Miscellaneous Ramblings

What Your Computer's Color Says About You

Charles Moore - 2001.07.30 - Tip Jar

I'm intensely interested in color and color preferences, and I'vebeen wondering whether Apple's shift away from bright candy colors andtoward more basic colors like white, gray, and metallic, denotes ashift in marketing demographic focus.

Personally, while I don't dislike bright colors in certain contexts,I was never a big fan of them for computers. I find that I tend to getjaded and bored with even bright colors that like, if I have to look atthem continuously.

For example, I have a blueberry iMac USB keyboard that I use quite abit, and I'm getting very tired of that color. I find the crystal clearplastic of the Apple Pro keyboard that shipped with my Cube much easieron the eyes, and I suspect that I will never get tired of it.

The only colorful colored computer left in Apple's lineup is theindigo iMac, a pretty safe choice, since indigo iMacblue is the favorite color of about two thirds of thepopulation. Indigo is a relatively subdued shade of blue, and thatshould make it less likely to become tiresome over the long haul.

However, my favorite iMac is snow. I love white decor, which goeswith everything, and unlike beige or other pastels, it never getsboring. White reflects all light rays and is consequently cooling andrestful. White's iBookmain shortcoming is that it soilseasily, but that has been taken care of with the iBook by having the white color painted ontothe inside of the clear Lexan case, where it can't getgrubby.

Graphite is nice, too, and should continue to appeal to its presumedtarget market - "serious" commercial or business users. The Power MacG4 towers, of course, incorporate both white and graphite, as well asclear accents, which makes a very attractive combination.

I think that Apple is missing the boat a bit by not offering anyblack computers since the TiBooksuperseded the Pismo PowerBook. I likeblack, although I have never found the flat, charcoal-shaded blackused on the PowerBook G3 Seriesespecially fetching.

I would prefer a high gloss, jet black of the sort that would beobtainable by, say, using black rather than white paint on the insideof the clear Lexan case of the new iBook.

I always thought that the idea of an "8 Ball" iMac had merit, but ifthe world unfolds as expected, the current iMac form factor is likelynow reaching the end of its run.

The code name chosen for the next PowerBook revamp, "Onyx," is veryinteresting, since onyx can refer to jet black (although strictlyspeaking, the mineral onyx is a form of chalcedony with alternatingstripes). But since the TiBook is painted, a black version should bevery easily doable, although one hopes that they will be able to dealwith the issue of paint chipping and wearing off that has plagued someTiBook owners. Reportedly, Steve Jobs wanted the TiBook to be black allalong, so this concept seems very plausible. I hope they will go forgloss black if they do it.

Color preferences are said to be an indicator of personalitycharacteristics.


"White" people are, it is asserted, inclined to see themselves asvery special and sort of above it all. Watching others with interest,they camouflage themselves to blend in with their surroundings. Theytend to appear shy, but they are in fact very outspoken when given anopening. They are confident and assured in their self-awareness, feelthey are right in their belief systems, and are not displeased whenothers acknowledge their beliefs as truth. Self-importance is integralto their personality but does not necessarily interfere with theirhigher motives; it can be both a positive or negative attributedepending upon the individual.

According to Taoist philosophy, a preference for white indicates a"metal" psyche. "Metal people" are fastidious perfectionists,discriminating masters of form and function who admire precisedefinition, structure, and discipline, as well as virtue, discretion,and authority. Their central desire is to live according to reason andprinciple, and they tend to be impatient with vagueness and intuition.The "metal person" holds both self and others to the highest ofstandards and has a weakness for aesthetic beauty, pomp and ceremony,form and order, and refinement. Metal's negative characteristicsinclude tendencies to indifference and inhibition, and the metal personcan easily become autocratic, gratuitously strict, persnickety,unnecessarily formal, distant and unnatural, and must guard againstself-righteousness and disillusionment.

