Colour notes: Perception

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Design and colour

percepption1Colour selection is extremely important. And professional designers don’t choose colours that simply ‘look pretty’. Colours have meanings; colours evoke moods. Colour has been the subject of many expensive and extensive research projects.

Colours can also fool you.

Colours mean different things to different people. White, the symbol of purity in the western world, signifies death in eastern cultures. Purple, often associated with royalty and wealth, is the colour of mourning in Thailand.

perception2Colour can play tricks. See the image on the left. Our perception of colours depend on the way we see them in relation to other colours.

The central square in both crosses is the same colour. The square that appears gray in the left cross’ center is the exact same colour as its counterpart in the right hand cross.

If you don’t believe me, and I understand if you don’t, print the image.

Now, indulge in a little origami and fold the paper until the two squares are together. Yes, they are the same colour. And yes, they look totally different when you look at the image above.

See the dots in the image below. Of course, you know what’s coming now so you probably realize that again, all the dots are exactly the same colour.


Apart from the fact that this is extremely interesting, it also shows that colour decisions need to be made allowing for the fact that a colour may not be seen in isolation. If, for example, your business cards are going to be green and gray, don’t insist on Pantone colours without seeing the effect when the two colours are together.

Trust your designer.





Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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