Monday, January 25, 2010

The Beauty of Colors

A client recently asked me the following:

We have an application and need to make the User Interface (UI) more visually appealing. The UI must be user friendly (functionally) and reader friendly (aesthetically) - the former was achieved. So, in terms of the look and feel, will you be able to show us a few design options? We are looking for simple enhancements such as appealing font, colors, tab borders, etc.

My first reaction was "wow... wait a minute... this stuff is very subjective!". After thinking about it some more, I decided that the best way to tackle this problem was to educate the customer with how color combinations work in general, then elicit feedback on color preferences including a review of any corporate assets such as logos, and finally present recommendations or options on how to skin the UI.

What I thought you might enjoy reading about is the intriguing world of colors.

I am reminded of Van Day Truex, the man who is credited for defining 20th century taste and style, who said "Remember, color is not just color, but mood, temperature, and structure." There are 3 main bands of colors: Warm (red, pink, orange, yellow), Cool(green, blue, purple), and Neutral(brown, white, gray, black) colors.
True to Van Day Truex's words, each of these colors have actually been documented to portray specific moods. So have fun with drawing similarities between the definitions below and colors that you pick in your personal life.

Warm Colors
Red: aggressiveness, passion, strength, vitality
Pink: femininity, innocence, softness, health
Orange: fun, cheeriness, warm exuberance
Yellow: positive thinking, sunshine, cowardice

Cool Colors
Green: tranquility, health, freshness
Blue: authority, dignity, security, faithfulness
Purple: sophistication, spirituality, costliness, royalty, mystery

Neutral Colors
Brown: utility, earthiness, woodiness, subtle richness
White: purity, truthfulness, being contemporary and refined
Gray: somberness, authority, practicality, corporate mentality
Black: seriousness, distinctiveness, boldness, being classic

*Source from

The next blog post will cover one of the key tools in a designer's toolbox; the color wheel.

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