Sunday, January 27, 2013

Color Casts Powerful Messages: Learn how to USE it!

I find as we become more immersed in internet advertising, gaming, social media, and the relaying of information in what we now call "infographics" (a one-page presentation of charts, facts and images), we need to spend more time examining visual literacy - understanding how color, lines, angles, camera shots, and the insertion of short bursts of text so profoundly influence our emotions, our decisions and the inferences we make.

In  previous posts, I have related:
This week, I'd like to demonstrate the awesome power of COLOR.

We use COLOR in our blog, Facebook, Pinterest posts and our kids use it for computer or hand generated school projects. To use and interpret color and color images effectively, we all need to understand how to generate various colors and when best to use each color.

Google defines  COLOR (n.) as  "The property possessed by an object of producing different sensations on the eye as a result of the way it reflects or emits light." According to Wikipedia:
"Color... is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, blue, yellow, green and others. Color derives from the spectrum of light (distribution of light power versus wavelength) interacting in the eye's ... light receptors. Color categories and physical specifications of color are also associated with objects, materials, light sources, etc., based on their physical properties such as light absorption, reflection, or emission spectra."
While "color" is the general term applying to the whole subject, hue, a more specific term refers more accurately to the pure spectrum of colors.  So, when you want to paint a room and you go to the paint store with either an idea in your mind, or a color chip in hand, you find catalogs or visually displayed rows of paint chips organized in groups of hue. Colors that can be produced by a single wavelength, the pure spectral colors, are called HUES. The paint chip hues you see are defined by that company so they know exactly how to reproduce it.

Primary colors are three hues that when mixed together can produce all other hues.  Interestingly, there are three types of primary colors [and click here for a more detailed discussion
  • Painters Primaries -  red, blue, yellow
  • Printers Primaries  -("subtractive colors") CMYK cyan (turquoise), magenta, yellow, black (designated "K" so as not to be confused with blue)
  • Light Primaries - ("additive colors" when used with lights) - red, green, blue-  these are used on computers, for example when colored lights (as opposed to paint pigments) are used.  When all three overlap they produce white (as opposed to black when the other primaries are mixed). 
When mixing hues to produce various colors, not only do we have to mix the pigment or light but we have to consider their "value" (their relative lightness and darkness) and when placing one color next to another, we have to also consider their relative contrast (how clearly the colors stand out from other colors next to them). If values and their contrasts are close, shapes will flatten out and will not stand out from other colors.  If values contrast, shapes will appear to separate in space and stand out one from the other.

There is a whole science to mixing colors and I will leave this for another time. To read more see:
It's important to understand how to generate colors when working on any type of color project or presentation. BUT, equally important is understanding what inferences, emotions, and images these colors relay. Let's look at some basic colors and what they relay [in a future post I'll talk about shading, black, gray, white, and brown]:

Red Before reading this paragraph, look at the image to the left...What feelings or thoughts does it evoke for you?
Typcially, RED  is engaging and emotive. It triggers adrenaline, stimulates the ‘fight or flight’ response, and increases blood pressure, breathing and metabolism.  Red primes attention and creates focus in the brain – and is often used to encourage last-minute purchases. Red is also good for catching people’s attention. It also makes you feel tense and often invokes anxiety. Typically, red evokes passion, energy, blood and war. It is often used in flags and is a symbol of pride and strength.


Orange  and Yellow...  Before reading this paragraph, look at the image to the left...What feelings or thoughts does it evoke for you?

Orange is often the color of flesh, friendly warmth. It evokes feelings of approachability, fun, and informality. It can also suggest something or someone that anyone can approach. Orange is often used to represent fire, the sun, fun, warmth, and tropical images. Orange has been found to increase oxygen supply to the brain and stimulate mental activity.
Yellow is the brightest color to the human eye and the first color a person distinguishes in the brain. It is associated with stress, caution, and apprehension yet it also stimulates a sense of overall hope, happiness, sunshine, and balance.  It is the color of sunshine and so is optimistic, upbeat, and often is associated with ‘modern’ but the energy of yellow can become overwhelming.  This depends on the shade of yellow.
Green Before reading this paragraph, look at the image to the left...What feelings or thoughts does it evoke for you?

