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Best Practices for Graphic Designers, Color Works by John Cantwell, Eddie Opara

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We use wayfinding to establish landmarks, enabling
people to quickly decipher and differentiate spaces.
For wayfinding, color is often used as a powerful
mnemonic device; but color within wayfinding is
reliant upon the context of its situation.
Wayfinding
and Color
Cartlidge Levene
Shown is a close up of the color-
coded waynding system that uses dif-
fering tones of color. At the headquarters
of the Guardian newspapers in London,
every level of the offices is color-coded.
Within the dynamic, horizontally shifting
signs, individual values of each color palette
are applied to differentiate floor locations.
These color values are inspired by the pal-
ettes used within the actual newspaper.
fig. 001
124 Color Works Production & Information Wayfinding and Color
4.5
4.3
4.3
At the headquarters of the
Guardian newspapers in London, every
level of the offices is color-coded. Within
the dynamic, horizontally shifting signs,
individual values of each color palette are
applied to differentiate floor locations.
These color values are inspired by the pal-
ettes used within the actual newspaper.
For instance, airport waynding mechanisms might not work for
a city’s street signs. Or signage in one city might not work for signage
in another city.
Color-coding can establish hierarchy and differentiate areas/zones
more clearly. In buildings, waynding can be applied not only to hang-
ing and standing signage but also to interior and exterior wall spaces
and zones. Color may also be applied to entryways and exits to signify
a change from one color-coded zone to another. Floors are also
a possibility: Color-coding can make it easier to define a space.
This type of work is highly sensitive and collaborative, and decisions
regarding waynding cannot be made by the designer alone. Several
professionals, from architects to fire and safety inspectors, will have
a say in what colors can and cannot be used in an environment. The
majority of the time there is no subjective rationale behind color
choices. Rather, choices result from a clear, objective understanding
of the situation at hand.
As a designer, there are many things to consider:
When designing within buildings, know what other colors and
materials are being used in the same surroundings.
Design for individuals with disabilities.
Avoid using too many colors—a palette that’s too broad
reduces the mnemonic power of color and makes it more
subjective.
Rules and regulations differ from country to country, and
even town to town.
As in print, color studies will need to be shown in the physical space to
determine whether the colors will work in the given environment. Use
Pantone PMS colors for interior signage and AkzoNobel, DuPont, or
Dulux for exteriors. RAL is an equal alternative to Pantone PMS colors.
Originating in Germany in the mid-1920s, RAL (Reichsausschuß für
Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung—“State Commission for Delivery
Terms and Quality Assurance”) was created as a color standard for
industry. Originally a simplified system with forty colors, RAL now
comprises more than 1,800 colors. RAL is normally used by graphic
designers with a focus on wayfinding, as well as architects and industrial
designers. It uses a four-digit system: The first digit represents the color
hue, the second is neutral (always zero), the third number is lightness/
brightness, and the fourth numeric is the chroma.
Natural and artificial lighting conditions are an important factor in
choosing color for wayfinding. Depending on its location, natural light
can play havoc on color. It is very important to know whether the location
is consistently gray, overcast, sunny, or hazy. This knowledge allows
you to determine whether your palette is too soft or too extreme for its
environment. Discoloration may occur if the colors are exposed to
extreme natural daylight, so selecting durable materials and colors is
fig. 002

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