Colour conversation with Karen Haller, applied colour psychologist and author
For this week’s Colour Conversation, we talked to Karen Haller, an Applied Colour Psychology practitioner, author of 'The Little Book of Colour '- and a woman on a mission to create a colour revolution.
You’ve been researching and working with colour for more than 20 years. Had you always wanted to work in this field?
Not consciously. But looking back to my teenage years I remember trying out every art and craft there was and thinking each time this isn’t it. It was when I was studying fashion design and millinery back in my native Australia that I had my colour epiphany. I was pinning chocolate-brown feathers on to a teal-blue hat, and just seeing the impact of the colours together stopped me in my tracks. I thought: ‘That’s it! It’s colour!’ I didn’t know quite what it all meant, but I knew I had to find out.
My search took me on a course in child psychology, and one in interior design, and to every colour teacher I could find – until by chance I stumbled on a weekend workshop in the highly researched but little-known discipline of applied colour psychology. This was my eureka moment. This was the missing piece of the jigsaw – a science that helps us to understand the language of colour and the impact it has on how we think, how we feel and how we behave – and my burning questions finally began to be answered.
Tell us about your role as an applied colour psychology practitioner. What does it entail and who do you work with?
I get to immerse myself and play with colour every day. What’s not to love about that! I get to explore, discover and share the fascinating world of colour with my clients who come from all sectors, such as corporate brands, small businesses, individuals and charities to use colour to shine a light on their authentic personality, their brand, products and creative spaces to support positive health and wellbeing. I also run my courses for professional designers to help them use applied colour psychology to enhance their living and working spaces or their businesses. I believe everyone’s in the colour business.
And now with my book out there in the world I’m creating colour courses and experiences so that the everyday person can harness this knowledge for themselves and become their own stylist, decorate their home and bring more joy into their everyday life.
We’ve found your new book, The Little Book of Colour: How to Use the Psychology of Colour to Transform your Life, such an illuminating read. How did it come about?
Oh, thank you. I’m so pleased to hear you enjoyed the book. I have wanted to write this book for years – it’s been bubbling inside me for years now. I’d already started to write a book outline when Penguin publishers approached me. That was back in November 2017. It’s been an incredible journey and so far it’s being published in 12 other languages. Spreading the joy of colour is going global!
Your book is jam-packed with fascinating insights into everything from the history of colour to the way colour affects us on a mental, physical and emotional level. Can you give us a flavour of what readers can expect…
At its absolute core The Little Book of Colour is helping people how to use colour to live authentic, joyful and natural lives – how to shine more brightly, to express the essence of yourself, using the power to transform your life.
Which colours would you say have the strongest effect on the way we feel and behave?
Colours that are at the saturated, more vibrant end of the scale – red, turquoise, magenta, bright orange, lime green, vivid yellow – are likely to have the strongest effect on how we feel and behave. These colours are like someone has turned the volume right up.
Having said that, for me the colour that has the strongest effect is often referred to as a neutral which is white. When it comes to colour psychology every colour has an impact. I feel the adverse traits of white, which is a numbing, anaesthetising effect – it’s a colour that can switch off the emotions. It’s too cold and hard for me and my eyes begin to hurt, and I fatigue really quickly. That’s the power that colour can have on us.
But which colour or colours this would be is going to be personal.
Have you had a fascination with colour from an early age?
I’ve loved colour since I was a little girl. I can still vividly remember a time in kindergarten when I was sitting in front of pots of paint and crayons and being beyond excited because I had all of these colours to play with. My biggest challenge was deciding which colours to use first! From that moment I was hooked – and ever since it’s felt like I’ve had colour in my veins.
To say that I love colour would be an understatement. It happily consumes my every waking moment and often flows into my dreams. Like a stick of Brighton rock, if you were to snap me, you’d seen a rainbow of colours running through me.
Have you ever had your colours analysed?
Yes, I have. When I did my Applied Colour Psychology training under Angela Wright, part of my training was included personal colour consultations. The other students (with Angela’s guidance) carried out the analysis and my primary personality was Spring my secondary Winter. This helped me to really understand who I was and why, during my former corporate career, I had been showing up as my secondary personality in the colours I wore and my behaviour. I understood why I was deeply unhappy. Since then I’ve been on a journey to reconnect more and more to my Spring personality and aligning back to my authentic self has been life-changing.
Which colours do you love to wear? How do they make you feel?
I love to wear all the colours in my colour family because they are all an expression of me. That way I know that no matter how I am feeling, how I want to feel and how I want to communicate to others, there is a colour for that. I’m still searching for colours as it’s not easy to find Spring hues and in my design style. I’m seriously thinking I’ll have to buy a new sewing machine and make my own clothes again! I’m currently on the lookout for a Spring watermelon red which is proving quite elusive.
Do you surround yourself in colour in your home?
My home has lots of colour but it’s not crazy. I don’t use colour for the sake of it. It’s well considered. Every colour I use is to create a space that is a reflection of me, that supports and nourishes me with quite a lot of elements of fun, playfulness and joy – that’s the Spring personality! I really believe when you love colour, it loves you back. We can use it to connect us to ourselves and to turn our home into our sanctuary.
Last great colourful buy?
I was walking through Covent Garden Market, all the traders were shutting down their stalls and I spotted the most wonderful handbag in a mid-spring green. It’s a tone of green that I’ve been on the lookout for years. I was one very happy woman!
And finally, we have to ask, if you had to pinpoint a favourite colour, what would it be?
It’s always funny to be asked that because it’s a bit like a mother being asked to choose a favourite child! But, yes, I do have a favourite and it’s the tone of orange you see on a calendula marigold flower – clear, bright, full of energy. It reminds me to not take life too seriously. It’s a playful, joyful colour – it just makes me smile. But hot on the heels is daffodil yellow!
The Little Book of Colour, How to Use the Psychology of Colour to Transform Your Life is published by Penguin Life https://thelittlebookofcolour.com/