Movie Posters Show Our Changing Color Bias Over the Years

Software engineer Vijay Pandurangan had a theory, that turned into an experiment, that ultimately turned into some pretty interesting results. His theory was that over the years our color bias, specifically where movie posters are concerned, has gone more dark and blue. To test this he analyzed 35,000 posters from 1914 to present day and came up with the visual representation pictured above.

Each row represents a year and is organized by color according to the standard spectrum (ROYGBV… indigo got the boot a while back). As you can see, he was right: going down the rows it’s obvious that we’ve steadily increased the use of dark, blue colors.

The results are interesting not only because it shows our cultural color bias changing, but because we’d love to see a similar study done with photography. The gradual move from black-and-white to color, the improvement of our ability to capture color, and now the general move back towards the “lo-fi” analog look of years past would be interesting to see charted in a similar way.

If you’re interested in seeing the full results, including an interactive version, head over to his blog for a more in-depth look at the experiment.

(via The Verge)

  • Zak Henry

    It would be interesting to see how the colour bias has changed for films themselves. There is a lot of skew in film posters because of the titles which isn’t as representative of the photography

  • kendon

    no movies in 1924?

  • rtfe

    colors have changed along with styles. remember the earth tones, puke color greens, oranges of the 1970’s? each decade holds its unique color patterns which makes sense that movie posters change with the times. 

  • Tarwin Stroh-Spijer

    I wonder how this takes into account the printing / reproduction technologies of the time. Also, how about ageing? You’re going to lose blues a lot faster than you will reds.

  • alex

    The Kaiser stole them.

  • Marc

    Colour reproduction was in a formative state in the 60s and 70s – the Kodak bias captured reds and golds very well, blues less so. And in print technologies the blue gamut has always been one of the most difficult. 70s color also wasn’t UV stable so colour repro tended to decay to greens and yellows.

  • Patricia S. Berrios

    with the visual representation pictured above.

  • rtfe

    there’s no disputing technical film aspects and stabilities of color film. i was stating that popular culture, more specifically popular colors of the time, also dictate everything from cars, sofas, kitchen ware, and movie posters. interior design, graphic design, industrial design, and fine art of a particular time set are balanced on colors of that present moment. while film stock plays an important role in color, film posters are also following protocols of what is popular in the color gamut.

  • John Webb

    Waddaya mean..”indigo got the boot”? Rainbow always was Richard Of York Gained Battle In Vain.

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