Metal's creative tensions are found in:

  • wanting relationship - but needing distance
  • knowing what is right - but accepting what is safe
  • aspiring toward beauty - but settling for utility
  • desiring joy - but fearing spontaneity
  • admiring creativity and ingenuity - but being intolerant ofdisorder and dissonance.

The metal psyche's existential query is "What is right?" Itsemotional addiction is to be right, and its spiritual fear is to becorrupt. Metal's desires and values are order, purity, reason,aesthetics, definition, simplicity, quality, correctness, highstandards, and precision. Its fears and difficulties are intimacy,complexity, chaos, nonsense, spontaneity, carelessness, impropriety,intemperance, vagueness, and shapelessness.


People who prefer black are considered to be above averageachievers, worldly, conventional, proper, polite, and regal. Black isthe color of dignity. "Black" people tend to be methodical folks whosweat the details, and, being somewhat obsessive-compulsive, they excelat painstaking jobs like accounting, tax auditing, or detective work.They always finish what they start and don't aspire to be leaders; theyare diligent "fixers" who home in on the essence of problems and dealwith them.

In personal traits, people who like black are self-contained and donot like to be touched. They erect barriers between themselves andothers, keeping their strength hidden inside so that they can betterprotect their emotions, fearing that their sensitivity might be used totake advantage of them despite their desire to connect with the worldaround them.

For these people, black is a "comfort" color that makes them feel atease and allows them to hide from world.

Attributes of black include negativity or the removal of negativity,outer space, the universe, night, fertility, wisdom, sadness, mourning,loss, death, discord, confusion, fear and evil. Black is the absence ofcolor, absorbing all the light of the spectrum making it the polaropposite of white.

In oriental philosophy, the "water" psyche favors black, gray, andother dark colors.

Taoist theory describes "water people" as philosophical,nonconformist intellectuals whose passion is the relentless pursuit oftruth. They tend to be imaginative, articulate, self-contained andself-sufficient, introspective, reflective, clever, penetrating,critical, and scrutinizing. The water psyche seeks knowledge andunderstanding, and prefers to remain hidden, enigmatic, and anonymous.Water's negative aspects include a disposition toward being distant,emotionally inaccessible, and undemonstrative. This reserve can lead toisolation and loneliness, tactlessness, unwillingness to forgive, and asuspicious - even paranoid - state of mind.

Water's creative tensions are:

  • a yearning for truth - but a fear of exposure
  • a craving for connection - but an intolerance of contact
  • a desire to be squeezed - but a fear of being squashed
  • wants to penetrate inside - but detests being absorbed
  • enjoys being left alone - but dreads being abandoned.

The water psyche's existential query is "Where do I come from?" Itsemotional addiction is to be protected, and its spiritual fear is ofbecoming extinct. Water's desires and values are solitude, mystery,continuity, originality, toughness, self-sufficiency, privacy,anonymity, caution, and conservation. It's fears and difficulties aresharing, rashness, vulnerability, ignorance, dishonesty,superficiality, trusting, faith, exposure, waste, and softness.


Blue signifies constancy and truth. It is the favorite color of 35%of the U.S. population. Blue is tender, soothing, cool, passive, secureand comfortable, inspiring calm, confidence and harmony, a sense ofcontrol and responsibility. and appeals to people who valuecredibility, authority, the basics, classicism, conservatism, strength,dependability, traditionalism, confidence, professionalism, sensitivityto others, trust and honor, responsibility, and who tend to have aperfectionist streak.

A strong sky-blue is considered to be the most soothing color ofall, stimulating the brain to secrete eleven neurotransmitters thattranquilize and spread calmness to the entire body. Blue is alsothought to slow down the pulse rate, deepen one's breathing, reduceperspiration, lower body temperature, eliminate the fight or flightresponse, and reduce appetite.

