2.1. Color and Culture
Color is light, carried on wavelengths, which are absorbed by the eyes and are converted by the brain into the colors that we see [8
]. When an object is exposed to light, wavelengths that are not absorbed are reflected into human eyes to present the color of the object. Due to the difference in wavelength, there are many colors such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. Color has three attributes, namely hue, value and chroma [9
]. Hue is the appearance of the color, value is the degree of lightness and darkness of the color, and chroma is the degree of brightness of the color.
By putting more than two colors together, a new visual effect is produced, and it is called “color scheme”. Tsuneo Kondou divided the components of color scheme into four types: primary color, secondary color, accent color and decorative color [10
]. Although color scheme can be different according to personal preference, fashion of the time or geographical environment, several principles can be summarized for optimized color scheme. The six basic principles of color scheme are balance, emphasis, contrast, rhythm, dominant color and separation. Many researchers have suggested that color directly affects the parts of a human’s nervous system that are responsible for the arousal of emotions, and different colors or color combinations usually have different meanings for people [11
As color emotion is in the domain of psychology, it is influenced by many factors, such as sex, age, climate and geographic conditions, as well as race and cultural influences [11
]. Color connotation and symbolic meanings are rich in Chinese culture, and the meaning of words about color can be diverse. For example, red is the most commonly used color in Chinese classical culture, and it reflects the Chinese people’s pursuit in many aspects, both spiritually and materially. It symbolizes auspicious, festive, prosperous, smooth and successful things. For example, red lanterns and red couplets are hung on special festive days, and men and women wear red on their wedding. Yellow is a continuation and development of red color in Chinese culture. It also represents power, majesty and the central government and is a color exclusively used by emperors in the past. The white color in Western culture has different symbolic meaning from that in the East. Westerners believe that white is elegant and pure, which symbolizes innocent and pure mind, integrity and honesty, such as the bride’s white wedding dress.
With the development of economy, in order to attract consumers, designing distinctive products with market competitiveness is the goal of many manufacturers. Colors can have powerful psychological effects and evoke emotions; therefore, they change our behavior too, which is also supported by science, as color addresses one of our basic neurological needs for stimulation [12
]. For consumers, visual appearance and color are placed above other factors when shopping (1% sound/smell, 6% texture, and 93% visual appearance) [13
]. Consumers make up their minds within 90 s of their initial interactions with either people or products, and about 62%~90% of the assessment is based on colors alone [8
]. For retailers, shopping is the art of persuasion. While there are many factors that influence how and what consumers buy, 85% of shoppers consider color to be the primary reason for why they buy a particular product [13
]. Therefore, the use of color has become one of the most efficient elements in design. Color selection and application are very important abilities for designers, while color scheme is a very important reference for designers in color application. This study employs Yi women’s traditional costume as a sample for research on colors, analyzes the uniqueness generated from color scheme and establishes the principle of regional cultural color scheme as the basis for the application of regional cultural colors in the future.
2.2. Female Costume of Liangshan Yi
The basic components of costume include color, pattern and shape and material. Generally speaking, when people look at an object, they first notice its color, then the shape, and last, they recognize the material and texture of the object by close observation. Therefore, color can be considered as the most striking feature of the appearance of an object. In ancient times, culture was formed through the accumulation of life experience, and costume is a demonstration of social and cultural preservation. Costume is a social behavior of human beings in order to maintain management and change their appearance, and it also refers to any objects or behaviors that aim to change the appearance of human bodies [14
Ethnic color is an important part of the intangible cultural heritage of ethnic minorities. By analyzing the use of color by ethnic minorities, we can understand the unique aesthetic methods and tastes of ethnic culture. The color culture of Yi people’s costume has a history of more than 3000 years. Black, red and yellow are the three distinctive colors of Yi people’s costume in Liangshan, forming a “three-color culture” with unique Yi characteristics [15
]. Through imagination and creation, they subtly combine these three colors with different patterns to create beautiful and unique costume.
In Nuosu language of Liangshan, black means deep, heavy, high, large and dense. “The Yi people’s admiration for black was originated from the worship of land, using black to symbolize the nobility of class and lineage. The Yi people favor black, one of the historical title related to Yi people is called “dong cuan wu man” (wu means the black color in Chinese), and their names of self-identification such as “nuo su”, “nuo su” and “ni su” are also related to the black color (“nuo”, “nuo” and “ni” means black in Chinese) [16
]. Moreover, the Yi people refer dark colors such as cyan and blue as “na”, meaning black, which further expands the semantic coverage of “black” [17
]. Red represents life and passion in the beliefs of the Yi people. They believe that red can avoid evil and bring people the ability to regenerate. The worship of yellow among the Yi people comes from their ancestors’ worship of the sun, and yellow represents vitality, hope, harvest and eternity.
