February 19, 2014
Last January, Christine Peters, a marketing consultant in the financial services industry joined my class in Burbank, California. Interestingly, Christine has more than just a passion for color-she actually experiences a phenomenon called synesthesia. It is such a fascinating topic. I just did a report on synesthesia to a forecast group in London. There are personal variations of this condition and it is important to know about those variations so I invited Christine to guest blog on the topic.
Cross-Wired And Color-Crazed By Christine Peters
I’ve always had a love for magazines. The glossy pages, the styled photos, and the bite-sized content create the perfect recipe to help me unwind. Some people like to end a stressful day watching a favorite TV show, or enjoying a glass of the finest merlot. Instead, I reach for a magazine for my fix, and flip, flip, flip through the pages over and over savoring every inch. However, despite my lifelong passion for magazines, I never would have imagined a magazine could, and would, change my life.
In the spring of 2010 I was on a business trip to NYC, and as I trekked through LaGuardia a magazine titled The Brain caught my eye (who knew there was such a thing as a magazine about brains!) It was obviously a must have for me after a long and stressful day.
I boarded my plane and started flipping away, and found an article that was of particular interest called The Cross-Wired Brain. It was about an unusual condition called synesthesia. As I read more and more, I had that magazine life-changing-aha moment.
What I experience ALL THE TIME is not the norm for most humans. What I experience is actually called grapheme-color synesthesia “in which the visual appearance of a written letter or number triggers an experience of color”. I was astounded – both at the fact that this was considered an unusual condition and at the fact that I had never, ever heard of it, but have been experiencing it my whole life.
Essentially, for me, everything has a color inside my mind that is usually not the same color my eyes see! Each day is filled with rainbows of color. Each word has a color that may or may not be the color represented by the colors of its individual letters. And again, it is usually not the same color as it appears when I look at it. This can be complicated and yet wildly colorful which, for me, is the best part.
While reading that article it struck me that having grapheme-color synesthesia has shaped my life and decisions in ways that I have never even realized. Generally speaking, I sometimes can get tripped up by indecision, and now I believe it is largely due to the many colors on my mind! For example, naming my children was especially difficult because the letters in each name needed to have just the right color harmony. I thought every new parent had that same dilemma!
As another example, buying a car can be strange and riddled with indecision too. The word car in my mind is bright yellow (C), light green (A) and a deep, dark purple (R). Not quite the colors you would typically consider when heading to a dealership. To complicate things the brand name of the car has it’s own color as well.
I also tend to remember things by color. So if I remind myself to grab my keys, I will be thinking about the colors orange and red (K is an orange color and the letter S is bright red and they both overpower the colors for E and Y) For some reason, the vowels all have lighter colors in my mind’s eye. The more information I have to think about or remember, the more colors I have on my mind.
Given my new revelation, I started to pay close attention to how I process colors and information on a day-to-day basis. I can be swayed to choose one thing over another based on the colors I think of in my mind. And colors I see in my mind can even affect how I feel. I started to research the psychology of color, which ultimately led me to Lee Eiseman’s 4-day Color/Design class. Color can be so strong and powerful that it can affect moods, influence behaviors, and even drive purchasing decisions. It has always been natural for me to think about color given my “superpowers”. Now that I realize other people don’t quite have these same intrinsic ideas about color, I’m more motivated than ever to understand how color plays a role in every day life.
I am grateful for this gift. Knowing I am synesthetic has helped me explore my own creativity and passion for color and literally see my world now through a different lens!