October 2012 Bar Bulletin
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October 2012 Bar Bulletin

Colors ... in Black and White

By Robert W. Zierman


It's autumn in Western Washing­ton. And in many, if not most, parts of the United States, this time of year is associated with the changing and eventual falling of leaves.

Here, autumn generally represents the transition from our late, sunny summers to a long season in which, to paraphrase The Mamas & the Papas: All the needles are green and the sky is gray.1 Well, as a former resident of Santa Fe, which is renowned for its magnificent sunsets, yours truly really appreciates this month's topic ... colors.

Colors, as presented by graphic artist Timothy Samara, are the second most important component of his craft. They are preceded in importance only by shape and form.2 So, let's take a moment to delve into the fundamentals of colors; then attempt to identify our profession's overall sensibility with respect to them, and finally conclude with some thoughts as to how we may use colors to increase efficiency.

Colors have three basic elements: hue, saturation and lightness. Hue is "the degree to which a stimulus can be described as similar to or different from stimuli ... described as red, green, blue, and yellow."3 Campbell's soup cans aside, this is generally the stuff we think of when we recall the work of Andy Warhol.4

Saturation then is the intensity of a color as represented from the center of the color wheel5 going out to any given hue. This leaves lightness, aka brightness, which is the measure of grayscale from white to black.

Now I notice the paucity of colors within our legal institutions. Certainly, the vast majority of attorneys will acknowledge the gift of sight. Most of us don't know Braille. Like most folks, we see colors. Are we adverse to them?

Black and white involve contrast and perhaps that is the best way to drive this inquiry. Matching up films by various genres, which do you prefer?

  • Boxing: "Raging Bull" v. "Rocky"

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