Design Skills - Resources and Training for Designers

Using colour
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Colours are a wonderful way to add interest and personality to a design. They can also be very useful to visually separate or link areas, guide people through a space, emphasise or neutralise surfaces. The trick is to choose the right colours and amount for a given design. Some colours may be used to make bold statements while others will work best as subtle accents.

Although choosing a colour or combinations of colours may seem to be a simple matter of personal preferences, a designer has to consider many issues that ultimately influence their choice of colours. This is true in the domestic and public domain and even more so in commercial environments where colours can be used to enhance the appeal of a company, convey specific messages or control footfall.

Which factors can influence the choice of colours?

Existing surrounding/company image: if only one area of a building is being refurbished, it should be coherent with its existing surroundings. Similarly, if only one area of a business image is being revamped, it should be coherent with existing designs.

Function: the choice of colours in a top of the range restaurant is unlikely to call for the same combination as that of a store selling sport goods. Similarly, the choice of colour for the packaging of an expensive perfume is likely to be different than for a bottom of the range item.

Who are the users: Who is targeted? How many people? Who are they?

Requirements: to relax, play, work, eat ?

Location and meanings: worldwide, national and regional. In China for example, white is a colour associated with death. Also think of the preferences of users or a company's corporate colours.

Image projection: how will it be perceived?

Lighting: is there a lot of natural light or is it mostly artificial? The same colour can look drastically different under different lighting conditions.

Life expectancy of the design: some colours and colour combinations may reflect current fashion and be short-lived.

Overall desired effect: bold statement or subtle reaction?

As well as taking into considerations the physical factors that influence the use of colours, look at colour theory to understand their psychological influence and relationship with one another.

There are millions of possible colour combinations and I have created some sample colour wheels. I looked for inspiration on images of existing interiors, nature, clothing, atmospheric photo shoots, paintings, etc.

Although all samples are the same size on a wheel, it is important to carefully study their relationship and the intended use before deciding on the amount to use for each one.

Click on a thumbnail for a larger version of the sample. You can then copy it onto your Desktop.

Colour wheels - Click on the thumbnail to open a larger image

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