Green is also a calming colors and is one of the cool colors. It reduces tension. When we look at green it lowers the histamine levels in our blood which calms us. We associate green with plants, insects and has an overall organic feel to it.  On the other hand, green can also suggest decay (as in fungus and mold), toxicity and artificiality. Green typically represents growth, nature, money, fertility, healing  and safety.
Blue: Before reading this paragraph, look at the image to the left...What feelings or thoughts does it evoke for you?

Blue is another cool color and it is the most tranquilizing color. When we see it, our brain releases 11 different neurotransmitters that relax the body and result in reduction in temperature, perspiration and appetite.  It is often used to suggest trust, elite status, excellence and loyalty. Doctors’ offices often use blue to help relax patients. Sometimes blue is too calming for learning environments because it makes us too relaxed. On the negative side, we may think of “the blues” when we see blue which will in turn evoke sadness, passivity, alienation or depression. Blue is also associated with exploration and is believed to prime creativity.


Violet: Before reading this paragraph, look at the image to the left...What feelings or thoughts does it evoke for you?

Violet is the color of fantasy, luxury (royalty), playfulness, impulsiveness and dream states. It often suggests introspection. In its negative mode, it may suggest nightmares or madness.

QUESTION: What color triggers your appetite and suggests you're hungry????  Leave your best-guess in the comments and I'll post the answer here later in the week!!

How to help your kids develop a sense and understanding of color:
  • PLAY with color - experiment mixing colors with paint pigments and with light (on the computer); string color beads together and talk about how the colors 'go' together;
  • Play color games: Say you're thinking of a color that makes you feel happy, or sad, or angry, or evil...what color are you thinking about...
  • Go look at art and color all around you -in museums, online,  outside in the winter snow - and talk about the colors you see and how they make you feel;  look at the colors of the seasons, of holidays - talk about them; play color games on the computer;
  • Take photographs and play with exposure and color -which will in turn change the 'feel' of the photos.
  • Read graphic novels and graphic, illustrated texts - no matter what age your child is - and talk about the artist's choice and use of color in the images or panels or even of the fonts used for specific words.
  • Go to the movies and talk about the shots that really stood out - was it the camera angle, the colors used?

What color games / activities do you play with your kids?  Please share them in your comments.

In the meantime, thank you for your visit and please leave your answer to my color question and your favorite color games and exercises in the comments.  Your visit and responses are appreciated.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Books: eBooks vs. Print Books- A Study on Reading

This week, Scholastic posted results from their recent national survey of parents and their kids - ages 6-17  (conducted in conjunction with the Harrison Group) "Kids and Family Reading Report - 4th edition*" asking them about their reading habits and preferences, and the results are interesting.

