All posts tagged “Science”

Biochemist to Barista: The New Scoops: Jack Benchakul’s journey from science to specialty coffee, which he now serves up in LA’s Chinatown

Biochemist to Barista: The New Scoops

by Chérmelle D. Edwards

Nearly three years ago, biochemist Jack Benchakul switched professions and became a barista. Applying science to the craft of specialty coffee, he’s popped up in in at least 10 Los Angeles locations since then. Under the……

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10 cool Christmas gift ideas for science geeks

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Is your friend a science geek? Are you wondering what to gift your friend on this beautiful occasion of Christmas? Then wonder no more because here we have a collection of cool science themed goodies that will blow your friend’s mind. Inspired with biology and natural history, the below products are designed especially for science […]

The post 10 cool Christmas gift ideas for science geeks appeared first on Design daily news.

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Watch the magic of sound and science in ‘Cymatics’

Tallying up nearly two million views across Vimeo and YouTube in two weeks, my favorite thing on the internet today is still “Cymatics,” a music video from Nigel Stanford from his new album Solar Echoes. Stanford put together a series of science experiments that demonstrate how sound can move matter around and combined them into a pretty solid music track and a very awesome video. As explained in the making-of post, Stanford and director Shahir Daud filmed the demonstrations first and then took the sound that made them and created the track with it second — but don’t let that take away from the magic here. The magic is science, and also the magic is a dude wearing full-body chain mail Faraday suit getting zapped with a Tesla coil while…

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New online series investigates the science of creativity

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Tiffany Shlain looks at how technology and science is influencing our creativity

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Link About It: This Week’s Picks : The New Yorker’s archives freely unfold, space plant photography, the science behind tattoos and more in our weekly look at the web

Link About It: This Week's Picks

1. Opening The New Yorker Archives With the launch of their redesign and in preparation for their upcoming pay wall, The New Yorker has opened up its archives free to the public—temporarily. All issues from 2007…

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The Science of Happy Design

There’s plenty of research on ways that technology negatively impacts our lives, yet very little on how design – an integral part of that technology – might positively impact us. Pamela Pavliscak, a speaker at the upcoming conference Madison + UX, shares a research project that shows how a positive design can benefit our overall happiness.

The post The Science of Happy Design appeared first on UX Booth.

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The Science of Happy Design

There’s plenty of research on ways that technology negatively impacts our lives, yet very little on how design – an integral part of that technology – might positively impact us. Pamela Pavliscak, a speaker at the upcoming conference Madison + UX, shares a research project that shows how a positive design can benefit our overall happiness.

The post The Science of Happy Design appeared first on UX Booth.

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The Science Behind Color and Emotion

color emotion

Color resonates with people in different ways. We all have a favorite color or color that we use more during specific periods of life. But the color you use in a design project can say a lot about the work itself. That’s a scientific fact.

The science behind our emotional connections to color is a complicated one. But it is becoming more clear through anecdotal knowledge and scientific experimentation. Here are five hypotheses and a fifth-grade level experiment you can try to help us better design with color and understand its emotional impact.

We Might Be Hardwired for Certain Hues

color emotion

Is it possible that our brains are wired to like (or dislike) certain colors? It all relates to emotion responses when we see color. A study by Wellesley College researchers Stoughton and Bevil Conway links neural processes to color.

Conway, who is also an artist, is using his research to determine how the brain processes color and impacts our feelings about it. “I think it’s a very powerful system,” Conway said in an interview with Co.Design, “and it’s completely underexploited.”

The study further relates some of the things we already know – color context changes based on other colors in the field of vision and that emotion is a big factor when thinking about color.

The study found that “globs” in the brains of monkeys reacted differently to colored stimuli, and reacted based on color. The brain was most triggered by specific colors (red, then green, then blue) and colors with the most saturation. What this tells us is that these colors immediately impact a user and draw attention.

This work has significant implications for the creative community. “To the extent that anyone would find it informative to know how the nervous system works, and through that would gain an appreciation for these phenomena, I think artists and designers could benefit,” Conway said in the Co.Design interview. “This provides them with another lens through which to consider what they’re doing when they make those kinds of choices.”

Color Impacts Cognitive Performance

color emotion

Can color impact your ability to create? According to a study by researchers at the University of British Columbia, red can focus and help make a person’s work more accurate while blue can spur creativity.

While this on its face is fascinating, the results are harder for designer to use. The study really only looked at the colors red and blue. (Six hundred people participated in visual tests with words and images against red, blue or neutral backgrounds.)

But it does reinforce some of what we historically know about the colors. Red is a color of stimulation, while blue is more relaxing and calming. Could that have something to do with it?

It’s also important to consider context. Looking at words and images in an isolated environment can be different that when you are trying to connect a user to a brand, website or package. What this study does tell us is that color is important and even more so is the context used with that hue.

Red Means No

color emotion

While we are thinking about the color red, do you ever think about its almost universal meaning? Across cultures it often represents “no.” A study by researchers at Dartmouth College found that is common emotional association to red may be innate.

