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Secret Language of Color: Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, & Violet

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  270 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
In this beautiful and thorough investigation, The Secret Language of Color celebrates and illuminates the countless ways in which color colors our world.

Why is the sky blue, the grass green, a rose red? Most of us have no idea how to answer these questions, nor are we aware that color pervades nearly all aspects of life, from the subatomic realm and the natural world to hu
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 22nd 2013 by Black Dog & Leventhal (first published October 8th 2013)
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Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: colors
Our daily lives are surrounded by both vivid and dull hues, endless tones, and various shades. However, we take colors for granted. The mind-blowing part is that objects aren’t intrinsically ‘colored’. Once our brains interpret the wavelengths being reflected at us, then our environment is filled in with the massive Crayola box. So, it IS sort of a black and white world, afterall! Why do we see color? How does it work? These questions are answered by Joann Eckstut and Arielle Eckstut in, “The Se ...more
Online Eccentric Librarian
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: photography-art

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This is, without question, one of the best books I have ever read on the subject of color. Arielle Eckstut has created a content-rich book written in a friendly and conversational manner that makes so many of the very nebulous color concepts and theories readily understandable - even fascinating.

The book is divided as follows: a first chapter that explains some of the misconceptions of color (e.g., Yellow/Blue/Red are no
University of Chicago Magazine
Arielle Eckstut, AB’92

From our pages (Nov–Dec/13): "Joann Eckstut, a color consultant, and Arielle Eckstut, a member of the children’s committee of the Color Association of the United States, considered themselves color experts. They were proven wrong in researching their new book. They learned, for example, that grass is not green (the human brain perceives color differently than other animals). Exploring color through the lens of numerous academic disciplines, the authors were surprise
Entertaining and slightly technical, I learned so much! I started fighting with the authors at first, because I thought that saying just because humans' eyes could not perceived color that there was not color. Once I got over that I so enjoyed learning about where each color came from, was produced, and what it meant. For instance, blue, yellow, and purple were all considered royal colors at one time. This was because those colors were so expensive, so only the very wealthy could afford them. We ...more
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
A great book with lots of vibrant photos of art, nature, and culture all highlighting the color around us. It will help you start thinking about colors differently and paying more attention to the ones you see around you. It's accessible (though I don't mean that in an insulting away) and touches on a great deal of subjects very briefly. The chapters are split up by the original Newtionian color scale (ROYGBIV), these chapters are intersected with parts of our earth and discussing the importance ...more
Sep 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: factoids
ARC via NetGalley

One of two color books I’ve recently read, and certainly the meatier of the pair. Lots of facts and information on all aspects of color from social to natural and technical to emotional. The content is easy to process and ‘chunked’ in a fashion that suggests a coffee table book although I’ve rarely seen a coffee table book quite this lengthy. It’s a solid win for factoid lovers, but those looking for an in depth discussion should either look elsewhere or use this book as a jumpi
Dec 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: natgeo
Lovely book that is more interesting than what the cover indicates. I quickly read the sections on red, blue and violet and wanted to read more.
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Great concept and interesting facts about color. But I didn't enjoy it as much as my kids, because the writing is lackluster (compared to the excellent/entertaining science writing we've come to expect these day), and many of the graphic were poorly executed in that they didn't enhance or add to the text.
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is done with hundreds of beautiful pictures, every page is a breathtaking demonstration of color and its role in the world around us. The history of each individual color is fascinating. However some of the science is already outdated, so it is a little weaker in that area.
Kate Carmichael
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How many colors are there in the world? 100,000? 500,000? No. 10 million! This book is about the beautiful world of color which creates such a vivid experience in every day life. I will never look at the world the same way again!
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Wow! What a stunning visual feast! The Secret Language of Color is an ambitious book that covers a variety of topics having to with colors including chemistry, nature, history, culture, art, people and more.

From the beginning of the book:

"Anyone who claims to be an expert on color is a liar. A true expert would have
to be fluent in physics, chemistry, astronomy, optics, neuroscience, geology,
botany, zoology, human biology, linguistics, sociology, anthropology, art history,
and cartography; and the
I've read two different books dealing with color over the past few months - this one and ROY G. BIV: An Exceedingly Surprising Book About Color by Jude Stewart back in October. I don't remember how I found that one, but this book was featured on NPR's Morning Edition back in early November. I checked both out of the local library - I'd recommend reading the dead tree version vs an ebook, unless you have a color tablet (would be a bit silly to read about about colors on a black & white device ...more
Nathaniel McKellar
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Scientists and Artists
Recommended to Nathaniel by: Nobody
Nathaniel Mckellar

“The Secret Language of Color” by Joann and Arielle Eckstut is a 240 page book on not only the basics of color but, as said on page 232, also the “Science, Nature, History, Culture, and Beauty of color.” The tone of the book is very informative, yet it is not boring either. It is amazing that you can fit this much information into a book without making it seem tedious and dull. On page 193 it says,”Although not every blue food is poisonous-blueberries being a case in poi
Kathleen Dixon
Aug 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kathleen by: Pt Chev Bookshop stock
Shelves: art, science
This sumptuous book has given me hours of lingering pleasure over the last month. It does everything its somewhat clunky subtitle says it will and gives the reader an information-rich and lavishly illustrated volume that tells and shows you everything you have always wanted to know about colour and how it works.

