In the last article, Reema Yeager brought us very practical tips to enhance our design. Now, she picks up where she left off.

Color or Colour

Color is very subjective, but there are general human psychologies that nearly all of us react to. Learn what colours mean, color psychology seems trivial but can have a huge impact on your project. For example: green – depending on the exact shade – can mean money or nature; blue – depending on the specific hue – can mean warm and inviting or cold and distant; yellow is a strong color that people either love or hate, period, it can also make babies cry more and elderly – especially in hospice care – shake more.

Combinations of colors can be pleasing or unsettling. Monochromatic colors (eg shades of grey to black) can be pleasant but boring, they need an accent color or two to bring life to them and draw attention to important items. Complimentary colors are complete opposites on the color wheel (eg orange and purple), they can be vibrant and contrasting when paired together, but they fight for dominance. Analogous colors are colours that are next to each other on the color wheel (eg green, blue and purple), these are often found in nature and are pleasing to the eye, but they recede and it becomes hard to tell what is important. Stay with a simple pallet and follow #1

Themes

To bring all the above points together, find or create a theme that your work revolves around. Make that theme narrow, but not too tight (eg water vs river; horror vs supernatural fiction). Too vague and you don’t know what to focus on, too tight and you won’t have enough inspiration material (eg mental disorders vs OCD handwashing due to fear of germs; high-end sports cars vs Lamborghini Diablo). Why do you need themes? It helps you pull inspiration to create your color scheme, find a balance, know what to focus on, and stay consistent.

Putting it all into perspective

I’ve recently worked on a new showroom design for a client, as well as their new website, marketing materials and presentation standards. In other words, their branding. While they had a logo, colors (royal blue and intense orange) and fonts picked out, they didn’t have consistency. Their former space and branding was alright, but it didn’t follow the above principles. The sales team had to explain to their clients what their mission and goals were, it was not self-evident. In the initial stages of design I researched their culture, clients and business model, called The Canoe Theory. I gathered inspirational pictures and reference materials to create a theme: canoeing down a river. For each of the above principles I asked myself, what would I see canoeing down a river and how does this translate into the design? I was able to create a simple color pallet for the showroom: blue and orange shades that subtly transition from before sunrise (cool, dark and intense) to mid-day (warm, bright and light) from the front to back of the showroom.

I could understand what balance I needed to strike, there’s some angularity and rigidity in the canoe, but then there’s fluid natural forms in the foliage and water, so the design is angular but juxtaposed with rounded, soft edges. Because of this theme, I could focus on simplicity, if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t belong (on the existing presentations there was a lot of information that was not necessary, and so they were streamlined to show only pertinent information that fit with the whole brand). And, finally, I had all of these things guiding me so I could create consistency (eg all the artwork, abstract or otherwise, is centered on that feeling of nature you might experience while canoeing). This has become their brand. The story they were telling is now intuitive to client’s who’ve never heard of them, clients “get it” without being told. Now the story they tell their clients enhances their design, not the other way around. From digital to physical, the same principles apply no matter what you’re creating.

This post is by Reema F. Yeager, a designer, storyteller, artist, and good friend.

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Chris Michaels

Storyteller. Researcher. Coder. Innovator. I seek to push the boundaries of storytelling and education.
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