body movement force
basis height dimensionheight dimension TOPheight dimension BOTTOM
Force of movement


‘Energy’ and colour in Germany

Energy: red 38%, orange 18%, yellow 16%, gold 7%, …
Heller (1989)

Power, cultural differences in concept allocation

Some of the differences in concept allocation are suggestive of real culture differences; for example: power is good-strong-active (Osgood’s 3-factors) for both Americans and Flemish speakers, but it becomes passive for Finns, and turns both bad and weak (but still active) for Japanese.

Osgood (1964)

Proverbs and sayings: equal/disunity

Lakoff and Johnson (1999) saw that there are many proverbs and sayings that have to do with form characteristics and emotions. Parallel / equal movement / oneness: togetherness, concomitant, positive, appropriate, power, strong, suitable, assisted, helped. Perpendicular / disunity: wrong, not combining, opposing, less strong, hindering.

Slavic sun-king gods in the Semantic Colour Space

From the Byzantine Chronicle of Malalas we read: “First, Mestrom began to rule … after him Feosta, who was also called Svarog by the Egyptians. When this Feosta reigned in Egypt, pincers fell from heaven during his reign, and he began to forge weapons, for before that people fought with sticks and stones. The same Feosta issued a law that women should marry only one man and live chastely, and he ordered those who committed adultery to be executed. Therefore, he was called the god Svarog. … And after that his son reigned, named the Sun, who was called Dažbog. The ruler Sun, the son of Svarog.”

M. Presniakov. Dajbog. 1998. The sun-king reigning over day and night.

In this brief text there are some important clues about these deities who did serve much the same function. They are male gods who represent a clan or country. They are moralizing lawmakers who set rules of chastity, and at the same time they are judges who pass judgement. In this role, they can write out punishments or grant forgiveness. In the son Dažbog, this kingship comes to full fruition and rises to the same height as the sun (sun king). That brings the fire aspect into the meaning. Svarog is the personification of the fire of the oven (ovin) and is worshipped as such. (Vyncke, 1969).

By focusing on a few keywords, this fire-sun god concept can be colour-coded in the Semantic Space and the connection between these words becomes clear. Under the (64-level) red-on-black colour code we find keywords such as: law, judge, justice, king, father, rule, forbidden. It is a composite of the (8-level) fire aspect, represented by the red element in the code: flame, sun, power, and the (8-level) black element: the thunder, signifying something important, represented by a stem. Another description of these kings could be: ‘important power’.

Judge Dredd by IanAnderson_xyz. a law enforcement and judicial officer in the dystopian future city of Mega-City One, fighting evil in red-on-black.
Ad for Siedodo cooker induction stove. Although fire is disappearing from the modern kitchen, this primal concept remains present in contemporary advertising. The black induction plate with the red fire above illustrates the red-on-black colour code.

The role of this king concept is to keep evil, or the wild forces (black-on-red), in check by setting rules and issuing punishments (red-on-black). We see this function metaphorically in the operation of the stove (red-on-black): the oven must keep the destructive fire (black-on-red) in check. In these early times it consisted of a pit (black) in which the flame (red) was lit to dry the sheaves of corn. The veneration of the furnace fire was very deeply rooted in the people and has survived to the present day. Incidentally, it was believed that the guardian spirit of the family lived in the ‘ovin’ (Vyncke, 1969).

Some similarities appear in the masks of the Phi Ta Khon festival in Thailand, where residents invite protection from Phra U-pakut, their guardian spirit coming from the Mun river. The masks have devilish faces and are equipped with a giant phallus. The ghosts offer protection against evil with their dangerous appearance. The phallus is a composition of a black stem with a red ball on it, just like the king’s sceptre.

A Kings sceptre
Picture from the Phra U-pakut festival by JAY TINDALL

I.Michiels, red.

