Color is one of the most influential elements that attract us. It is well known that color is number one reason why consumers approach (and often purchase) merchandise.
Thus, for fashion design and retail merchandising professionals, knowledge of color is essential. Almost all functions in the industry require the active use of color, from outfit design to store display. Therefore, all students in fashion and retail programs learn color theories.
The Munsell Color system is widely used when educating the future professionals. The three dimensional Munsell color sphere assists students greatly when they first learn properties of color and their relationships. Sometimes, the terms and relations are so obvious when you see a color chart. But what I often found was that students did not necessarily understand what the properties (e.g., value, intensity, hue) mean clearly and how they could be related. Students usually have more difficulty understanding value and intensity than hues and the charts illustrate these properties very well.
A Color Theory Tool for Fashion & Retail Merchandising Students
The Munsell color charts, particularly the value-intensity changes in a single hue, are a perfect way to study the color properties. Although reviewing the charts and the sphere could be very helpful, many students still failed to understand the concepts because the charts seem very natural. It suggests that students should deliberately evaluate and think while viewing the color charts. Therefore, in order to facilitate student learning, with an instructional designer, I developed an online interactive tool for students using the Munsell color charts. This online learning tool presents a few Munsell color charts in a randomized order. Students play with the tool to find the correct order of color chips and naturally learn the meaning of value and intensity. This is an excellent way to experience the colors while consciously thinking about color properties. Students who complete these online exercises not only gain knowledge but also have fun!
The learning object is available at:
We have implemented this online learning tool and confirmed students indeed understood the concepts better than not using the tool. Also, students positively evaluated the learning experience more than when they learned the color properties through the textbook.
About the Author
Hyunjoo Im, PhD is an assistant professor of Retail Merchandising, College of Design at the University of Minnesota where she teaches retail management, retail promotions, and multichannel consumers. Her research interests include consumer online engagement, visual presentation of online information, and creativity education. She found the power of color in retail and consumer behavior through her experience as a designer and merchandiser, and conducted research investigating effects of color on human behaviors particularly in a retail store setting. Her research has been published in academic journals.