Friday, April 28, 2006


Has anyone else out there experienced a strong association between number and color? I have, for as long as I can remember, and it's only recently struck me that it might me a little bit strange. It's a generally-apprehensible and immediate association. Not a methodical, conscious mapping of an integer to a specific color, but more an aggregate perceptual result; distillable, usually, to a feeling aptly described in terms such as "cold" and "warm", from which I can then discern component colors. It came up early tonight, when I was taking down a phone number. My impulse was to mention that the number was very warm, but with a notable cut, an orangish-red with a silvery presence. I thought, though, that the comment may not have been all that contextually consistent: the pitcher doesn't generally throw from out in left field.

I first really noticed it with phone numbers. Like my old cell number, 734-649-4910. It's a pretty cold number, greys and greens and blues, with a little warmth at the tip, maybe a flash of red. But my old, old house number, 938-1498, now that's a warm number. Reds, golds, neutrals. The home number of a few years back: 935-3682. Maybe not quite the warmth of the previous, more neutral: yellow-red with green-blue-grey, but for some reason, the yellow-red is dominant. Warmest of all, the current cell: 733-8039. Lots of red and orange, bright, but not overpowering.

So what's the basis? Which number gets pinned with which color? Not entirely sure, I. And I've never really tried to articulate the match for each digit with a specific color. Maybe now's the time. Here goes nothing:

0 = White. Expansive, all-encompassing, radiant. Can form a base, backdrop.
1 = Black. Not too dominant. Never forms a base, always influences.
2 = Tough one... this and six. Not sure, definitely something of the blue or green or grey variety. Inoffensive.
3 = Red. Slightly muted, but surely red.
4 = Probably blue. Not a cobalt blue, but with a little bit of green tint.
5 = Desaturated orange. Something appropriate to stucco in Florida.
6 = Also tough. I want to say green-grey, but light.
7 = Sea green.
8 = Yellow. Slight orange hue.
9 = Silvery grey. Maybe a little green, depending on the light.

There you have it. I've looked it over a few times, and it actually seems right. Weird! You wouldn't believe how many phone numbers, PIN numbers, and physics constants I've remembered because of this. Is there a logic? Initially, I thought there might be an even-odd split, but if one establishes three color categories as yellow-orange-red, green-blue, and greyscale, the numeric participation is, repsectively, 3-5-8, 2-4-6-7-(9), 0-1-(9). What's the pattern, aside from the obvious 1-0, black-white duality? Does it make sense to anyone? Is there someone out there who can provide a plausible explanation? Until then, forever curious, baffled, entertained, and fascinated shall I remain!


Anonymous YDizzle said...

This blog has been brought to us by the number 3: "Red. Slightly muted, but surely red." I feel warmth.

8:18 AM  
Blogger David said...


10:27 AM  
Blogger beef said...

Hey this sounds like synesthesia to me. Kandisnsky had it. A good friend of mine also has it, and when she sees numbers and letters she also "experiences" specific colors associated with each one. I don't know why this happens, but apparantly it can happen with other senses - like some people taste shapes. I haven't been able to wrap my head around that one.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whose phone number were you taking down? i hope she was cute....

10:34 AM  
Blogger David said...

re. beef: I've heard about synesthesia, but never for numbers. One of my friends could actually see different colors around different people. heya.

re. number: of course.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Specifically, CHROMESTHESIA.

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Other Dave said...

I've heard of the number thing before. It's apparently one of the more common synesthesia forms. I get vivid, distinct, consistent color patterns from music, but I just attribute that to secretly being a hippy.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous SRoot - Root with a Smile said...

do you find avagadro's number harder to remember than other constants?

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

elvin jones saw geometrical shapes when he played

2:14 PM  
Blogger JP said...

my thought, up until you did the number by number analysis at the end is that there was something perhaps abstractly locating itself with the shape of the numbers. more angular numbers, more sharp edges = colder colors, while more circular numbers translated to more warmer colors.... why 733-8039, with only one angular number seems much more warm than 734-649-4910 with three angular 4s, a 7, and a 1.

Am i insane?

Hope all is well in NYC. I miss Luther in my life. - Peters

7:08 PM  

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