Some years ago, when I was a student, there was a time when all of my design work incorporated, in full measure, the color pink. That color just worked for the project at hand. Some five projects in a row prominently featured a pink hue. Personally, I don’t like the color pink. Pink, salmon, melon, rouge, call it what you want, I don’t like it. I won’t say I hate pink. Pink is just a color, there’s no need to go all the way to hate. I just had to set my personal bias aside and accept that pink was the right color for the job.
So let’s get right to the point. The point is, no matter what color you like or don’t like, your personal color bias has nothing to do with choosing the right color palette for marketing material. As the Graphic Designer for Workforce Training, I am asked to produce a varied array of catalogs, brochures, e-mails and video introduction animations on topics as disparate as Energy Engineering and Horticulture. Things would look very odd indeed, if I used only my favorite colors on these projects. Not only would everything look similar, the marketing material I create would be sending an unintended, or worse inappropriate, sub-textual message.
“What color is best for my marketing material?” might be a question running through your mind right now. The simple and plain truth is—there is no simple and plain truth, no magic bullet color. I’d like to tell you about two very effective methods to determine what color will get your message across most accurately.
In 1997, Color Bytes: Blending the Art and Science of Color by Jean Bourges was published. This book is a distillation of much of the color theory/psychology that came before it. It is, in fact, the most useful, concise and easy to use work on color to date. It is invaluable when determining the correct color (or color family) to use when promoting any particular topic. I have used Bourges color theory for many years and seldom have to refer to it anymore. However, this is one reference text that no design office should be without. It must be said at this point, that this book is currently out of print. Used copies (a dwindling number of them) are available on Amazon and Ebay.
The second method to determine the correct color for a marketing piece is Kuler, a “web-hosted application for generating color themes.” When you go to the Kuler page, look for the search window in the middle of the left side of the page. Here, you can type in a descriptor and Kulor will produce choices based on that “tag”. Clicking on any one of the themes provided will take you to that themes page. To the right of the themes name is a box with three lines inside it. This icon will take you to the page that describes the color theme, provides the base color and list all of the numeric color information you could ever want. In short, Kulor provides a wealth of color information that can guide anyone to a harmonious and appropriate color decision.
There you have it. Correct color choice in a nutshell. The right color choice will enhance and reinforce your message. The wrong color choice will confuse and mislead the viewer. You can be sure your favorite color has nothing to do with the right color to choose.¬
Max Swenson is the Graphic Designer and Animator for Idaho State University Office of Workforce Training