The power of colour and its effect on us

Red can bring about energy and productivity while too much yellow can (to some people's surprise) cause depression

Black may well be the number one colour in fashion, but did you know that there's an entire field of study that believes wearing black all day can leave you drained and exhausted?

And, that’s just the beginning. If you want your HR department to reassure your staff, it needs to sport the colour green. If you want your finance department to crunch those numbers quickly and accurately, and to retain focus, then blue is the colour to kit your accountants out in.

If you’re stuck on how to decorate your dining room, fall back on orange: whether you use orange flowers on the table or incorporate the colour in your cutlery or placemats, it is said to simulate hunger in people and will help dinner guests to find their appetites. And too much yellow – despite the automatic assumption that it’s a fun, happy, sun-kissed colour – can cause depression.

“I find this fascinating; how every colour and hue can affect every area of your life,” says Fatima Al Shirawi, the savvy Emirati entrepreneur behind colour consultancy firm The Gracious F.

Colour, says Al Shirawi, has a profound effect on human behaviour. “Colour theory is based on two factors: the effect of an individual hue on a person’s mood and the environment, and the harmony that exists between a group of colours,” she says.

The Gracious F analyses these factors and runs a diagnostic test – a skin tone test or personality test – which then places the individual into a particular colour group.

What you’re left with is an explanation of what your power colours are, from the clothes you wear to the shades in which to decorate your residential or corporate space. The end result, according to this philosophy is that you gain a greater understanding of who you are and what works best for you.

It’s a formula that has worked wonders for Al Shirawi. A sociology and marketing graduate from George Washington University, she has always had a passion for colours. “Growing up, I used to love painting all the time, and I would always pick the colours I wanted to paint with before deciding on a subject or on what I would be painting,” she says.

"I'd pick the colours based on my mood, but then the colours I chose would change and affect my mood as well. After studying at Italy's Polimoda Fashion School and the London College of Fashion, Al Shirawi qualified as a colour consultant, at the Colour Affects Institute in the UK.

“It’s fascinating how much you can learn about yourself when you understand what colours you’re drawn to and what these colours represent,” says Al Shirawi.

“I started applying everything I learned to my personal life.”

Today, her bedroom is a mix of pink, grey and teal blue, representing love, escape and productivity. There is always a red item on her desk, to bring energy and prosperity.

If she knows she will be having a stressful day, she wears green to keep her calm and soothed. But what of wearing a black abaya every day?

“What counts is what you wear underneath the abaya, and what colours are closest to your skin – those are the colours you take vibrations from,”
she says.

From her company in Dubai, Al Shirawi’s work involves one-on-one personal consultations as well as workshops, public speaking events and brand collaborations.

During one of her more recent workshops, Al Shirawi talked the Sharjah Business Women Council to show women entrepreneurs and business owners how they can use certain hues to influence people's perceptions of their brands and their performance.


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“During these types of workshop, we establish which individuals relate best to which colours and show them how colour choice can positively impact their business operations. This can be through the space where they work, the clothes they wear or the key locations where they spend most of their time,” she says.

Participants are told which unique colour palette applies to them, and how it might be used to enhance their personal and professional lives.

In terms of business, colour can also affect profitability accordig to colour consultants through providing workspaces that improve employees’ productivity and sense of well-being.

Colours can also have an effect on the quality of products and services when linked to branding, packaging, web design, logos and office interiors.

Al Shirawi says: “The use of colour in our everyday lives can have a profound effect on our attitudes and moods and the way we see the world in terms of clarity and inspiration, which all have an effect on the day-to-day running of a business.”