Testosterone and shape

There is a possible relationship with the testosterone hormone. The amount of testosterone in the blood expresses the willingness to win and the degree of sense of domination. Carney et al. (2010) investigated the influence of different attitudes on the power radiation of the people, measured by two hormone values, cortisol and testosterone. The amount of cortisol is a measure of the amount of stress that a person has. The different attitudes that were tested differed in two non-verbal dimensions that are universally linked to power. These dimensions are: expansiveness: taking up more or less space, and openness: arms and legs together or spread out. People with an open and large posture have an increased amount of testosterone and a reduced amount of cortisol in the blood. With that, they radiate more power. In contrast, people with a closed and contracted posture have a reduced amount of testosterone and an increased amount of cortisol in the blood. That means that they are radiating more powerlessness.

The number three in Slavic mythology

Not only the Celtic mind is obsessed with the trinity. The Slavs also showed a special interest in the number three. In temple construction, there are triangular structures (Zuarasici), three entrance gates (Zuarasici), erected on the middle of three mountains (Triglav). The priests of Triglav and Sventovit used to prophesy by leading a sacred horse back and forth between nine lances three times. Also in Slavic epic poetry, just as in Irish, the number three plays a prominent role.

This idea of omnipotence, expressed through multiplicity and polycephaly, is also reflected in the naming. Names like Sventovit, Gerovit are derived from the root jar-, which actually means the same as svent (Slavic jar = strong, severe, angry). In this word lies the idea of “fertilizing power.” The same idea of ‘horny power’ is even more strongly expressed in the concept of Rugievit or Rujevit, derived from the root ruj-: horny. Rujevit thus seems to mean ‘horny lord’. Porevit means ‘the powerful lord’.

It is seen that the very naming of the many-headed idols places a strong emphasis on power, omnipotence, especially on the plan of preserving and propagating the cosmos.

(Vyncke, 1969)

The following keywords derived from this text, related to the number three, and classified in the DSD are: power (red, 8-level keyword), strong (height dimensional keyword), severe (red-on-black, 64-level keyword), anger (black-on-red, 64-level keyword), fertile (red-4, 64-level keyword), horny (purple-on-red, 64-level keyword), in the sense of potent, sexuality, masculine (red-on-red, 64-level keyword). It is noticeable that the red colour code is omnipresent.

I.Michiels, red.

The protective phallus

The phallus is found as an object of worship in cultures all over the world. It is regarded as a fertility symbol, but mainly has a protective function. It repels the evil forces and thereby brings prosperity (fertility) to the clan. The phallus is depicted in many colours, but a strikingly common one is red-on-black, also the colour combination for the king concept. The king is the one who offers protection to the subjects, by writing laws and punishments.

Torch, sceptre and phallus.

The phallus bears a striking resemblance to the king’s sceptre and to the torch. Two symbols that are also classified under the red-on-black colour code. The red aspect is the circle shape or the flame, which represents power. The black is the thunder, represented by a stick or stem. An idol with a phallus then represents a chieftain, who protects the tribesmen against destructive and demonic forces.

Some examples of a phallus in red-on-black.

Thailand, Krabi, la Phra nang Cave
Legba statue, sacred forest, Ouidah, Benin
Figural Carved Tribal Fertility Slit Drum Phallus Bhuta Bali.
Protéger la maison du mauvais oeil Au Bhoutan.

I. Michiels, red.

Verticality in product labels and shelves as a metaphorical cue to quality

This study investigates how subtle visual cues related to the design of a product’s package (i.e., label position) and the context (i.e., shelf orientation) influence consumer evaluation and behavioral intention. Extending research on metaphorical cues, Study 1 shows that consumers perceive a product as more powerful when the label on the package is placed in a higher (vs. lower) vertical position. Extending the focus from package design to the display context of packages, Study 2 shows that consumer perception of a product’s power is similarly enhanced when the package is placed on a shelf that is vertically (vs. horizontally) orientated. Across both studies effects of enhanced power perception extend to positively influence product quality inferences and behavioral intentions. These findings add to current knowledge on metaphorical cues in package design and the package’s presentation context and offer insights into the underlying mechanism.

(Machiels & Orth, 2017)