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Do Historical Color Trends Exist?

Today’s designers, fashionistas and artists are big on discussing the <a title="Pantone" href="http://www.pantone.com/color-of-the-year-2016?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_source=eb20151203" target="_blank">hot color trends of the moment</a>, and thanks to the Internet those conversations can influence trends themselves – but did color trends exist before instant global communication?</br></br>It’s a question indirectly explored by <a title="Fast Company" href="http://www.fastcodesign.com/3054313/war-peace-and-technology-a-history-of-the-20th-century-through-color-trends" target="_blank">Katie Greenwood’s new book</a>, “100 Years of Color.” In it, she uses curated historical images and corresponding color palettes to suggest a kind of color movement throughout the ages.</br></br><strong>How Color Trends Move</strong></br></br>The Internet has ushered in an era of unprecedented visual communication, and we have become (often unwittingly) more sensitive to color schemes and their behavioral cues. As a consumer-driven medium, this helps influence color choices made by those who use the Internet as a marketplace.</br></br>For example, <a title="The Logo Company" href="https://thelogocompany.net/blog/infographics/psychology-color-logo-design/" target="_blank">this brilliant graphic</a> illustrates how corporate logos could be interpreted based on our emotional responses to color, which in turn influences how color is used.</br></br>But, everyday people now drive color trends as much or more than brands do. Social media allows trends to spread like wildfire – though it can snuff them out just as quickly.</br></br><strong>Color Communication Breakdown</strong></br></br>Of course, there is nothing to suggest color trends developed in a similar fashion in pre-Internet days, although there is ample evidence trends existed and persisted.</br></br>From a prehistoric perspective, color trends developed as colors were discovered and put into use. <a title="Pigments through the Ages" href="http://www.webexhibits.org/pigments/intro/history.html" target="_blank">This amazing chart</a> outlines when dozens of pigments were introduced throughout history. But, once the colors were discovered (or created), what happened next?</br></br>In early history, colors traveled in fashion, art and through transport and sale of the pigments themselves. Trends developed in a more localized way, which made such occurrences more noticeable.</br></br><strong>A Notable Historical Color Trend</strong></br></br>One color trend that’s easier to follow than most is that of “Egyptian blue” (called <em>caeruleum</em> by the Romans) because <a title="Chemistry World" href="http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2015/09/egyptian-blue-pigment-winner-science-communication-competition" target="_blank">history marks when and where the pigment was created</a>, where it spread and when it fell out of use.</br></br>How do we know? First, the earliest recorded use comes from Egypt in 2600 B.C., but the more interesting thing is that its composition was one of a kind; so unique that other examples throughout the Middle East and the expanse of ancient Rome are thought to be same recipe.</br></br>What’s more, that recipe was lost around 332 B.C. and couldn’t be replicated because certain necessary compounds vanished (and remain lost, even to this day). So, unless another culture discovered it at the same time, though with no record of doing so, Egypt was the only source.</br></br>This unique set of circumstances has allowed scientists to track the Egyptian blue color trend – a very culturally significant color – through areas of the world that very likely couldn’t produce it, but yet loved to use it.</br></br>So, you could say Egyptian blue was a pretty trendy color for its time, and got around quite a bit despite a serious lack of Internet reception. Pretty cool, right?
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