's free)

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Honeys of television color shows

I don't get cable television, so I wasn't aware of all the do-it yourself color shows out there in HGTV-land. At first, I got excited thinking, ooh that would be fun to host a show about color. Then I saw the hosts, and thought twice. It appears you need to have been a Lakers girl, model, or something of that sort before landing a gig on tv...
Just take a look at these lovelies:
Left to right:Constance Ramos, Jane Lockhart, Danielle Hirsch and David Bromstad

Ah ha! Turns out Constance Ramos, beauty #1, was a professional cheerleader for the Kansas City Chiefs.

There's Color Correction,
Get Color, and Color Splash on HGTV's channel alone. Does anyone know if these shows are any good? Do these consultant/designers know their stuff when it comes to color?

Hey color, stop shifting on me!

Have you ever run into any of these painting issues while deciding on a paint color for a space?
  • You look at a color swatch on the floor, but when you hold it up against the wall, it appears totally different.
  • You've painted a room that looks great at one time during the day, but not so desirable at another time.
  • A color looks fabulous in one room, but shifts to something very different in another room.
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This is called color shifting. In more technical terms, it's referred to as metamerism and flop angle. Metamerisms refer to how differently colors behave from surface to surface and light source to light source. One color will vary dramatically based on the medium: a painted wall, cast ceramic piece, or fabric swatch.
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Have you ever pulled two socks out of your drawer, thinking they were both black, (the bedroom may have incandescent lights) then find out later (the kitchen may have fluorescent lights) you're wearing one black, one navy? Yup-metamerism at work.

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Flop angle has to do with how color changes appearances based on the angle at which it is viewed. Imagine looking at a metallic sheet of paper-holding it in one direction versus another changes how it shimmers, and what color appears dominant.

Ever encounter these phenomena before? How did you deal with the dilemma?

Happy Love Day

In honor of the most beloved color in the world, here's an ode to blue:

video source "True Blue" by Psyop for Adidas

There's more where that came from! Short films based on a color. Click on tiny text links in upper left corner to see more. Warning, some of these are rather bizarre. Seriously. :-)

Striped with inspiration

Reader Jen just wrote me about a fantastic blog called Kris's Color StripesIt's a very simple concept- Kris takes lovely photos and boils them down to their essential colors. This is a fantastic way to get inspiration for a design task- be it a graphic design piece, interior space, or other project. By reducing an image down to those colors which together make the photo, you have an instant color palette. Nature has the Best examples!
I just love this one.

When you look around you, do you notice color palettes? It could be a display of food at the supermarket while you're grocery shopping, or a pile of leaves in the park as you're walking your dog.
Here are two palettes I whipped up from photos I took at this amazing covered market on Granville Island in Vancouver. My husband thought I was crazy for wanting snapshots of marinated meats, but I just through the display was lovely, and would have purchased everything in sight, had I figured out a way to ship everything home. But I digress.

I'd like to encourage you to look around you, and notice all the color harmonies that surround you. Now take the next step, and think about how you could apply those palettes to your own creation, be it a quilt, scrapbook page, outfit, table set for a party, or whatever!

Does anyone keep color palettes that inspire you, and how do you collect them? Along those same lines, has anyone taken inspiration from colors in everyday life to use in a project? We'd love to hear what you did, and how it turned out!

Rebranding with color to reach new audience

I remember growing up, my mom stirred this stuff into her orange juice, and gulped it down with great effort. We jokingly referred to it as her "sawdust drink". Fiber has come a long way. No longer looking to just reach its usual audience of 50 year olds or older, Metamucil, the maker of a dietary fiber supplement for regularity, is shifting things with new packaging and a slew of ad campaigns. Targeted to reach women who are health conscious and in their mid 30's, the brand will utilize attractive models and new pink and peach packaging to help push their positioning within the marketplace. (source)
They are trying to make Metamucil look like a beauty aid and a must-have items for cleaner, fresher intestines. Watch the TV commercial.
Have you seen the new ads? Do you think they are successful? Personally, I think it's rather bizarre, but I'd be curious to see if their repositioning has increased sales. If nothing else, the packaging certainly appeals to a younger crowd with the feminine pinks, oranges, and peaches. Ah yum, fiber!

Color Field Wardrobes

Not Only White (N.O.W.) by Lago, is a fantastic example of how someone can integrate large color fields into a space in a very graphic manner. The title caught my eye, as I love design that breaks out of the austere, sometimes sterile world of white everything. These customizable modular wardrobes are really cool. The website describes this product: "The 21 to 115 cm modular strips with multiple intermediate widths create the design of the wardrobe. The innovative door opening system does away with the handles, blending N.O.W. into the architecture of the walls and even creating fresh chromatic moods in tone with its surrounds."

They remind me Sol LeWitt's work:
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Love the whole customizing trend. It makes me thing of those fabulous modular carpet tiles-Flor. I like that manufacturers and designers are working to allow for consumers to have a little more creative freedom when it comes to product design. Of course, it's all terribly controlled so you are not overwhelmed with too many choices, and they make sure all the options work well together. But it's a step in the right direction, and one that I applaud.
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I'm teaching a color theory class right now, and we're talking about how color is always seen in context-what color is next to it? What color is surrounding it? How does this alter your perception of that color? This is a perfect example of how you can drastically change the impression of a color simply by changing the context in which you see it- a periwinkle blue panel is going to read very differently next to a bright cherry red than a soft taupe gray.

What colors would you put together for your dream wardrobe? Why would you chose that combination? Do you think you would ever opt for such eye-popping hues as those provided by the designer?

Celebrating 1 year

It was one year ago today that I started Hue. I can't believe how quickly time has flown by!
image via a yummy cupcake store in Pittsburgh

So I want to celebrate you, my readers. Thanks for all your support, comments, and friendship. Blogging has introduced me to so many generous, creative, open-minded and kind-hearted people. You continue to amaze and inspire me. You are the ones who make this so worth while.

Here's to a great first year, and even more to come in 2008!

P.S. If there is anything in particular (or in general, for that matter) that you'd like me to cover in the coming months, I always love suggestions and requests.