Here are some of their results on the increase and motivational aspects of ebooks:
  • The percent of children who have read an ebook has almost doubled since 2010 (25% in 2010 vs. 46% in 2012);
  • Half the children ages 9-17 would read more books for fun if they had greater access to ebooks (an increase of 50% from 2010);
  • One in four boys who has read an ebook says he is now reading more books for fun (there was no marked increase for girls);
  • 57% of moderately frequent readers (defined as kids who read one to four days a week) who have not read an ebook agree they would read more if they had greater access to ebooks;
  • Kids say that ebooks are better than print books when they do not want their friends to know what they are reading and when they are traveling;
  • 31% of parents who have read an ebook say they personally read more books now than they read before starting to read ebooks;
  • ebooks are read primarily at home (75%) then at school (27%), at a friend's house (15%); at the library (13%) or someplace else (9%);
  • Children and parents identify convenience and interactive properties (such as dictionaries, note taking, and read-aloud options) as the top benefit of ebooks over print books for children;
Here are some results on the the motivational aspects of print books:
  • 80% of kids who read ebooks still read books for fun primarily in print;
  • 58% of kids ages 9-17 say they will always want to read books printed on paper even though there are ebooks available (a slight decline from 66% in 2010);
  • Print books are seen by kids as better sharing with friends and reading at bedtime;
  • 49% of parents prefer their child read print books, 47% do not have a preference, and 4% prefer their child read ebooks. However, 68% of parents with younger kids (ages 6-8) prefer they read print books;
  • Children and parents say the top benefits of print books for kids are not having to charge a battery and being able to see how much they read;
  • 54% of parents say a benefit of print books over ebooks is to give their child time away from technology;
Regarding girl/boy gender preferences, the report notes that the gender gap in reading frequency and attitudes towards reading is narrowing; however, the narrowing of the gap is driven more by decreases among girls than it is by increases in boys.
  • Among girls since 2010, there has been a decline in frequent readers (42% vs. 36%), reading enjoyment (39% vs. 32% say they love reading), and the importance of reading books for fun (62% vs. 56% say it is extremely or very important).
  • Among girls ages 12-17 there was an increase in the amount of time they spend visiting social networking sites and using their smartphones for going online.
  • Among boys since 2010, there has been an increase in reading enjoyment (20% vs. 26% say they love reading), and importance of reading books for fun (39% vs. 47%). Reading frequency among boys has stayed steady, with 32% being frequent readers.
  • The percentage of boys who read 5-7 days a week drops at every age, whereas girls level off in their teens;
What factors most influence kids' reading:
"The study also looked at the influences that impact kids’ reading frequency, and parents ranked extremely high. The report found that having a reading role-model parent or a large book collection at home has a greater impact on kids’ reading frequency than does household income. Plus, building reading into kids’ daily schedules and regularly bringing home books for children positively impacts kids’ reading frequency."
Additional findings related to reading preferences and patterns:
  • 49% of the parents feel their children do not spend enough time reading books for fun (an increase from 2010 when only 36% of parents were dissatisfied with time their child spent reading);
  • Nine out of ten kids say they are more likely to finish a book they choose themselves (same as in 2010);
  • 32% of parents say they are reading new kinds of books they never thought they would read, including children's books and teen fiction;
  • Compared to 2010, fewer boys age 12-14 are playing video games while more boys age 15-17 are going online via computer, visiting social networking sites, and playing video games 5-7 days a week;
  • Young children age 6-11 are more likely to read books (for fun and for school 5-7 days a week) than older children age 12-17;
  • 83% of the children noted positive outcomes of reading a book required for school (42% said they would not have read it otherwise, 40% noted they were surprised by how much they liked it, 39% found a character they really liked, 27% found a series they really liked, 21% said they wanted to lear more about a topic they read about in school, 20% noted they found an author they really liked);
  • 83% of parents have acquired books for their children in the past six months (13 books on average). This is higher for younger children compared to older children;
  • 65% of parents of 6-8 year olds read to their children at least weekly. This drops to 37% of parents with 9-11 year olds.
For the visually literate, here are some of their findings in charts and graphs:

  • Model reading.  Let your kids see you read for pleasure and for work; have books around the house, take them out when at the table to share interesting stories/facts/images/maps.  Make them part of your life.
  • Read aloud at bedtime, while traveling, while waiting at the doctor's office.  Make reading fun and show them the incredible worlds books open up for them.
  • Schedule reading times at home and/or at school - time your kids know are devoted to reading for fun.
  • Read aloud to your OLDER kids at bedtime for as long as they'll let you!  This is particularly important as reading has been found to drop off for older kids.  Reading aloud will keep the world of books alive for them.
  • Graphic novels are great reading choices for good, slow, reluctant and enthusiastic readers, and older readers who move away from print books, and while they may not be readily available to browse in the book store, libraries are great places to check them out, as are many of my blog posts: great non-fiction /historical fiction graphic novels, great kids' graphic novels encouraging critical thinking, my favorite kids' graphic, more great suggestions).
  • Visit libraries and books stores
  • Talk about favorite books or books you are currently reading at family meals, when driving the kids places.  Make books an important part of your life.

Thank you as always for your visit.  Please leave your reading preferences and ways of encouraging your kids to read in the comments.

NOTE: *As noted by Scholastic:
 The study was conducted by Scholastic and managed by Harrison Group, a YouGov Company. Survey data were collected by GfK, and the source of the survey sample of 1,074 pairs of children age 6-17 and their parents was GfK’s nationally representative KnowledgePanel®. 
To download the Kids & Family Reading Report and access audio sound bites, visit
To learn more about Scholastic, visit our media room at To learn about our global literacy campaign, visit

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Advice ...


