Fundamentals of Color

This week’s topic is color! Color is an incredibly important tool because often it is a viewer’s first read. Graphic Design School states that “psychologists have proven that the color of an object is seen before its shape and details.” With this in mind, it is crucial to understand how to use color effectively.

The first part of this chapter starts off by giving an introduction to basic color vocabulary such as hue, tone, saturation, etc. If you haven’t been following my blog, I actually touch on most of these in a post from a few weeks ago, so I’ll avoid being too redundant. If you’d like to go back and review these, scroll down to my “Concrete Objects and Structures”post from several months ago or click here.

Moving along, it is important to also know how color works in regards to printing. What you see on a computer screen is not always going to be exactly the same in print. This is because the computer uses the RGB coloring system while printers use the CMYK system.

Here is a side by side comparison of the same image in RGB and CMYK. In my experience printing, this seems like a little bit of an exaggeration, but you can obviously see the difference between the two and how much duller and less saturated CMYK looks. (google images)

Here is a side by side comparison of the same image in RGB and CMYK. In my experience printing, this seems like a little bit of an exaggeration, but you can obviously see the difference between the two and how much duller and less saturated CMYK looks. (google images)

The RGB color system is named such because it uses three additive colors, red, green, and blue. This all has to do with the way light works. I’ll refrain from trying to get too scientific but when you add red light with green and blue light, surprisingly you end up with white light. Most of us are much more familiar with the way CMYK would work, which is subtractive colors. CMYK uses cyan, magenta, and yellow (the k stands for “key” which is black). These are the colors a printer uses.

RGB uses red, green, and blue to create colors while CMYK uses cyan, magenta ,and yellow. (read more about this here)

RGB uses red, green, and blue to create colors while CMYK uses cyan, magenta ,and yellow. (read more about this here)

Now that you understand some of the fundamentals about color its important to understand how it can be used in a design. I think color is especially important for legibility and codification. In order to break up information color coding can be very useful. It is an easy way to separate and group things that belong together, but also to distinguish differences.

For example, this soda brand relies almost exclusively on color to distinguish difference in flavor. While you could look closer and read the words that identify each bottle's flavor, color is a much faster and easier way to tell. (designspiration)

For example, this soda brand relies almost exclusively on color to distinguish difference in flavor. While you could look closer and read the words that identify each bottle’s flavor, color is a much faster and easier way to tell. (designspiration)

Lastly, to expand on some of these concepts I found this website on color and its associations in different parts of the world. One thing that every designer has to keep in mind when picking out color is that each color has a different meaning. This is great if you want to express a certain mood or feeling. For example, if you want something to exude warmth and happiness you might choose yellow or orange or to show sophistication, black. But one thing you  have to be careful about is what that color might connotate in a different culture. Think about the audience of what you are creating and then research what that demographic thinks of each color. Color association differs between different cultures, classes, genders, and age.  In Western cultures we associate death and mourning with the color black but actually in most Eastern cultures white is what symbolizes death and sorrow.

Here's a great infographic about different color meaning in regards to different countries. As you can see, there is a large variety of what each color represents what depending on the culture. (visual.ly)

Here’s a great infographic about different color meaning in regards to different countries. As you can see, there is a large variety of what each color represents what depending on the culture. (visual.ly)

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