Tuesday 16 March 2010

Information content of colours

After writing that post yesterday, coincidentally that evening on TV (on 'The One Show', I think) there was an item about the use of colours to identify brands. They gave the example of the blue of Cadbury's Dairy Milk and the red of Coca Cola, I think, if I remember correctly.

I was thinking about my pink. What might it convey? Now I think about it, two things I might associate with a pink: 'Gay', and 'Breast Cancer awareness' ('pink ribbon'). I wasn't actually meaning either of those, so if it did convey that, it was false: the colour does not contain that information on this occasion.

The amount of information that a colour could convey is quite large, but depends on the viewer's colour resolution. This links back to my musings on the Damien Hirst's spot paintings a while back. Actually, I say it's quite large, but we're only talking about 24 bits for 'Truecolor', and as I was saying yesterday, that's tiny compared to what you can convey with a few words. I don't know, there's something not quite right with this argument.

The programme also talked about football strips. The information content of those is worth exploring. I think they convey three things:

1) the identity of the club
2) the identity of the sponsor of the strip
3) the season (clubs change their strip each season - in encourages fans to buy a new replica strip each year)

Sometimes some strips are very plain, sometimes they are intricate. I'd suggest that they don't convey any more information by being intricate. The added complexity is merely 'decoration', or information terms it is either redundancy or noise. In some cases thinking of it as noise would make sense, since I think it can make it more difficult to extract the identity of the club from it.

There's a lot more that could be explored - home and away strips, the experimental finding that teams wearing red gain a measurable advantage compared to clubs wearing blue. (Reported in the New Scientist a while back. Evidence includes the relative successes of Liverpool and Manchester United compared to Everton and Manchester City.)

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