Max Lüscher (1923-2017) was a Swiss psychologist and philosopher. He became known as the developer of a special clinical color test, the early form of which he presented at the first World Congress of Psychology in Lausanne in 1947. In 1949, he received his doctorate from the University of Basel with a thesis on “Color as a Psychological Means of Examination”.
A first supra-regional, international community of medical doctors and psychiatrists formed immediately after the lecture at the World Congress in Lausanne. Small academic centers emerged in Leipzig, Berlin, Constance, Basel, Zurich and Fribourg, which dealt with his psychodiagnostics in the context of doctorates and research studies. In the 1970s and 80s Max Lüscher accepted invitations to lecture and give seminars at the Manhattan Psychiatric Clinic of Kansas State University, at Yale University, at the universities of Rome, Santiago de Chile, and Canberra, Melbourne. The impact of these lecturing activities continues to this day: Numerous smaller papers in different fields report attempts to refute Lüscher diagnostics or to confirm its validity. What these works have in common, however, is that they only deal with the short version of the so-called “Small Lüscher Test”.
Max Lüscher himself largely discontinued his academic efforts regarding psychodiagnostics in the 1970s and turned predominantly to the field of advertising psychology. From 1978 to 1990, he taught “The Psychology of Forms and Colors” in the newly founded Industrial Design Department of Horst Meru (Linz University of Art). With the shift of his psycho-diagnostic focus to the application of colors and forms in creation and design, he was now able to concentrate on the difficult and controversial basic question that affects all areas of his activities: the question of the objective meaning of colors and forms. It was not whether they had an objective meaning that interested him. For Max Lüscher, objective meaning in the context of psychodiagnostics was linked to the question of the underlying categories. From these categories, he developed his special colors and forms. His scientific research never started with the colors and shapes themselves, but with the question of the connection between experience and behavior and the possibility of objectifying them. In this context, he discovered the evocative effect of colors and shapes as adequate tools for image and product design. His interests and research in this regard point to a wide-ranging field of work.
In the last decades, he returned to the beginnings of his research and worked intensively on psychosomatics. His guiding principle here followed the well-known dilemma of medical practice of having to do justice to the increasing number of psychosomatic illnesses while at the same time facing increasing time pressure and a lack of psychological training. The advantage of Lüscher diagnostics is the enormous time saved through non-verbal psychodiagnostics. In practice, however, the diagnostic procedure only saves time if doctors and therapists have a good command of the instruments and invest time in training in advance.