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Exploring Colour

There is so much information out there about colour, use of colour and colour meanings. As designers, to have a knowledge of these theories is useful, when it comes to advising clients and working with brands.

Colour is of course very subjective and what I think is lime green could be very different to what you perceive to be lime green, which is exactly why we have references and systems (CMYK values, RGB values, Pantone, hex colours), for ensuring the exact right colour in a brief. Colour can be used as a great device when designing and is probably the most important tool for making your projects stand out.

The use of colour can evoke strong reactions due to personal preferences, or cultural considerations. So there is a lot here that needs to be considered. Just as adding 10% black to a colour can change the tone which can change the whole feeling of a piece of work. The level of saturation can also change the design in a simple way, from something bright and zingy to something quite subtle.

When we use colour we always think about the audience and who will be viewing the pages or book. For example a primary audience will obviously need bright engaging colours, however in this scenario we often use a warm colour followed by a cold colour to help children distinguish between different chapters or units. This mechanism can be a useful tool for students navigating through material.

Book covers also take some thought, especially if they are in a series. For young learners it’s often easier and more universally understood when a teacher says, “please turn to the orange book”, rather than refer to it by title. This becomes a clear simple straight forward instruction for your young learners.

Academic projects obviously need a different approach as they want to show authority on the subject and are used by older students. Therefore, we instinctively look at a more mature palette and tones where we can use secondary colours and more mixes of darker colours.

Whilst there are a multitude of cultural conventions, of which as designers, we need to be aware of and sensitive to, sometimes it’s good to push the boundaries for a more impactful, refreshing design.

So why do we use green as our brand colour - we are “wild apples” so a bright green seems an obvious choice. Apparently green is supposed to evoke stability, renewal, and nature, it’s energising and vibrant. Which hopefully sums us up, it's also my favourite colour!

Just a quick search of colour theory in Google can come up with a multitude of overwhelming information. However, I believe that colour theory is mostly about the feelings that a shade can evoke in yourself, and it's personal.

But here’s a very quick guide from a western perception:

Red: Passion, Love, Anger

Orange: Energy, Happiness, Vitality

Yellow: Happiness, Hope, Deceit

Green: Stability, Energy, Nature

Blue: Calm, Responsible, Sadness

Purple: Creativity, Royalty, Wealth

Pink: friendship, affection, approachability

Black: power, fear, mystery

Grey: Mood, Conservative, Formality

White: Purity, Cleanliness, Virtue

I hope you’ve found these thoughts useful and thought provoking. Remember don’t be scared of colour, it's such a powerful tool and fun to explore.

Rebecca Crabtree


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