A study involving monkeys found that the animals avoided humans who wore red (versus green or blue). “We – primates and then humans – are very visual,” neuroscientist Jerald Kralik said about the experiment. He further explained that color provides cues for everything from what is ok to eat to determining how others feel in different situations. “We start to see that color may have a deeper and wider-ranging influence on us than we have previously thought.”

This study provides a useful bit for designers – color can have impacts that even users don’t understand. Common associations (such as red meaning to stop or halt) should be taken into consideration.

Color Impacts Intuition

color emotion

The research into color is not a new phenomenon. It can be traced to works that are hundreds of years old. One of the most relevant today remains “Theory of Colours” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which was first published in 1810.

While this was not a “scientific work” per se, it set the course for much of what we know about color and the basis for future research.

Goethe published one of the first color wheels and associated color with more than hue; he also showed psychological impact. His theory about how color impacts our emotions and thoughts is still widely-used and applies to how we think about color.

The book is a great read for anyone with an interest in color theory. Here are some of Goethe’s color specific highlights:

  • Red: “The effect of this colour is as peculiar as its nature. It conveys an impression of gravity and dignity, and at the same time of grace and attractiveness. … History relates many instances of the jealousy of sovereigns with regard to the quality of red. Surrounding accompaniments of this colour have always a grave and magnificent effect.”
  • Yellow: “In its highest purity it always carries with it the nature of brightness, and has a serene, gay, softly exciting character. … State is agreeable and gladdening, and in its utmost power is serene and noble, it is, on the other hand, extremely liable to contamination.”
  • Blue: “As a hue it is powerful — but it is on the negative side, and in its highest purity is, as it were, a stimulating negation. Its appearance, then, is a kind of contradiction between excitement and repose. … As the upper sky and distant mountains appear blue, so a blue surface seems to retire from us.”
  • Green: “If the two elementary colours {yellow and blue} are mixed in perfect equality so that neither predominates, the eye and the mind repose on the result of this junction as upon a simple colour. The beholder has neither the wish nor the power to imagine a state beyond it.”

Logo Color Affects Consumer Habits

color emotion

“The specific colors used in a company’s logo have a significant impact on how that logo, and the brand as a whole, is viewed by consumers,” according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia. The study found specific links and ties to colors within logos and how people felt about those brands.

  • Blue logos invoked feelings of confidence, success and reliability
  • Green logos invoked perceptions of environmental friendliness, toughness, durability, masculinity and sustainability
  • Purple logos invoked femininity, glamor and charm
  • Pink logos gave the perception of youth, imagination and fashion
  • Yellow logos invoked perceptions of fun and modernity
  • Red logos brought feelings of expertise and self-assurance

The findings change some of the ideas that we associated with specific colors. “Of all the feelings associated with logo colors, the feelings associated with red logos were the most surprising,” Ridgway told Science Daily. “Traditional emotions based on red include aggression and romance, but red logos did not invoke those emotions in study participants. This can probably be attributed to the fact that red is used in logos of many well-established brands such as State Farm, McDonalds and ESPN, so consumers have pre-existing emotions associated with brands using that color.”

The question this study holds for designers is “Can we change the preconceived perception of a color?” And is it a chance worth taking?

Experiment for Designers

Determining how a set of colors will impact users of your design is not complicated. This experiment is adapted from a fifth-grade science project idea and is something you can do in the testing phase of any design project.

  • Prepare several versions of the same design with different color schemes.
  • Find a set of volunteers to answer questions about the design on different days.
  • Ask how the person feels about one design each day, showing a different color each time.
  • Compare the results.


Mixing color, science and emotion can be a tricky game. And while science is teaching designers more every day, it’s also opening up more questions about how we see and feel about color.

There are certain colors I still use sparingly in projects and others that I tend to use too much. Personally, I find that I design many times based on my own mood and feelings. (You know those days where you just “feel yellow?”) Regardless, science is a good place to start when asking early questions in the design process: How will users feel about this project and is that the relationship you want to create?

Image Sources: A Guy Taking Pictures and Uwe Hermann

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Design Science: What Is Gestalt Theory?

gestalt theory

If you are like me, it’s been a while since you finished you last formal design class. (And some of us never had any formal design classes.) So a refresher in some of the science behind design seems important. What is gestalt theory and do I really need to understand it?

Today, we’ll focus on one of the guiding principles of design. Gestalt theory is something you likely encounter and use almost every day. But do you understand the theory behind your actions? And how can you make even better use of this concept in your design work?

What is Gestalt Theory

The theory is based on the now and how you perceive things in two parts: Do you see the figure in front of you or the background?

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

That’s the idea behind gestalt theory. The concept is that the mind visually perceives objects in a certain way collectively. When you look at something the mind organizes all of the visual information available into a single whole in an effort to provide meaning to elements in a sea of chaos. The gestalt effect is a ability of the brain to generate whole forms from groupings of lines, shapes, curves and points.