While New Years has passed and resolutions have been made, I thought I would start ABCWednesday's Round 12 with ADVICE.

While I realize my opinion has not been solicited, with an altruistic goal of helping all us parents start 2013 off strong, here are some parenting suggestions nevertheless:

1. Advice on Advice: ... unsolicited advice (much like what I'm doing with this post) typically falls under two categories requiring different ways of handling:
a. Mandatory advice - directed for their immediate safety/health should be given in a respectful but strong manner.  In these situations, while unsolicited, YOU'RE the parent setting limits, and these are limits that cannot be broken - unless first discussed and approved by you. You may want to listen to their responses and concerns, but ultimately you have to set the rules and limits for their safety.  Know, however, that as they get older, you will have to pick these issues - or battles - carefully and wisely.
b.  The - concerned - needing to get-off-your-chest advice. This is the kind of "don't make the mistakes I made" advice that they see as butting-in.  

    • Before giving the advice STOP and THINK whether it really should be given. Tweens and teens are learning how to be future independent adults.  Sometimes failing or getting hurt now, are valuable lessons that may save them from making similar costlier mistakes later. Learning from mistakes is a powerful form of learning -the kind of 'skinned knee' that hurts now but heals and you learn from' situations.  IF this is one of those instances stop, think, and maybe save the advice for something more important.
    • IF you feel you must give them advice, don't make it confrontational or present it as something they have to do. Instead, you may want to begin by having a conversation, tell them a story or tell them about something similar in your life when your parent(s) gave you advise that while you did not necessarily want to hear it at the time, later turned out to be one of the best pieces of advice you were given. OR you may want to calmly reflect on their own behavior, what you are seeing and suggest or brainstorm together possible outcomes and longer range consequences to the various optional paths in front of them.
    • Help explain (without lecturing) - or plot out - consequences from different options available to them; help them stop-think-evaluate- and then respond.  This type of modeling will serve them well in so many situations.
2. While advice giving is important, also Encourage and Empower your kids to Step Beyond their Comfort Zones -where appropriate: When selecting research/science/reading projects, picking courses, or searching for summer jobs or internships...we should encourage our kids to think out of the box and step out of their comfort zones. Childhood and young adulthood are the best times for them to explore their limits, determine their mettle. And, stepping beyond comfort zones empowers them to expand expectations, learn new strategies, push parameters, and discover new worlds while gaining independence and self confidence.

3. Help your kids learn to Delay Gratification: Our world moves so quickly.  Something happens, we immediately respond. Someone upsets you, you tweet about it or post something on Facebook. The problem is that as a result, kids in particular make bad decisions because they act reflexively - because they can, and don't necessarily think things through.  As noted by Jim Taylor, Ph.D. in his Psychology Today article, The Power of Prime:
"Children start off at a severe disadvantage when it comes to decision making because their prefrontal cortex doesn't fully develop until well past adolescence The prefrontal cortex is instrumental to...executive functioning...determining good from bad, planning, recognizing consequences, predicting outcomes and the ability to suppress socially inappropriate behavior.
With the emergence of the Web, email, mobile phones with cameras, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, gossip web sites and online sleuths, there are newer, faster, and more creative ways to have dreadful decision making illuminated for anyone with an Internet connection to see. Plus, these decisions have a much-longer "afterlife" because the digital fingerprints they leave are so difficult to erase."
Teaching kids to stop, think, and delay reactions (and gratification) may stop them from impulsive mistakes they may later regret. Teaching/training kids towards delayed gratification can also help prevent eating and drug disorders as well and prevent them from making careless and harmful mistakes.

4. While giving advice and encouraging them to step outside their comfort zones (where appropriate) let them know that you will be there for them when they need you.


I figure four unsolicited pieces of advice are just about my limit and soI will close here.  

Thank you for your visit, and please leave your own (solicited) parenting pearls (advice or experiences or both) in the comments!

