WebQuest: Color Significance

If you're unfamiliar with WebQuests, read this introduction first.

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Colors have meaning, beyond just making our world lively and beautiful.  Colors often represent various states, stages of progress, personalities, sounds, and more.  Different colors evoke different emotions and can set different moods.  Animals, foods, businesses, countries, tools, geological features, and all sorts of other things tend to be associated with certain colors.

When it comes to art and design, colors are often chosen intentionally.*  The creator wants to inspire certain thoughts or feelings in the viewer, and colors are a powerful way to do that.

We see colors all the time, obviously, but few people consider what they actually signify.  This webquest is about taking just one of those colors and exploring its meaning and usage.

Pre-Quest

Choose a color.  Maybe it's a color you like, or maybe it's a color you'll learn to appreciate (note to teachers: if you don't want too many people in your class to choose the same color, then simply going with their favorites might not be the best option).

Once you've made your choice, make a note of each of the following:

  • What does this color remind you of?

  • What feelings or mood does it inspire in you?

  • Where do you often see this color in the natural world?

  • Where do you often see this color in design?

  • Why do you think this color is interesting to you?

Quest for General Significance

Now it's time for some research.  Get on the web and try to find some sites that tell you more about colors.  Find out answers to these questions:

  • What moods or emotions are associated with this color?

  • Why is the color often chosen by designers? I which cases is it avoided?

  • What are some of the things it represents?

    • Consider the categories of mentality, personality, sounds, textures, health, society, and anything else you can find.

    • Find a minimum of four distinct things it represents.

  • What other colors are often used with the one you've chosen? What color is its complement?

 
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Writing with Colors

Colors can be used to create associations in the minds of learners. The more you repeat the same method of color usage in your classroom, the more those associations will strengthen in the learners' minds. Using these associations, students are quicker to find mistakes or identify what they're supposed to do.

 

Quest for Specific Representation

Now let's find some examples.  Choose four of the following categories, and research one specific thing that features your color for each category.

  • Flags - these often have historical significance, especially if the flag is for a country; but you can also find flags for smaller municipalities and organizations

  • Logos - the best ones have simple designs with just one or two colors (in addition to white or black); this may include the name of the company/organization, or it might just be the image

  • Paintings - don't go with more realistic ones (but they don't have to be abstract, either); go with impressionism, minimalism, cubism, pop art, etc.

  • Films or Theatrical Plays - again, the more realistic ones won't help as much, so go with a more stylistic portrayal; in this case, the interesting colors may come from something material like the set or costumes, or it could come from the lighting

  • Fictional Teams - different colors of otherwise similar costumes is common with action teams (especially in animation); what does the color that team member say about their personality and about their role on the team?

  • Sports Teams - most uniforms and some mascots are limited to just one or two colors (in addition to white and black)

  • Marketting - commercials, posters, or even product design

You can find some of this information on official websites.  Other times, you'll need to find someone else's analysis (likely in the form of an essay, although it might be a video essay).

Assessment

You've completed all the previous tasks and now have a deeper understanding of how this color is used and why.  The research is now over.  It's time to tell us what you think.

Commonality - Of the four specific things you researched, what traits do they (or at least some of them) have in common?  Are those traits reflected in their color choices?  How well do the things they represent line up with the general significance of that color (which you researched earlier)?

Analysis - Choose another specific item that boasts your color from one of the categories in the previous section.  It can be a different selection within a category you selected before, or it can be a completely different category.  Why do you think that color was used in the design?  What might it represent?  What does it inspire?

Your Own Design

Choose something that's important to you.  It could be yourself or something/somebody else in your like.  Maybe it's something you have, or maybe it's something you want.  It could be tangible, or it could be a concept.  Whatever you choose should have at least some of the traits that your color represents.

Now craft an image that represents that.  It could be a portrait, or it could be a symbol.  It could be a logo, a flag, an emoticon, an everyday object, or whatever else, so long as you can explain why you have chosen that portrayal (note to teachers: to help out those students who are less gifted in visual art, you may decide to let them print out a black and white image they find; it's how they color the image that's important).

Now color your image.  You would most likely use more of your color than any other color, but perhaps you'll find a reason to use it sparingly, just for some very significant elements of your image.  Unless your image is an incredibly simple symbol, you'll need to choose another color or two (in addition to white and/or black) to go along with it (you should have figured out which colors go well together from that first research section).

Wrap-Up

It's up to the teacher whether everything a student finds should be written up in a small report, compiled on a poster, or crafted into a presentation.

After all the students have shown what they've learned, it'll be interesting to compare with others who did the same color and contrast with the rest of the students' colors.

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* Fun Fact: Insights to English uses teal as its primary color because green represents growth and learning, but tempering it with blue (a very calming color) makes teal more welcoming than bright green.  We complement teal with gold, which is the color of inspiration.