Traditional Yi costume is rich in decorative elements. The hard-working and intelligent Yi women have discovered beautiful graphics and colors from the nature, the process of production and life, and apply abstract thinking to the design and production of costume. The decorative patterns are designed elaborately, the color scheme is simple and bright, and the overall tone is calm and harmonious. Through Yi women’s hand-made products, distinctive ethnic characteristics are thus presented. Yi women in Liangshan usually wear skirts and headbands, and they change to hats or head wrappings after giving birth. Their garments have buttons on the right with three types including shirts, overcoats and vests decorated with thin strips in flower shape, applique and embroidery and red, yellow and green pinstripes. Their pleated long skirts for adults are divided into three or four sections, each with different colors. The upper section is the waist part, the middle section is straight, and the lower section is wrinkled. When walking, the hemline of the skirt swings with the pace, making the woman wearing it more graceful and attractive. Their garments are matched with portable triangular purses, which are embroidered with various patterns and decorated with five-color streamers at the bottom [18
]. The main colors of women’s costume are black, blue and cyan, accompanied with red, yellow, green and pink patterns, featuring strong contrast between colors and clear rhythms.
The perception of color is in the brain of the observer, and the colors we know are the product of our language and culture [19
]. Applying the color scheme of the Yi people to design conveys the symbolic meaning of the Chinese regional culture by transforming the design of traditional cultural colors through a brand-new perspective. Through transforming the aesthetic elements in history, the traditional culture is passed on, and the user’s feelings and cognitive consciousness are connected. This study employs the color scheme of Yi women’s costume as the medium for design transformation, and the resources of cultural colors of Yi people are developed and converted into cultural capital through researching on regional cultural colors and graphics, which attaches historical and practical significance to the promotion of the development and tourism products of Yi culture.
2.3. Visual Images
Color is the perception of light by human eyes. When the light stimulates the visual nerves on the retina, it causes a series of perceptual reactions, thereby human can perceive the existence of color. When people see a color, in addition to physical feeling, psychology feeling is also produced. Such psychological feeling caused by color is the so-called color image in this study.
As Zhang Chunxing mentioned in “Zhang’s Dictionary of Psychology
”, image is the reappearance of past experience in memory. In “Concise Dictionary of Psychology
”, image is a mixture of ideas, judgments, preferences and attitudes towards a wide range of things, which emphasizes the content of cognition in terms of mood and feeling. The scholar McKellar pointed out that 97% of people can feel the image through visual stimulation, 93% through auditory stimulation, and 76% through tactile stimulation. Among relevant research and studies, most are about visual image, because the appearance of objects is directly related to human feelings, and humans can easily build psychological associations through external influences [20
]. Philip G. Zimbardo mentioned in “Psychology and Life
” that human’s perception process can be divided into three stages: sensation, perception and categorization. External stimulation first causes sensation and then perception, which is a process started from physical stimulation and then transformed to be psychologically meaningful. In this series of studies, the overall goal is to clarify the relationship between color emotion and color preference.
At present, the main method used in the study of “image” is Method of Semantic Differential advocated by Osgood [21
], which refers to the use of adjectives as a measurement to study the “meaning” of things or concepts. Method of Semantic Differential is widely adopted as an effective method for identifying product images.
In 1966, Kobayashi founded Nippon Color and Design Research Institute to conduct research on color, design and consumer preferences from the perspective of psychology. As a leader in the field of color psychology, the Method of Semantic Differential developed by him obtained a patent for image plan, and he also developed a perceptual database and program of color scheme on computer. Kobayashi, in his “color image scale” study, developed three main dimensions of color emotions: warm-cool, soft-hard and clear-greyish [22
It was also shown, however, that color preference can be influenced by a variety of factors such as cultural context [23
], age [26
], gender [25
], design training [23
] and individual experiences [28
]. Li-Chen Ou classifies color emotions for single colors and develops color-science-based color emotion models. The results show that for each color emotion the models of the three studies agreed with each other, suggesting that the four color emotions are culture-independent across countries [29
]. In 2002, Mingzhen Zhuang, a Taiwan scholar, explored the cognitive differences in color images based on personal factors. Method of Semantic Differential was adopted to figure out the image perception of 138 subjects on color samples. Five factors were derived from 22 sets of adjectives. Then, each subject’s perception of color image was marked in space coordinate and categorized according to personalities. The results showed that gender has the greatest impact on the perception of color images, personalities also have a slight impact, while constellation and blood type have little effect.
Through literature review above, it can be concluded that image-related research mostly employs Method of Semantic Differential, converts psychological feelings into numbers through certain measurement and analyzes them. This study analyzes the color images of Yi women’s costume through Method of Semantic Differential and statistical tools in order to figure out the image that the sample costume brings to the subject.