We Are Living in a Greyer World

BY ROXY ALLNUTT

It’s time to rethink the way consumerism has suppressed culture and personality.

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2 OCT - 2022

My next car is going to be hot pink.

We aren’t living in a wild phenomenon where humans stop perceiving colour. We are talking about mass consumerism and the decline in culture that has been noticeably linked to colour being lost.

These are comparisons between the ‘modern homes’ of the 70s and 80s compared to the modern homes of today.

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A new research group used machine learning to track colour changes in everyday materials and items. These items ranged from furniture items to house appliances. Above are their findings for all colour changes over time. They used 7000+ items from the 1800s to now to determine colour changes in the most common items. You can see in this graph that colour is quite literally disappearing from the world.

Are people afraid to stand out? We New Zealanders are no strangers to the pervasiveness of the colour black.

Below are the colours of cars by year. Notice how the majority of cars are grey, white, or black compared to twenty years ago? What the heck happened to purple cars? The last time I was at the dealership with my partner for the same exact model of his charcoal car, the red version was $2000 cheaper. I regret to inform you that he did go with the $2k more expensive option. But I want everyone to know I drove a turquoise blue car for years. Just doing my part.

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Car colours over the years

There's a great programme called "Big Dreams, Tiny Spaces" where Britain's finest gardener travels to people's houses and helps them create their ideal garden. Colours, textures, feature walls, all of it. In the two seasons, not a single person addressed the resale value of their property. It was refreshing. They genuinely want to make their homes their happy place, filled with nothing but things they love that deserve a spot.


Carpets have equally had the same treatment of grey added to their history. The most common colours for carpets are now grey or beige. I wonder if so much of this estrangement is on purpose, as it likely also drives consumption. Traditionally, home decoration is a labour of love and community/family. The modern American or Kiwi “equivalent” is a temporary product meant to be changed seasonally and micro-seasonally to drive consumption.

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Even locations that used to scream with colour for decades have now been modernised to become boring minimalists (and I love minimalism). It is fascinating how big businesses are losing their cookie-cutter (lacking in individuality) look as they streamline towards this minimalist style with the rest of the world. By comparing these logos to their new logos, you can also see the fashion industry taking part in this minimalist face to be more easily consumed.

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70s McDonalds

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Modern McDonalds

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Modernisation of brands

You can look at any culture around the world, past or present, and find the use of the colour. Humans have always been drawn to colour. It has significant emotional meaning, and it also reflects the environment in which we live. Developments and neighbourhoods are now meant to be as plain as possible for the next renter, buyer, or investor. The more generic it is, the more consumers it can be sold to.


But I won't lie, I love my neutral home, and I think that I will continue to love this aesthetic for a while longer. I wonder if I desire a neutral home because I have so much stress and stimulation in my life. Maybe Gwenyth Paltrow's fortress is dressed in 3-4 shades of sandy beige because she needs a lack of colour in her environment. After all, we are all bombarded with colours all day online. Advertisements, TV, and apps are highly stimulating. Maybe I’d be stressed without my serene bare escape to take refuge from the assault of overstimulation that comes with living in the digital age.


Picturing our world without colour, a world in which everything or almost everything is monochrome. It seems like a movie or a nightmare. But the proof is there, as decades go by, things are getting greyer. This research has irritated me enough to rethink the way consumerism persuades me and its suppression of culture and originality.


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Bottom line, I think my next car will need to be hot pink and my kitchen cabinets sage green.

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