Much has been made of Daniel Tammet, the “Brain Man” who could recite Pi to 22,000 places. How the savant achieved this feat was by picturing the digits that make up Pi’s infinite and complex string of numbers. The condition facilitating this monumental task is called synesthesia, where the mind unconsciously blends together two different sensations. In this case, it is grapheme-color synesthesia that causes his mental picture of a number (or letter) to appear as more than just an abstract numeral, as it would on a page. Instead he perceives it to have a great deal of unique, identifying characteristics. To a non-synesthete, 3 is just 3, but to him, “every number up to 10,000… has its own color, has its own shape, has its own texture.”
“For example, 289 is an ugly number, I don’t like it much.” And he’s got a point. Yellow, inky-blue and reddish-pink? Yeck, what an ugly color combination!
Though my degree of grapheme-color synesthesia is nowhere near as profound as the Brain Man’s, I’ll share the colors I associate with the letters of the alphabet, as well as the numbers 0 through 9.
J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
That X should really have a black outline.
I’m still not sure if 1 is white for its purity, or black for its simplicity. I get a feeling it’s white only when beside zero, to represent Yin and Yang, night and day, on and off.
Wikipedia suggests that the letter-color associations are manifest through some easy mnemonic device, and my experience seems to bear that out: B is blue, G is green, V is a pink vulva, W is the color of wheat, R is red). It certainly helps letters stand out, though it can make it difficult to separate my A’s from my N’s from my 7’s.
(And for those sharp-eyed readers, you’ll notice the three predominant colors of my site match the letters that make up my name. That’s what I call synergy!)