THE FUTURE IS BLUE – Holly Foster Media


What is this place, and why are people gathering amid the lighted circle at the bottom? To me, it looks like something from a sci-fi movie.

Want to know why? It’s because the light is blue.

According to Chris Noessel and Nathan Shedroff, authors of the book Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction, blue is the color used in movies to represent the future.

But why blue?

” … because blue is so rare in nature (if you discount the sky and the ocean, which are arguably not blue) there’s something fundamentally mystical, unnatural, and inhuman about it” (Greenspan, 2013).

To answer my opening question, this is not a scene from a movie. This is a photograph I took inside the Vessel, a new landmark in New York City’s Hudson Yards neighborhood. And I’d bet my paycheck the designers chose that particular shade of deep blue for its futuristic qualities.

My visit was not planned. After spending the afternoon at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum on the upper east side (which I highly recommend) we had some time left before we had to head home to PA. A couple of subway trains later we landed in Hudson Yards.

I had never heard of the Vessel, so I wasn’t even sure what it was when we arrived, but I was wowed. It was absolutely stunning. My initial reaction was one of fascination, curiosity, and wonder at the sheer size of the structure.

Visceral emotional response

Donald Norman is an author, professor, and director of The Design Lab at University of California, San Diego. In a paper he co-authored with Andrew Ortony, he outlines three levels of emotional responses: visceral, behavioral, and reflective (Norman & Ortony, 2003).

A visceral response “relates only to the surface appearance of objects. It is pure style, pure surface” (Norman & Ortony, 2003).

Here’s what I saw as I stood in front of the Vessel for the first time.

I actually thought to myself, welcome to the mother ship. Look closely and you’ll see the glow of the inner blue light at the bottom of the structure, along with a faint blue stream billowing from the top.

The Vessel’s metallic skin against the late October Gotham sky evokes awe.

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

“Like colours, primary emotions can be expressed at different intensities and can mix with one another to form different emotions” (Motivation and emotion/Book/2014/Plutchik’s wheel of emotions— Wikiversity, n.d.).

According to psychologist Robert Plutchik, awe is a combination of the primary emotions of amazement and terror. Take a look at Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions below.

(Contrasting and categorization of emotions, 2019)

Amazement has two lesser intensities: surprise and distraction. Terror’s lesser intensities are fear and apprehension.

My awe was a combination of amazement (this is huge!) and apprehension (will I be able to get to the top of this thing?)

Take a look inside

The Vessel is actually a large spiral staircase; after you enter you choose one of the four stairwells to begin your journey. There’s also an elevator (pictured on the right in the photo below) if you can’t (or don’t want to) climb the fifteen stories.

This is where my behavioral response kicked in.

Norman & Ortony say a behavioral response is an expectation-induced reaction, because it’s “intimately connected to predictions of and expectations about the near future” (2003).

I was fortunate enough to have made it to the top of the Notre Dame Cathedral before the heartbreaking fire occurred, so I figured I would be okay walking to the top of the Vessel. There are 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, but you don’t have to use them all to make it to the top. You can rest along the way without getting in anyone’s way, so my emotion was definitely optimistic.

That’s me trying to capture the majesty of it all with my cellphone camera. Look carefully and you’ll see two figures: one taking a look inside (at the 8 o’clock position) and another climbing to the next level (just to the right of the 9 o’clock position). You can also see the landings: the one I’m standing on and the open spaces across the way.

Here’s an outside view overlooking the train yards.

Daytime evokes a different emotion

After our visit I did a little research, because I wondered what the Vessel would look like during the day. Here’s a photo I found on Instagram.

Totally different. Still futuristic, but not in the magical sort of way I experienced.

The angle the photographer used to take this photo is much less dramatic than my night shot. The Vessel’s proximity to the viewer is more comfortable, therefore removing the almost ominous feeling I experienced. It also shows the airiness of the hive-like structure, which gives it a lighter feeling.

The colors are brighter, so the mood is happier. The view of the landings are more defined, and you can see the background of the mall and the taller building on the right hand side. This context combined with the daylight provides a calmer feel overall. My reflective or “intellectually-induced” response to this photograph is admiration.

Reflective responses produce emotions that “incorporate a sense
of feeling derived from the affective components from the visceral and behavioral levels, along with a conscious interpretation of that feeling” (Norman & Ortony, 2003).

Awe · Optimism · Admiration

Upon its opening, the reaction to the vessel among New Yorkers was mixed. For me, it’s hard not to admire the creativity of the architects that designed such an interactive structure. I made it to the top, stopping along the way to enjoy the hive-like interior views, the views of the river, and the wonderful fall breeze that was blowing that night.

But most of all, I loved the blue light. Genius.

until nxt time …


Cherry, K. (2019, October 25). How the Color Blue Impacts Moods, Feelings, and Behaviors. Retrieved from:

Contrasting and categorization of emotions. (2019). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from

Greenspan, S. (Producer). (2013, November 20). Future screens are mostly blue [Audio podcast]. Retrieved

Howard, T. (Producer). (2012, May 21). Why Isn’t the Sky Blue? Retrieved from:

Hudson Yards. (2016). Introducing The Vessel. Retrieved from

Motivation and emotion/Book/2014/Plutchik’s wheel of emotions— Wikiversity. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

Norman, D.A. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

Norman, D.A. & Ortony, A. (2003). Design and Users: Two perspectives on emotion and design, Foundations of Interaction Design, Ivrea, Italy, November 2003.

Vessel | Hudson Yards. (n.d.). Retrieved from:

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2 thoughts on “THE FUTURE IS BLUE

  1. Hi Holly,
    Interesting approach for this article. As someone who is a filmmaker and has made short sci-fi films we always used dark blues and purples lights to give off a cold futuristic look. To your point, it was definitely done intentionally. New York is full of old and historic buildings, so it is hard to imagine what the future of New York may look like. The Vessel seems to do just that, it transports the viewer into the future. Due to the low angle of your shot, it seems as though the Vessel is towering over you. The dark background allows for the Vessel to pop out due to the contrast between the metallic gold and the black making it appear like it is almost floating. I can understand why awe is in between both fear and surprise because I am not sure if I should be feeling surprised, due to the innovative structure, or fearful, due to the possibilities of the future. In the image of the Vessel during the day it doesn’t seem as intimating. The angle is straight on so it does not feel like it is towering over you but instead sits there like a piece of artwork. The brass tones of the Vessel seem to blend in more with its surroundings rather than stand out as it does at night. It seems as though there was a filter added to the picture due to the colored sky, which I may be wrong, but that might affect the colors of the image. Thank you for sharing your journey in New York and your encounter with the Vessel. I have never heard of it and am curious to visit it next time I go to the city.

  2. Hey Holly, I must say that as a native New Yorker, the Vessel is pretty magnificent. in your post you really did capture the architecture excellence. While the Vessel looks very different at night, I find it to be much better just because of the lighting as well. The NY night seems to make things appear to be more magical as you said and I think it’s because of the contrast of all the lights, even the street lights, reflecting off all of the metal building surfaces and shining against them. Something else that is extraordinary about the Vessel is the uncanny symmetry of the structure. The buildings proportions are equal on every side of it and the pattern of the staircases is what really amazes me.

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