20 March 2024

On the rainbow spectrum, indigo is a combination of purple or violet and blue.  Since it is a hybrid, it is considered secondary or complementary on the color wheel.  However, whether indigo really belongs here is still up for debate.

Many people cannot actually distinguish the shade.  The brain computes the colors and there can be variances depending on culture, context, previous exposure to the information, and even having the right words to describe it.  (Think of how we name various shades of a single color:  Green:  loden, forest, kelly, mint, etc.)

Back in the 17th Century Sir Isaac Newton (yes, of gravity fame) realized that light presents a full spectrum of colors when divided through a prism.  He is the individual who decided that the color array would be divided into seven names.  Fun fact:  He chose seven because he thought it was a “magic” number and was similar to the musical scale which has seven tones or notes.  Okay, in western culture we have musical octaves or eight tones, but we only have names for seven with Do as the repeated name for the last note.

At the time Newton made his pronouncement, indigo was a hot commodity.  It is a natural dye extracted from plant leaves grown in the tropics.  A substance is extracted and then sold to people who add something like lye or another chemical.  Use of the dye and color were extremely popular when Newton was around, so it makes sense that he would recognize the shade and name it.

Indigo, color, history

The word actually comes from Greek indikon, which means India.

Some theorize that we should name the rainbow colors purple, blue, aqua, green, yellow, orange, and red.  Another option is to eliminate indigo entirely, leaving with a spectrum of only six colors.  Except that it does make sense when each of the adjacent primary colors are combined, then blue and violet would make another color, like when yellow and red (both considered primary colors) are combined to make orange (what we call a secondary color).  What do you think?

It is thought that certain colors affect our feelings.  Indigo is a color associated with New Age.  It connotes the ability to increase perception and to call on intuition.  Close to purple it reflects power and justice.  It also craves organization, traditions, and conforming to the norm.

People who lean toward indigo as their favorite color are generally found to be compassionate and have integrity as a strong motivator.  You enjoy learning and are very organized.

If you are thinking about using indigo as part of your logo, business cards, website or other applications, realize that it is a very strong color and can indicate sincerity of your organization.  It can symbolize high ideals.  However, not everyone will be a fan.  To some people it will seem morose and gloomy.  So, if you are trying to make yourself or your company look solid and caring, it is a good color.  However, if you are trying to add pizzazz and excitement to your image, you should keep looking for a better color.

Fun facts about this color include:

  • Egyptian mummies have been found wrapped in indigo dyed cloths.
  • The oldest indigo-dyed fabric was found in Huaca Prieta, Peru.
  • In Japan fire fighters wear jackets made from highly absorbent indigo cotton material. Before entering a burning building, the jackets are drenched with water to allow the thick padding to be very, very wet plus provide some cushioning from falling objects.
  • The Indigofera Tinctoria plant is a homeopathic treatment as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent.

The next time you see a rainbow or refract light through a prism, see if you can pick out indigo.

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