Color, or lack thereof, has the power to make or break a design. It can be a perfect enhancement or a horrible distraction. Understanding how color can be used to create interest, add organization, and evoke emotions can transform your designs, whether it’s a logo or a website, into something impactful.
The first, and most basic, way to utilize color is to make sure it’s aesthetically pleasing to the viewer. Revisiting the basic color wheel is a great place to begin. With the color wheel, you can determine which colors work together to create an ideal balance and are not over or under complex. You can also create a color scheme such as primary, complementary, analogous, or triadic. By utilizing the color wheel, you won’t have to worry about a dreaded color clash ruining your design.
Adding a pop of color can instantly grab attention and help quickly communicate your message. It can be the perfect way to add emphasis and create a focal point in a complicated design. Contrast is key to creating this result, but it’s important to remember our perception of a color changes based on saturation, hue, or background. A color can be distracting or underwhelming if it’s used without enough contrast. Spotify is a an example of how to effectively create interest with color. They use a bright, recognizable green in their logo and as an accent color throughout the app. Combined with a dark interface, this allows for strong usability that is also visually appealing.
Organization and Communication
Another way to use color to your advantage is as a means of organization. Color can be used to create balance and order. Do you have a detailed chart, long list, or graph? Use color to simplify and make it easier to understand for the viewer. You can also use colors as indicators. For example, red and green carry pre-conceived notions, i.e. bad vs good, which can further clarify and enhance your messaging. Overall, color can carry meaning and information, so its use is not limited to enhancing aesthetically but also in terms of communication.
One of the most powerful concepts behind color is the emotions it can evoke. However, it’s important to understand your audience before you decide on color, due to the specific meanings and connotations in different cultures. Choosing between neutrals, warm, cool, or bright colors can completely shift the perception and emotions perceived. While these emotions vary between individuals, some common color associations include:
Choosing a color palette based on these simple concepts can yield the reaction you hope to achieve and project a brand personality as well. There are many companies that use color to communicate certain emotions and project their brand image. For example, many financial and healthcare companies, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, PayPal, and IBM, all use the color blue in their logos and branding, communicating stability and trust among others. The psychology behind a color is a critical element to consider when communicating a particular mood.
Overall, color can be the cherry on top of a strong design as well as a powerful and important tool of communication. Understanding basic principles of color theory, can lead to smart and beautiful color palettes. This coupled with an understanding of the emotional undertones that color can evoke, will lead you to create the best designs possible.
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