A universal correspondence of color and form is a tempting idea, but cannot be supported by evidences from our experiments. We tested correspondence between two color combination of chromatic light and form. From the obtained results no simple equation can be extracted to describe the relation between character of a chromatic light combinations and the expressed character of a geometric element. What was found is a vague alignment of form to specific colors e.g. yellow and orange to round shapes. The most likely reasons evident for such choice is that a color combination that was liked corresponded to a form that was liked, thus choice out of hedonic motivation.

There have been historically various attempts to resolve systematic relationship between form and color [1]. Such relationship can be understood as a means of linking the worlds of arts and science. Science is seen as an act of deconstructing and in turn defining order, while art is defined as something which is absorbed holistically. An artist however may implicitly use an underlying order to define a concept.

As for form in respect to color, a number of theories have been developed and tested [1]. In the early 1920’s Kandinsky aimed to find a universal visual language by corresponding color and form. As Jacobsen [1] quotes, Kandinsky believed that a natural link between the two express a “synaesthetic quality”. Correspondence found by Kandinsky in a yellow triangle, red square and blue circle were based rather on his feelings, in addition to his synaesthetic experiences, as opposed to scientific evidence.

In respect to color and its aesthetics, underlying order has been suggested by Itten through color harmony studies [2]. Itten implies that Judd and Wyszecki’s [3] definition of color harmony as “when two or more colors seen in neighboring areas produce a pleasing effect they are said to produce a color harmony” best meets the needs of scientists, designers and artists. The definition of color harmony implies a strong link to the emotional experience “pleasantness” and furthermore influencing the hedonic value [1]. Characteristics such as complementary or analogous hue, lightness or chroma are known to generate color harmony [4].

Our attempt to deconstruct an aesthetic experience by scientific examination did not succeed. For the seven chromatic colors and all combinations thereof we could not find a correspondence to form. At least the 52 participants in our experiments  did not show clear pattern how to match two-dimensional form to the offered color combinations.

Sketch of the experimental setup

Sketch of the experiment design

More information on these experiments can be found in:  Does color-form correspondence exist for luminous stimuli? by Markus Reisinger, Sophie Tobin and Ana Huedo. This paper was presented at the CREATE conference in Gjøvik, Norway in 2010.


[1] Jacobsen, T. (2002), ‘Kandinsky’s questionnaire revisited: fundamental correspondence of basic colors and forms’, Percpetual and Motor Skills, (Vol. 95): 903-913.

[2] Itten, J. (1967), ‘The art of color: the subjective experience and objective rationale of color’. Germany, John Wiley and Sons.

[3] Judd, D., Wyszecki, G. (1975), ‘Color in business, science and industry‘. 3rd ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

[4] Westland, S., Laycock, K., Cheung, V., Henry, P. and Mahyar, F. 2007. ‘Colour Harmony’. Colour: Design & Creativity 1(1):1-15.

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