People who prefer blue are said to be deliberate and introspectivewith conservative convictions, inclined to retreat to safe surroundingsin times of stress and sensitive to the feelings of others. They tendto be distrustful of others and carefully watch them. "Blue people"keep a tight lid on their own passions and enthusiasms, are loyalfriends, and lead sober, orderly lives. They may cultivate imaginativefantasies, but they don't act them out. They are annoyed by stupidityand frivolousness in others, as well as superior intelligence. Theywear their feelings on their shoulders, crying when they are happy orsad and thus leaving themselves wide open to others in contrast to theself-contained, inscrutable "black" people. Blue people arecodependents who need others to feel as they do

Some attributes of blue are love, devotion, harmony. healing, peace,psychic ability, patience, happiness, sleep, twilight, and the sky.

In Taoist analysis, a preference for blue (or blue-green) denotes a"wood psyche." Wood individuals tend to be dynamic, practical,impatient achievers, pioneers and innovators who are determined to makethings happen. The wood personality's strengths are clarity of vision,foresight, judgment, and decisiveness. "Wood people" seek challenge andpush to the limit, enjoying pressure and working well under it,admiring speed, novelty, and skill, loving action, movement, andadventure, and liking to be first, best, and only. The negative side ofthe wood character profile includes tendencies toward intolerance andimpatience, impulsiveness and volatile emotions, a weakness foraddictions, and extremism - self-indulgence or self-punishment.

The inner creative tensions affecting "wood people" are thatthey:

  • like to be in charge - but miss the companionship of equals
  • love action and doing - but sometimes suffer from theirimpulsiveness
  • tend to be legalistic - but like to break rules
  • crave freedom - but have a need to strive and struggle
  • feel invincible - but fear vulnerability and loss of control

The wood psyche's existential query is "What is the purpose?" itsemotional addiction is to be aroused, and its spiritual fear is to behelpless. Wood's desires and values are: struggle, action, arousal,practicality, uniqueness, challenge, achievement , agility,interdependence, and contest. Wood's fears and difficulties are with:slowness, clumsiness, ambiguity, interference, authority, compromise,frustration, constancy, submitting, and confinement.


And what of beige, which mercifully hasn't been seen on a Mac sincethe blue & white G3 Yosemite towersuperseded the first generation G3desktops in January, 1998?

Some people actually like beige computers. Check out this AnchorDesk talkback thread on ZDNet where software Engineer K. JohnHladky notes that:

This light brown, with just a hint of gray color was chosen becauseit is the exact color of (drumroll please...) DUST. That's right,computers are beige because nobody, (or in the early days - nobody'swife) wants a dusty old computer sitting around... So, bottom line is,I like my beige PC because it hides dust and keeps me out of troublewith my wife!

Right, John. That's mighty sporty of you.

However, John has a valid point if you're a utilitarian. Beige islight brown, which is considered to be environmentally sound, andoffers a healthy ensphere or enclosure in which to work, play, sleep,and generally perform common metabolic functions, and is thought toinfluence the internal organs and mind positively as well as impartinga sense of security, dispelling mental depression; promoting synthesisof serotonin; reducing irritability, eliminating chronic fatigue;stimulating the formation of prostaglandins (hormone-like substances inthe tissues and blood fluids); increasing levels of tryptophan (anessential amino acid) levels that positively influence sleep, migraineheadaches, immunity and moods.

People who prefer beige tend to perform their dutiesconscientiously, are shrewd money managers, obstinate in their habitsand convictions, and have a tendency toward thriftiness orparsimoniousness, depending on which spin you want to put on it. Theyvalue steadiness and dependability, dislike impulsiveness and areeffective hagglers and shrewd bargainers.

Is it any wonder business people tend to prefer beige computers?;-)

For more on color and color preferences, visit:

If you are interested in learning more about personality analysis inTaoist philosophy, here are the resources I consulted in researchingthis article:

I am especially indebted to Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold,and their volume, BetweenHeaven and Earth: A GUI (Ballantine, 1992), for their comprehensiveoutline and analysis of the five personality archetypes (the other twoare: "Fire"/Red); and "Earth"/Yellow-Ochre)

Other resources consulted were:

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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