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Graphic Designer's Essential Reference by Timothy Samara

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Exploiting Color to Enhance Hierarchy

Our optical system (the eyes and brain) allows us to perceive colors as occupying different spatial depths. Red appears stationary at a middle distance; yellow appears to advance toward us; blue appears to recede. In general, cool colors appear to recede, while warm colors advance.

Consider the spatial property of color carefully with regard to hierarchy, whether visual or typographic. Clearly, form elements colored in red, orange, and yellow are likely to capture attention easily because they will appear to advance toward the viewer; in a field of neutrals, a more saturated color will draw attention. But the degree of value contrast between elements, or between elements and background—tends to trump temperature ...

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