The Happiness Colour Coordination

Red Nail Polish

Sometimes we need a bit of colour in our lives. We need the light to find our own way out of the darkness. And, yes, we need to find our own way. Expectations crush us, our lives seem predetermined and our mind recedes into the grey. Maybe a dash of colour will lead us the way.

Colours as such are a weird concept. We all have a mental image when we say red or green or blue, but if we dig deeper it is next to impossible to describe a colour without falling back on these basic colours. Can we even be sure that you see the same as I do when I say, “red”? Probably not, or actually maybe. But that doesn’t really matter. At least I don’t think it does. All of our experiences are fundamentally our own and really hard to relay to others. Yes, we have language, but a language is a standardised way to crawl slowly out of Plato’s cave. As a mere model of our world, it necessarily makes abstractions and implies assumptions about our world that aren’t necessarily true or true for us. A great example of how language can mould our perception of reality is grammatical gender like it is used in German. Any occupational noun (except a few that were traditionally associated with womanly work like nursing) is male by default in German. You can add a suffix like “-in” to it to make it explicitly female, but there is no way to make an occupational noun truly gender neutral without an awkward unpronounceable letter-addition or the use of both variants. But is this truly gender neutral? I don’t think it is. German has no good way to include people who don’t feel adequately described by either male or female gender identities. And in my experiences, this lack of the German language makes German speakers even blinder to the world of non-binary or genderfluid people.

But back to colour. We already established that language can make us blind. But what does blindness do to our colour perception? Well, it’s dependent on what we mean by blindness. Let us assume you are totally blind and can’t see even one shed of light. Does colour still exist? The question is really hard to answer. Hey, don’t expect me to know all the answers.

Fundamentally, colour is just different photons with different energies. Does it require these photons to hit our retinas to become colour? I don’t know. But our colour perception is definitely more complicated than it seems at first. We can’t just see orange and that’s it. Our eyes don’t just have a receptor sensitive to any colour there is. Not only have we a limit of what on the electromagnetic spectrum we can see at all. We can’t see ultraviolet light for example. But we also have only three kinds of different colour receptors. So any colour we can see is just made up by our brain as a mixture of the different light levels or cones detect. Human cone cells are receptive to blue red and green. Hence the colours of every pixel on this screen: red, green and blue. This screen works differently than our eyes though. While this screen has the same proportion of red, green and blue subpixels, our eyes generally have fewer cone cells receptive to blue and the percentages of red- and green-receptive cone cells vary quite a bit even in people with quote “regular” vision.

What stands out is that in the end, we in almost any case agree on what red is and what blue is. We have many categories we collectively agree upon, some are more cultural some others are more basic, but even terms for colours have a certain order of appearance in human language and of course that order influences how we perceive the world around us.

Still, this doesn’t answer the question of whether colour exists without perception, but to be honest I don’t have an answer to that. I just know that a dash of colour in the right place can make me quite happy. Why that is? I don’t know, but it might have to do with another categorisation I previously mentioned in this essay.

The category I’m talking about is gender. We’re all automatically sorted into one of these bins at birth or quite often even before we even leave our mother’s womb. We get a pronoun and our allocated room (some people like to call it a nursery) gets either painted in a slight pink or a dashing light blue. Of course, there are cases where this categorisation fails. Not everyone is born with a clear set of genitalia that fits neatly into one category or the other, some people don’t feel like they were sorted into the right box. But most of us are sorted cleanly, sometimes even if this decision should have maybe been postponed until we could make a decision for ourselves. The category itself isn’t the problem necessarily. Trying to categorise everything is human nature after all and usually, a useful shortcut for our everyday mental life. Just our desire to have neat boxes makes things complicated and our expectation, that nobody should change their assigned box makes these to categories appear a bit restrictive to some – maybe even like a mental prison to some …  me included.

I was sorted into the male category at birth. And well at least at first there was nothing wrong with that. A baby doesn’t care about societal expectations of gender. And why should it? Why should anyone, well I don’t know? I only know that people do in fact care. And at least for me, that is a bad thing. It is confining. Granted, I don’t like the male features of my body. Some of them I hate, a few I am indifferent about, and only a single one I really like, but does my body define my own identity? In part of course, but in the end, it is only secondary to my mind. Do I just want to wear nail polish? Yes, I want to wear a dash of colour on my fingertips generally associated with feminity, but it’s only a small part of what I want. I would also enjoy it tremendously if someone would flick the elusive switch that would make my body magically appear more feminine, but to be honest, I don’t care about my name, I don’t care about my pronouns as long as they don’t compromise my safety. My identity isn’t defined by the confines of society. On one hand, I, generally, enjoy feminine fashion more than men’s clothing. On the other hand, I really like me a suit, a tuxedo, or a tailcoat. I like me my Oxfords, but I also love me my high heeled pumps. At some point, I just want my tie to match my nail polish. Want the colour of my shoe to match my skirt. What am I? Male or female? Red or Blue? I don’t know, and I only care because society cares. But I’m captive in society’s expectations. I try to be me as good as I can.

Colour is my way out of it. Colour coordination is my goal. One day in a suit and tie, one day in a dress and high heels. Beneath that preferably a female body. Tie, handkerchief and nails matched.

At least maybe, that would make me happy. Sometimes it’s just small things though: perhaps just a dash of nail polish will suffice to elicit a smile from me. That’s definitely easier to pull off than the whole rest of my desires.

Update: New Header-Image

This is just a short update post to introduce my new header image.

Gas giant infront of stars
This is my new header image

I made it myself over the last few weeks, and despite my mental health not being up to snuff, I quite like it. I’m still thinking of adding a cutesie astronaut to it on the left, but that might be stuff for future alterations.