In the meantime. here are a few of my favorite clips that contain advice for parents:

Here's one from Modern Family on how to deal with (intimidate) your kids' boyfriends:

And another - probably one of the hardest things to do - even if you don't agree with your child's decisions or paths, let them know you always have their backs:
Here's a Parent Rap - a conglomerate of advice and a pat on the back to all we do as parents:
And when all else fails - always remember the 'spoon full of sugar'!:

Thanks for your visit - please leave your own favorite words of advice in the comments!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Zeitgeist: Spirit of the Age or Time

Wally Skalij/Getty Images: Shuttle passing Crenshaw Ave, Inglewood CA
As I sit here reflecting on 2012 while setting goals for 2013, my thoughts seem to rest on the German word Zeitgeist  and how our culture and worlds are changing.

Looking at Google's 2012 Zeitgiest one can't help but notice we're moving away from Google searches of newspaper headlines, exposes, novels, and texts, towards a world of sound bites, technology and visual images. 

First, what is Zeitgiest?

According to Wikipedia:
"The Zeitgeist (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) is the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought which typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time."  defines it as:
"Zeit·geist (ts t g st , z t -). n. The spirit of the time; the taste and outlook characteristic of a period or generation"
"(Historical Terms) the spirit, attitude, or general outlook of a specific time or period, esp as it is reflected in literature, philosophy, etc. "
Below are four different Zeitgeist 2012 impressions:  Google's, The New York Times', YouTube's, and mine. With mine, however, I intentionally left out one component that I hope you'll help me with...but more about that later.  First, enjoy Google, The New York Times, and YouTube's Zeitgeist 2012:

Google's Zeitgeist 2012 represents an "aggregation" of over one trillion searches typed into Google Search over 2012. Filtering out spam and repeat queries Google came up with 'top searches' the world performed over 2012.  These 'top ten' lists, according to Google reflect the world's current Zeitgeist.

According to Google, "2012 was a year of big moments, from global games to historical elections and everything in between." Based on their analysis, Google's 'most searched' categories were:
  • Searches (Whitney Houston, Gangnam Style, Hurricane Sandy, iPad 3, Diablo 3, Kate Middleton, Olympics 2012, Amanda Todd, Michael Clarke Duncan, and BBB12)
  • Images (One Direction, Selena Gomez, iPhone 5, Megan Fox, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Harry Styles, Minecraft, Nicki Minaj, and Katy Perry )
  • Athletes (Jeremy Lin, Michael Phelps, Peyton Manning, McKayla Maroney, Junior Seau, Sarah Burke, Tom Daley, Lance Armstrong, Mario Balotelli, and Ryan Lochte)
  • Events (Hurricane Sandy, Kate Middleton, Olympics 2012, SOPA Debate, Costa Concordia crash, Presidential Debate, Stratosphere Jump, Penn State Scandal, Trayvon Martin shooting, Pussy Riots)
  • People (Whitney Houston, Kate Middleton, Amanda Todd, Michael Clarke Duncan, One Direction, Felix Baumgartner, Jeremy Lin, Morgan Freeman, Joseph Kony, and Donna Summer)
  • Feature Films (The Hunger Games, Skyfall, Prometheus, The Avengers, Magic Mike, John Carter, Ek Tha Tiger, Paranormal Activity 4, Taken 2, and Dark Shadows)
  • TV Shows (BBB12, Avenida Brasil, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, The Voice, American Idol, Game of Thrones, Homeland, Revenge, Cheias de Charme, and Carrossel)
  • Performing Artists (Whitney Houston, Michael Clarke Duncan, One Direction, Donna Summer, Lana Del Rey, Carolina Dieckmann, Dirk Bach, Carly Rae Jespen, Michel Telo, and LMFAO)
  • Consumer Electronics (iPad 3, Samsung Galaxy S3, iPad Mini, Nexus 7, Galaxy Note 2, Play Station, iPad 4, Microsoft Surface, Kindle Fire, and Nokia Lumia 920)
  • Videos (Gangnam Style, Somebody That I Used to Know by Walk of the Earth, KONY 2012, Call Me Maybe featuring Justin Bieber, Obama vs. Romney Epic Rap Battles of History, A Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square, Why You Asking All Them Questions? Crystallize by Lindsey Stirling, Facebook Parenting: For the Troubled Teen, and Felix Baumgartner's Supersonic Free Fall)
NYTimes 2012: The Year in Graphics

Compelling evidence of how graphics are invading our homes, schools, papers and lives,  The New York Times has collected infograhic representations of 2012 events. Here are a few of my favorites. Check the link above for their complete compilation.

