Why is the world losing color?. The age of productivity, minimalism… | by Elvis Hsiao | Mar, 2024


The age of productivity, minimalism, and monochromatic color schemes.

A comparison of a parking lot in the 80’s vs a modern one with more white and black cars.
Comparison of a mall parking lot in the 80s (more colorful cars) vs current day parking lot (more black & white cars). Source: https://twitter.com/culturaltutor/status/1672646124799180802

Are we losing color in our world? As odd as this question may seem, a closer look at the color choices in various industries from cars to fashion, consumer electronics, and architecture reveals an intriguing trend toward monochromatic palettes. Could this perceived loss of color be indicative of a broader cultural shift towards productivity and efficiency?

Vibrant hues seem to be gradually disappearing, replaced by colors black, white, and shades of gray.

This begs the question, is our world losing its color? What might be driving this cultural shift?

Over the past few decades, there has been a notable gravitation towards neutral colors across multiple industries. In 2020, researchers at the UK’s Science Museum Group analyzed the colors in over 7,000 photographs of everyday objects in their collection dating from 1800 to the present day.

Images of wooden telegraph and it’s analytics breakdown of colors.
Source: https://lab.sciencemuseum.org.uk/colour-shape-using-computer-vision-to-explore-the-science-museum-c4b4f1cbd72c
Image of a cellphone in 2008 and an analytical breakdown of it’s colors.
Source: https://lab.sciencemuseum.org.uk/colour-shape-using-computer-vision-to-explore-the-science-museum-c4b4f1cbd72c
Examples of various toys over the years and how their colors have changed.
Source: https://lab.sciencemuseum.org.uk/colour-shape-using-computer-vision-to-explore-the-science-museum-c4b4f1cbd72c

The results were striking as beginning around 1900, the color palette of these objects grew progressively more gray and less diverse over time.

This trend is echoed across various sectors ranging from the auto industry to consumer electronics.

Chart showing the most common car colors sold by year.

Consider the automobile industry. Leading paint suppliers like Axalta and PPG Industries consistently note a consumer preference for white, black, and gray vehicles in their annual reports. White has been the top choice globally for several years running.


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