The Resonance Color System (RCS) provides a fresh perspective on color harmony. Several aspects of color were taken into consideration when forming the hypothesis for this system, including:
how we choose, use and combine color,
the concept and application of the rules of color harmony,
the history of the color spectrum,
our ability to accurately produce and match colors,
personal color in fashion,
3-dimensional color systems,
the advent of digital color.
the personal color philosophy
The concept and application of personal color was based in part on the work of Johannes Itten and later expanded by Susanne Caygill. It was popularized in the 1980s by the wildly successful book by one of Caygill’s students, Carole Jackson. The idea is that there are certain very specific colors that not only enhance how we look and feel, but to which we are naturally and intuitively drawn.
The notion has been copied, reconfigured, updated, expanded, reinvented and refined since the 80s into a variety of formats, with very different parameters about which colors belong to which groups. There is an impressive body of work on the subject by world-renowned color experts – including Leatrice Eiseman, Pantone’s longtime spokesperson – each offering their thoughtful solutions to the color and people connection. Of particular note, in The Beginner’s Guide to Colour Psychology, Angela Wright made two incisive contributions: she found a correlation between personality type and an individual’s preferred color group, and she pointed out the difference between cultural color symbolism and color psychology.
The unsolved problem left by these trailblazers is that there is neither consistency nor a clear pattern among the colors assigned to each of the groups from one author/practitioner to another, even taking into consideration their parameters for each grouping. This problem is clearly visible in an analysis of color groupings – which is now possible with the advent of computerized 3-D color mapping, a relatively recent technology.
3-D color models
"a rational way to describe color" – Albert Munsell
The theory of personal color was the point of departure for the RCS hypothesis, but 3-D models such as Munsell, NCS and RAL were essential as analytical tools to discern any patterns. These color models take the traditional two-dimensional color wheel and expand it into three dimensions. Even though there are variations in the set-up of these models, the concept of 3-D color was essential to the creation of RCS, as all 3-D models visually embody how color 'behaves' as it flows from one hue to another.
RCS is structured within the cie LAB model – the largest and most accurate device independent model currently available – which provides a means of viewing thousands of colors at once, and to analyze their inherent patterns.
the Resonance Color System (RCS) creation process
An overarching concept present in the majority of personal color theories is the dual notion of color temperature and clarity: warm vs cool colors and muted vs clear colors. This concept was the basis for the initial hypothesis of the Resonance Color System (RCS).
The process began with some basic decisions. First, the number of hues or color families. For several logical reasons, 10 hues were initially settled upon: red, orange, yellow, yellow-green, green, blue-green, blue, indigo blue, purple and magenta. White, gray, black, olive and brown were added into the RCS spectrum later. Then, it was decided that every color grouping must include variations of each of the hues ranging from relative lightness to brightness and darkness – a departure from personal color models. Finally, each color sample would be considered with its location in a 3-D color model in mind, as a logical flow of color in 3-D colorspace was also part of the hypothesis.
Early in the process of sorting the initial 8,000 color chips it became clear that two temperatures and two levels of clarity/resolution were insufficient. A 'balanced' temperature and an 'intermediate' clarity/resolution value were added. A database of the sorted color chips was created and then uploaded to 3-D color space software, which allowed the visualization and analysis the data.
And there it was: a pattern, so obviously, so logically clear!
Over the next two and a half years, the process of mapping out each of the groupings (Color Zones) and creating the structure for the system itself included minutely defining boundary placements. This was achieved by adding, checking and testing 2,000 colors at a time until it was absolutely clear at what point red ceases to be red and becomes magenta, or blue becomes purple, yellow becomes orange, for example. Another 8,000 colors were added in this manner, for a grand total of 16,000 color chips sorted and checked individually.
The end result is the Resonance Color System: a logically structured color model which includes both the concept and language of color resonance – a deeper perspective on color far beyond color harmony.