In 2015, a viral photograph of “the dress”, divided the population. The image raised a question about how we see and interpret colour. Was it black and blue, or white and gold? For designers and marketers, the challenge is to create an appealing design that balances colour well and connects with the audience – not divides it. 

By Carla Stanton, graphic designer at Stone Junction.

Traditional colour theory provided guidelines for which colours work well together and what effect colour combinations can create in a design. 

It’s not always as straightforward as you might think. We now need to consider how personal preference, cultural differences and previous experiences can all influence how people see colour. Differing perceptions of colour can make it difficult for brands looking to invoke the right reaction from potential and current customers.

It’s not always black and white
Colour can have different meanings across the globe, so it is important to understand your audience and know how your design may be perceived. 

For example, black means rebirth in some Eastern countries, while in the Western world it can be seen as morbid and mysterious. White, which is usually perceived as pure and peaceful, is the colour of death and bad luck in some Asian countries.  

As well as different countries, colours can conjure up different emotions depending on the context. Blue is often used to depict trust, expertise and strength, but is also said to curb appetite, so is usually avoided by food companies. 

Doing your research will help you to understand how your audience will react to your design.

Balancing the tone
Using colours effectively has a lot to do with balance. The more colours you use, the more complicated it gets to balance them. It is important to check the relationship between the colours on the colour wheel and carefully consider if you could limit your palette. Adobe has a really nifty colour wheel tool here.

You may want to look at the contrast in colours and tone to ensure everything else in your design is defined and not blended too much. Check if any colours affect the appearance of nearby colours, as this can have an impact on the mood your design creates. The key is to use colours that complement each other. 

Whatever colour the dress really was, if you’re thinking about changing your brand colour guidelines get in touch on 01785 225416 or e-mail me
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