The theory is not a new one. Gestalt dates to the 1890s and has been associated with great names in philosophy and psychology over the years. Gestalt was first introduced by Christian von Ehrenfels and has roots in theories by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Immanuel Kant, and Ernst Mach. The theory is based on the now and how you perceive things in two parts: Do you see the figure in front of you or the background?

How it Works

gestalt theory

Gestalt works because the mind seeks to organize visual information. When visual components are linked by shape, color, size, scale or proximity, they are often collected and interpreted as a single object.

Following the principles of gestalt this happens for one of four reasons:

  • The whole is identified before the parts. The brain identifies the outline and shape of an object to determine what it is rather than “reading” each part on its own.
  • The mind fills in gaps in space to create familiar patterns or objects. Even when an object is visually incomplete, you can often still see what is “supposed to be there.”
  • The mind tries to avoid uncertainty by creating something recognizable. This perception is often based on a person’s experiences and external factors or cues as to what the design is supposed to be.
  • Recognition of similar and different elements regardless of environment. You know what an egg looks like, right? And you would know that item resting vertically or horizontally. This concept applies to how we visually perceive objects that we know and understand.

Gestalt Applications and Principles

When it comes down to really understanding how gestalt works and comes into play, the theory breaks down into six key principles: Similarity, closure, proximity, continuation, symmetry and figure and ground.


gestalt theory

Similarity happens when individual objects have a similar look. Whether it is a common shape or color, this causes the items to be perceived as a unit. When working with similarity, you can bring focus to an object by making it break the pattern and becoming dissimilar. For example, if you are building a grid of squares and include a single circle, that object will become the focal point.


gestalt theory

Open spaces or incomplete objects result in closure because people will see a complete object despite the incomplete space. One of the most common and well-known examples of gestalt and closure is the iconic panda bear logo for the World Wildlife Federation.


gestalt theory

How close elements are to one another can make them seem like a group or single object. Items must be close enough together to feel unified. These shapes, lines or patterns must also form something the eye can understand.


gestalt theory

We talk a lot about direction in design and leading the eye. That’s exactly what the gestalt principle of continuation is. Continuation happens when the eye moves through one object to the next. This often happens thanks to help from a line, curve or space that draws and moves attention succinctly. (Take a look at the Bam Creative logo above to see curves and lines that lead you through a design.)


gestalt theory

When objects align with perfect symmetry, it creates an association to a whole element. Symmetry almost forces us to think about halves and parts, but these things don’t exist without a singular item from which to start.

Figure and Ground

gestalt theory

Where does an object rest in the foreground or background? What part of an image is the most clear? These are the questions that help determine figure (or objects in an image) and ground (background or surrounding space). The balance of figure and ground can create depth, balance and a sense of understanding for the person looking at a visual.

5 Tips for Using Gestalt

gestalt theory

Now that you have a feel for gestalt theory, how can you use it in design projects? It has applications that reach into almost every part of the design process. Gestalt can be applied to individual images, creation of logos and the overall design scheme for almost any project.

I waited until this point to share one of the best-known examples of gestalt theory in the world – the Rubin goblet. What do you see in the photo? A goblet or two faces?

Here are five ways make it work for you:

  1. Define a figure and ground from the start. Whether it is a photo, logo, painting or website wireframe, clearly state what the focal point should be and what should fall behind. Start with that concept and work toward it.
  2. Leave spaces open intentionally. Closure can be a lot of fun to work with. (One of my favorites is the nifty arrow in the FedEx logo.) But you have to make sure that the space works. This means any open spaces should be distraction-free for people who do see the fun trick as well as those people who may not “get it.” Open spaces only work when the end result appears to be what it is supposed to represent.
  3. Use space to your advantage. Working with proximity is one of the easiest and more difficult things to do. (Yes, that does contradict itself.) The trick is near-perfect spacing: Too far away and the items are not associated with one another, too close together and items just look chaotic and messy.
  4. Find similarity in the unexpected. Every designer knows it is easy to group a bunch of squares. But what other similar elements can you group for a more complete and unique effect? In terms of gestalt similar can refer to almost anything visual. Experiment with groupings and create focus with an unexpected use of difference.
  5. Use direction wisely. Place elements with directional cues in locations that lead people to the most important content. It a person in an image is looking to the left, place that image on the right side of the page so the image leads you to the accompanying text. (A left-hand placement of the image has the reader being led off the page.)


While gestalt theory may sound like a complicated concept that would take a semester-long class to understand, it’s not all that bad. Most of the basic ideas are even the basis for things you probably do and teach every day.

What part of gestalt theory is most applicable to your work? What do you love (or hate) about it? Share your thoughts, ideas and projects with us in the comments.

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World Science Festival 2014: Making science accessible and relevant, this year’s program features a civil discussion of the Big Bang, pie-o-physics and Paul Rudd as Einstein

World Science Festival 2014

While the younger generation may have had entertaining outlets like “The Magic School Bus” book series or “Bill Nye the Science Guy” to make science relevant and accessible, lucky New Yorkers of all ages—especially adults—have the …

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