Monday, June 27, 2011

Design Element - Colour

Under normal light conditions, well over 10 million different colours can be seen.  Throughout history, the study of colour and the development of colour theories were frequently undertaken by artists and designers, and many artists have spent their lives attempting to understand colour.  Seurat wanted to apply a scientific system to the methods of the Impressionists, and his Pointillist theories, where dots of colour from a restricted colour palette were used to create the impression of a wide range of colour, clearly show his fascination with analyzing colours.
                Colours communicate; some colours are associated with cold (blues and greys) and some with warmth (reds and oranges).  Colour can convey the time of day, weather conditions and temperature, and even the time of year.  Colours can be designed to blend in with the environment or to stand out.  Frank Lloyd Wright saw architecture as growing directly from the earth on which is stood and therefore used the colours of the surrounding areas in his buildings while Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, the designers of Paris’s Pompidou Centre, used colour, not to blend in, but to code the different pipe systems for heating and other services.
                In art and design work, the colour can be used in a natural or abstract way.  Maps make use of both abstract and natural colour; natural colours are used when illustrating mountains, deserts and seas while maps showing political boundaries will use abstract colour.
                Colour is a crucial part of all branches of design and design-based industries.  Advertising agencies know that graphic information in colour will have a more profound effect than that in black and white.  Colour grabs the attention span because memory recall from colour is quite pronounced.
                Colour is used to promote corporate identity.  Blue is used by many banks to give the suggestion of reliability, while the appetite.  Blue is used by many banks to give the suggestion of reliability, while the appetite colours of red and yellow are used by fast food chains.  Green is frequently used to denote environmental friendliness while more subtle greens convey a feeling of upmarket status.  The American Express card was originally launched in yellow but was a flop; however, when its colour was changed to that of the American dollar bill it become a success.  The green livery of Harrods, the world-famous upmarket store in London, epitomizes good taste and sophistication.
                Forecasting colour trends is itself an industry, and fashion colours change with the seasons.  Underlying these cyclical trends, however, are some basic colour preferences.  In colour popularity tests, blue is frequently placed first, with red second.  Blue ties are most popular, with red ties in second place, and blue and red cars regularly occupy top positions, only being outdone by silver, a colour symbolizing luxury and wealth.
                The colour or a product influences the perception of it, and this is used extensively in marketing.  Many people believe a red car will drive faster than a white one.  Tests with coffee showed that coffee served in a red mug was preferred to the same coffee served in a yellow mug (considered too weak) and in a brown mug (too strong).  Foodstuffs claiming to be pure and unadulterated often use blue and white packaging to communicate purity.  However, in this age of environmental awareness it is predicted that more earthy colours will symbolize a natural product while white will be associated with chlorine and all that is environmentally unfriendly.  Products communicating strength adopt vibrant and contrasting colours; the greater the contrast, the stronger the associated power.

                Colour can be used to represent a product, with some colours idealizing a product, and some using biological signals to communicate function.  Yellow and black are used in nature as a warning symbol for reptiles and insects that have poisonous bites or stings and this colour combination is therefore often used to represent danger.  Yellow and black is used on signs when the desire is to signal caution.


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