I hope you like it, but if you have tips, suggestions, or questions feel free to contact me.

I Like Trains

Locomotive on a bridge in front of a sunset.

I really like trains and everything train related. So it’s no wonder they feature regularly in my photography. I think one of my personal favourite Instagram posts is of a train in front of a beautiful sunset.

Freight train on a standstil.

The colours are just beautiful, even though the ghosting from the HDR of my phone camera is a bit distracting. Another picture I really like is this one. It just really captures my imagination and I love the contrast between the city to the left and the forest to the right. But let me tell you a secret: The forest is only a thin sliver of trees between the endless sprawl of the city.

But why am I telling you this? It goes back to my last post about my website logo. Someone asked me how I chose the font for my name in my logo, and someone else suggested I try to play a bit with different fonts, but to be honest, I didn’t want to.

I didn’t want to because that font had become near and dear to my heart over hour-long journeys through the German rail network, or at least I thought so. Its name is literally rail script, so why should I have been mistaken? Alas, I was mistaken indeed: Bahnschrift was actually developed by Microsoft for their Windows UI and is at least rumoured to replace Segoe UI at some point. However, it is, in fact, a variant of the DIN 1451 standard I so closely associate with travelling.

DIN 1451 script with an actual train in the background.
A variant with the constellation cygnus.

At least I found the picture above, combining my beloved interests trains and cool typefaces. That helps in a moment of sadness about a lost writeup opportunity.

So what now? I might actually change the font in my logo. But I think I need to first finish a header image for my website. (The default WordPress one irks me a bit.) And then I might need to think about my logo from an entirely new perspective. Honestly, I think the typesetting doesn’t even work that well especially not if you reduce it down to the few pixels dedicated to it in the tabs of your browser, but I don’t know yet with what to replace it.

My Logo. An excursion into Adobe Illustrator

Patrick Nils Wilke-Logo

First, I have to start with the admission, that I would consider myself to be neither an artist nor an expert at any Adobe Creative Cloud application. So much so that I haven’t even used up my free seven day trial period so far. I made the decision to build a website for myself a few days ago. I had a bit of experience with HTML and CSS, am fairly good at JavaScript and consider myself to be quite adept at getting through challenges. But after many hours of twiddling and tweaking pages of HTML and CSS, I couldn’t satisfy my perfectionism. So I said fuck it, I want to produce content and not just an empty, beautiful, but slightly infuriating HTML skeleton without meat. While waiting for domain registration, I started to think about graphical elements of my site. What sprung to mind was a site logo, but how would you produce such a thing?

I think Squarespace lead me to the site of Logojoy. Sounds good. I need a logo and I want to have some joy. I entered my name, was asked a few questions, like the colour I’d prefer or what suggested logos I’d enjoy and got a result. But after I was asked to pay 20 US-$ for a low-resolution copy of my black name on dark grey backing. I was kind of disappointed. I clicked something and without much input, I had edited the logo and added a meaningless symbol. What a great addition! But still, that wasn’t something I was willing to pay 20 US-$ for.

I was determined to try myself, but how? I had had some brushes against Adobe’s creative cloud apps before, either because someone else was using them, or because I had searched for a creative app, but had then decided to use something cheaper. (Like when I chose to use the open source Audacity for a small audio-editing project instead of trying out Audition.) This time I decided to finally try an Adobe App (besides old trustworthy, but kind of crummy Acrobat Reader). I downloaded the trial install package, started the install process and went to make dinner.

I decided to fiddle a bit, but after a few unsuccessful tries with blue gradient leaves on a blue gradient background, that looked just weird. I decided to go for a square on square approach. I first tried to constrict myself to black and white and had planned to do a negative version, but It looked too empty. I decided to add a gradient.

Second attempt at a logo. This time with a gradient.

Still, the space below my name looked empty. Not as empty as before, but still quite empty. Now, accustomed to the gradient tool. I wanted to try and make something that looked vaguely like space. I changed the gradient colours to blue hues and changed the gradient type from linear to circular to simulate the curvature of a nearby planet. I moved my name downwards so it would end up looking a bit like it was in orbit. But now there was still quite the white blue space. In essence, I hadn’t changed much but the colour of the void above or beyond my name. I needed to change something. So what could I possibly add? A space station? Too complex for my first try. I decided on something easier: stars. A boatload of stars.

The same logo, now in space and with a pinch of stars.

After sharing the two designs with some friends on a discord server. The overwhelming majority was in favour of the space-design. But someone asked a question that made me think: “Is the background a specific constellation?”

This hadn’t even come to my mind. I had just placed a few random dots without much thought. But there was a specific constellation I liked. Cygnus. Cygnus, the swan.

I tried to recreate the constellation from memory first. I just pushed and pulled a few surrounding stars in the vague shape of Cygnus, but something was amiss.

Logo with vague representytion of the constellation Cygnus.

I had recreated a mini void. Granted, space is mostly empty, but space is also vast and filled with thousands of stars. I had to change something. I mean, it wasn’t only factually incorrect. It was also just visually unappealing.

In the same step, I decided to finally get a real picture of Cygnus and retrace it, and it was worth it. To my woes, I had quite badly misjudged the angles and perceived distance of the swan’s tail.

Patrick Nils Wilke-Logo
Now with the true swan and not as empty.

At the end of this process, I’m quite chuffed with the work I was able to do in only a few hours. I have to thank the guinea pigs that gave their feedback. And I have to say I love Adobe’s Illustrator. It looks more pleasing and is to no one’s surprise way more intuitive than GIMP.

The two lone questions that remain, will I pay for a Creative Cloud subscription when my trial ends in two weeks and will the logo work on small scapes. I am quite sure what the answer to the first question will be, but I have my doubts with the second one.