I daresay the subtitle was necessary. If I'd read a title saying simply "The Secret Language of Colour" I might have expected something like The Secret Language of Life: How Animals and P
Mar 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
"How can you have any pudding if ye don't eat yer meat?!"

Just one example of the type of book that may have upset Neil Postman. It features gorgeous photography, sharp graphic design and editing, engaging charts and diagrams, factoids galore, and condenses various disciplines into a seamless, easily digestible read.

The problem being that it is effectively parading as an educational textbook trying to make these disparate topics *FUN* by tying it together with the loose concept of color. It was
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I went back and forth between giving this book 4 or 5 stars. But in the end, I think it deserves 5 stars for having the courage to tackle such a complex subject matter. We all have thought about color from when we're small children, but not necessarily in the way that this book presents the subject. For instance, a history of color, why it evolved, which colors appeared first in human language, and the ways colors are significant in different cultures around the world, are all topics discussed h ...more
Erika Mulvenna
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
This book is fan-freaking-tastic! I've read many reviews who knocked this book down for being less than a scholarly text. But this book never claims to be a textbook, or all-encompassing volume on Color Theory. What this book does claim is to explore color more in-depth outside of the realm of the Artist's use of color with inks, dyes, paints, or other media. And it does do a fantastic job!

With a section up front explaining the science of light, color, and how we experience it, the rest of the b
Aug 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book alternates between chapters discussing the science related to color and chapters about each individual color. The science chapters cover a wide variety of topics such as how plants and animals evolved to use colors to why various minerals are the color they are. There is also a chapter detailing how humans see color and the way it's processed by our brains.
Each color chapter also has mix of information. It discusses emotions associated with colors and their origins, the history and bac
Dec 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Most of this book was very, very interesting. The format and design is also wonderful.
I found the little icons hidden at the beginning of each color chapter charming, though.
I love how this book covers so many different areas of knowledge and links it all back to color. It is a really good read.
However, there were way too many mistakes in this to be rated a 5. There were little typos more than a few times, and a whole paragraph and some ended up being repeated, messing up the format of that sec
Quin Herron
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I think my favorite thing about this book is the way it takes an artistic approach to scientific understanding. The supposed contention between arts and sciences is proven to be a falsehood. It is loud and expressive but the text is written in a remarkable voice of precision and positivity towards its subject matter. And I must say I don't often run into layouts where the text and design flow so smoothly. It gives your eyes the pleasure of switching between reading a text and looking at an image ...more
Lisa Pliscou
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fun, fascinating, and (pun intended) insightful!

Lively in tone, clearly based on a great deal of research, "The Secret Language of Color" smartly pulls off the difficult coup of being both erudite and entertaining. And, as one would hope for in a book of this sort, it's beautifully designed, creating a fascinating intermix of form and function. Ultimately it may very well change how you see the world around you.
Ben Myers
May 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: design
The Secret Language of Color is not an academic reference on color theory, and nor does it claim to be. The Secret Language of Color is, however, very good at being what it is: a love letter to color. In the beautiful pages of this coffee table book, you'll find an insightful and entertaining exploration of the physical, chemical, ecological, neurological, artistic, and cultural phenomenon that is color.
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
did you know that the red in your starbucks strawberry frappucino comes from dead bugs? or that new york was called new orange for a year? or that yellow is equal parts yin and yang to the chinese? or that green scrubs allow surgeons to more effectively do their jobs? or that during the inquisition, you were deemed christian (a.k.a. acceptable) if you could see blue blood in your veins? or that nero would have you killed if you wore his favorite color, purple? yeah, me neither
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
4.5 or 5 stars? Who cares? I'm still feeling the utter delight of having read this book. It was everything a coffee table book on colors should be - chock full of both spectacular graphics and delicious tidbits of information. I appreciated that it was written by people more from the design world so not only did I get (light) scientific but also cultural information on color - it was a great mix. And there were bits of whimsy that made me smile.

So I guess that sounds like a 5 star review!
Gina Mcandrew
Jan 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: artsy-me
Color is definitely a science and that is a concept the authors show from the beginning. On the other hand, from a "Christian" worldview, the book unnecessarily weaves evolution and humanism through its pages. I like how each color receives an individual section: most artists think in color so that is a logical layout.
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Fascinating and informative, this books make you see color in a whole new light. Never realized how much of "color" is in the mind. A wonderful mix of science, history, and culture.

Rereading it, even more things pop out to me, such as color only exists because we see it. Who knew? Recommended reading for anyone!
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A colorful book! An amazing resource of all aspects of color. Even where their names originate. The pictures are astounding. I love the science and history and little facts. An absorbing read that will occupy you and fascinate. Great book for the coffee table to be picked up and sampled in little bites.
Eva Kelly
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This one is one of mama's books and it has so many words and so many pictures and it's hard but you know what? I can't stop looking at it. I can see why she likes it because I can't even read most of it and I think it's interesting. I bet it's REALLY interesting when you know what all the words are.
Dan Connors
May 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is both a beautiful and informative book. In vivid color with great photographs, this book explains the history of colors and humanity and some of the little known facts about how they are found from nature. We live in a blessed age since we get to enjoy the full spectrum of clothing, flowers, and more. Until the 19th century that wasn't possible..
Katherine Becvar
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book was very lovely to look at, but the content left a lot to be desired. The beautiful layout and photos did not make up for the continuity errors and iffy logic and causation. No surprise that the authors are designers, not scientists.
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