[NOTE: As these are large graphic representations, I couldn't reproduce them here but they are WELL WORTH a LOOK.]

YouTube's 2012 Zeitgeist:

In short, over the past few years there have been some significant cultural changes that have resulted to a large extent from the explosion of the Internet and social networking.

As a result, comic books and graphic novels are becoming core elements of our culture (with The New York Times now including graphic novels in their Book Reviews). According to sales figures (calculated by Comichron), year to date 2012 comic book and graphic novel sales (as of September 2012) stood at 16.16% over 2011 Sales. Graphic novels host vibrant sections in book stores, libraries and classrooms, and their content extends way beyond superheroes, high school teens and detectives.

Visual literacy is also an integral aspect of our culture and is a central theme in the new Common Core Curricula mandated for schools across the country. Information is now being relayed through visual images, and we must help our kids learn to create, "read" and comprehend visual images as well as, and in conjunction with, traditional text.  We must understand how color, font and images relay information, how to compose visual messages, and how to read charts and infographics.  [Over the next few months, I hope to blog more about visual literacy and infographics and hope you join and contribute to the dialogue.]

Whether we like it or not, visual and verbal communication in short bursts over text messages, twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, are now key elements of communication, and we need to understand how best to use, compose and interpret them.

That said, here is my ZEITGEIST 2012 (minus one component I need your help with- can you guess which one it will be? Check for details below):

OLYMPICS 2012 (Compliments of Sports Illustrated):  

Photo: Peter Read Miller/SI
Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated

PBS "Storm of Debt and Downgrades"

PBS: "China Looks to the Future"
PBS: "Beached Concordia"

AP/Ng Han Guan: North Korea's Kim Jong Un

AP Photo/Altaf Qadri: Mynamar's Aung San Suu Kyi Athens riots

AP/Manish Swarup: Tibetan protester in New Delhi
NASA/Reuters/Robert Markowitz: Last Shuttle flight

Pete Souza/White House Photo via Getty Images: President Obama on Rosa Parks bus at Henry Ford Museum 4/18/12

Reuters/Esam Al-Fetori: Benghazi- US Consulate burns

The Atlantic: damaged Aleppo's Salaheddin neighborhood, Syria

Reuters/Yves Herman: Milk Protest, Brussels

Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany: Anti-Mursi Protesters in Tahrir Square, Cairo 11/27/12

NYDaily News: Clint Eastwood, Republican Convention
PBS: "The Challenger"

Scout Tufankjian/Obama for America: "Four More Years"
Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images: Loser's Concession Speech
Reuters/Phillip Andrews: The Winner

Reuters/Eric Thayer: Hurricane Sandy:Seaside Heights, New Jersey
Iwan Baan/Getty Images:Sandy hits NYC

AP/John Minchillo: Sandy hits  Ground Zero


IMAGES OF SPACE 2012:  from the International Space Station, Curiosity rove, Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer - they are mind-boggling, breath-taking inspiring, and worth your time and viewing:


This is where I need your help. I am leaving this open intentionally.  Please leave YOUR IDEAS of 2012's epic ENTERTAINMENT EVENTS AND PERSONALITIES (in the comments)- from music, television, shows, movies, plays and art - those that YOU think best represents 2012.  I will compile and post the most mentioned songs, artists, events, films, TV shows, plays, etc. in the space below.  

Check back next week to see how we've addressed this component of 2012 Zeitgeist!

Your ENTERTAINMENT choices: As of January 28th, Gangnam Style has won in the comments with honorable mention for Justin Bieber and "Me So You So Me"  Here are some links.

First, Gangnam Style (note that the English translation is just too racy for me and so be forewarned):

And for the older 'classic' fans "Me So You So Me":

And if you want more resources, here are additional links to THE BEST images of 2012:

As always, thank you for your visits, and please leave your impressions of Zeitgeist ENTERTAINMENT 2012 in the comments.

[Note: In compiling this post I have taken images from various sources and have tried my best to acknowledge original sources.  If you have any further citation information for the images above, please leave the information in the comments and I will address them appropriately.]