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Overview

The Color Revolution by Regina Lee Blaszczyk

A history of color and commerce from haute couture to automobile showrooms to interior design.

When the fashion industry declares that lime green is the new black, or instructs us to “think pink!,” it is not the result of a backroom deal forged by a secretive cabal of fashion journalists, designers, manufacturers, and the editor of Vogue. It is the latest development of a color revolution that has been unfolding for more than a century. In this book, the award-winning historian Regina Lee Blaszczyk traces the relationship of color and commerce, from haute couture to automobile showrooms to interior design, describing the often unrecognized role of the color profession in consumer culture.

Blaszczyk examines the evolution of the color profession from 1850 to 1970, telling the stories of innovators who managed the color cornucopia that modern artificial dyes and pigments made possible. These “color stylists,” “color forecasters,” and “color engineers” helped corporations understand the art of illusion and the psychology of color. Blaszczyk describes the strategic burst of color that took place in the 1920s, when General Motors introduced a bright blue sedan to compete with Ford's all-black Model T and when housewares became available in a range of brilliant hues. She explains the process of color forecasting—not a conspiracy to manipulate hapless consumers but a careful reading of cultural trends and consumer taste. And she shows how color information flowed from the fashion houses of Paris to textile mills in New Jersey.

Today professional colorists are part of design management teams at such global corporations as Hilton, Disney, and Toyota. The Color Revolution tells the history of how colorists help industry capture the hearts and dollars of consumers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262017770
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 08/31/2012
Series: Lemelson Center Studies in Invention and Innovation series
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 10.20(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author


Regina Lee Blaszczyk is Leadership Chair in the History of Business and Society at the University of Leeds and an associate editor at the Journal of Design History. Her books include Imagining Consumers: Design and Innovation from Wedgwood to Corning, Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture and Consumers, and American Consumer Society, 1865-2005: From Hearth to HDTV.


Arthur P. Molella is Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Director of the Smithsonian Institution's Lemelson Center. He is the co-editor (with Joyce Bedi) of Inventing for the Environment (2003, MIT Press).


Joyce Bedi is Senior Historian at the Smithsonian Institution's Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.

What People are Saying About This

Dilys Blum

Regina Lee Blaszczyk, who deftly combines ground breaking scholarship with an engaging style, has produced an important and lively account of the individuals, organizations, and industries that made color an inventive and transforming force in modern American culture and design.

Edward Tenner

The twentieth century produced a new tribe of experts: the color gurus. At the intersection of fashion, psychology, chemistry, marketing, product design, and even military engineering, these men and women used the stability and consistency of modern synthetic organic dyes to create a brave new polychrome world that we now take for granted—in software and electronic devices, too. Combining formidable scholarship with memorable personalities and vivid stories, The Color Revolution will fascinate historians, marketing professionals, and consumers alike.

Thomas Hine

Color is a vivid subject: the ground where moods meet physics. The colors of a particular moment live on in our memories, yet history is too often colorblind, oblivious to the powerful role color has played in the development of our florid consumer culture. The Color Revolution takes a big step toward opening our eyes and minds to the way in which a varied cast of characters standardized, refined, and expanded the use of color to create the vibrant, often garish, lives we live now.

Endorsement

The Color Revolution unites the visible history of the color chart with the hidden history of imperfect information, mood, and perception. The narrative arc of this beautifully illustrated book starts with the technical achievement of color in describing the timely development of a reproducible color system among specialists who became 'colorists.' An insightful must-have for the student and historian of business enterprise, industrial psychology, advertising, and the predictive modeling of nuance and effect.

William Lawrence Bird, Jr., Curator, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

From the Publisher

"Color is a vivid subject: the ground where moods meet physics. The colors of a particular moment live on in our memories, yet history is too often colorblind, oblivious to the powerful role color has played in the development of our florid consumer culture. The Color Revolution takes a big step toward opening our eyes and minds to the way in which a varied cast of characters standardized, refined, and expanded the use of color to create the vibrant, often garish, lives we live now." -- Thomas Hine,
author of Populuxe and The Great Funk

The MIT Press

"The twentieth century produced a new tribe of experts: the color gurus. At the intersection of fashion, psychology, chemistry, marketing, product design, and even military engineering, these men and women used the stability and consistency of modern synthetic organic dyes to create a brave new polychrome world that we now take for granted--in software and electronic devices, too. Combining formidable scholarship with memorable personalities and vivid stories, The
Color Revolution
will fascinate historians, marketing professionals, and consumers alike." -- Edward Tenner, author of Why
Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences

and Our Own Devices: How Technology Remakes Humanity

The MIT Press

"Regina Lee Blaszczyk, who deftly combines ground breaking scholarship with an engaging style, has produced an important and lively account of the individuals, organizations, and industries that made color an inventive and transforming force in modern American culture and design." -- Dilys
Blum
, The Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland Senior Curator of Costume and
Textiles, Philadelphia Museum of Art

The MIT Press

" The Color Revolution unites the visible history of the color chart with the hidden history of imperfect information, mood, and perception. The narrative arc of this beautifully illustrated book starts with the technical achievement of color in describing the timely development of a reproducible color system among specialists who became 'colorists.' An insightful must-have for the student and historian of business enterprise, industrial psychology, advertising, and the predictive modeling of nuance and effect." -- William Lawrence Bird, Jr., Curator, National
Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

The MIT Press

William Lawrence Bird

The Color Revolution unites the visible history of the color chart with the hidden history of imperfect information, mood, and perception. The narrative arc of this beautifully illustrated book starts with the technical achievement of color in describing the timely development of a reproducible color system among specialists who became 'colorists.' An insightful must-have for the student and historian of business enterprise, industrial psychology, advertising, and the predictive modeling of nuance and effect.

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