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Graphic Designer's Essential Reference by Timothy Samara

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GRAPHIC DESIGNER’S ESSENTIAL REFERENCE
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Color identity is often
mapped on a color wheel,
a diagrammatic model
developed by British artist
and scientist Albert Munsell.
The relative positions of the
hues around the wheel help
describe their relationships to
each other.
Hues that lie opposite
each other are made up of
wavelengths that stimulate
opposing cells in the eye
and optically negate each
other; these pairs are called
complements.
Hues that are adjacent are
made of similar wavelengths,
and are referred to as being
analogous.
Understanding how to use color effectively
depends fi rst on understanding its visual
attributes—how colors are identifi ed, how
they can be varied, and the optical effects they
have on each other in juxtaposition. Every
color has a core identity, or hue; a color is
rst generally recognized as blue or green or
orange. Any hue, however, may be intense
or dull (degrees of saturation); it may also be
dark or light (degrees of value); and it may
be perceived as cool or warm (degrees of
temperature).
Palettes Based on Chromatic Interaction
The fi rst direction a designer may pursue in
developing a color palette for a project is that
of optical interaction. Creating a rich palette
depends on combining colors that can be
clearly distinguished from each other, but
that also share some unifying optical relation-
ships. Because of the strong opposition of
complements, palettes based on this relation-
ship tend to be the most optically dynamic—
that is, cells in the eye are stimulated more
aggressively, and the brain is provoked into
greater activity as a result. Analogous colors,
by their very similarity, create more complex,
but less varied, palettes.
Using such a basic relationship as a start-
ing point guarantees a viewers clear percep-
tion of a color idea; the designer may opt to
maintain that simplicity, using the hues of
that relationship in purer form, or introduce
complexity—adjusting the value or intensity
differences between the base colors, or adding
colors that support and expand the relation-
ship between the base colors.
Creating Visually Dynamic
Color Relationships
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ESSENTIAL VISUAL STRATEGIES
BASIC TECHNIQUES
Hues positioned at 120°
to each other (in a triangular
relationship) are called triads,
or split complements.
This matrix helps visualize
the complexity resulting from
variations in saturation,
temperature, and value that
are possible for a single hue
in this case, violet. Swatches
increase in saturation left
to right while progressing
from warm at the top to
cool at the bottom
all at
the same relatively dark
value. Smaller, light-value
swatches of each variant
are positioned in the corners
for comparison across their
respective boundaries.
Neutral Intense
........
{
SATURATION
}
........
........
{
TEMPERATURE
}
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Color identity is relative
the
perception of hue, saturation,
value, and temperature of a
color changes depending on
the colors around it and how
much of each is present. This
effect, called simultaneous
contrast, is demonstrated by
the change in apparent color
of the central swatch as it
appears in different contexts.
The process of defi ning a pal-
ette can begin very simply:
choosing two complementary
colors, for example, because
their interaction is so strong.
Seeking a richer experience,
the designer may shift the
temperature of the comple-
ments, maintaining the
relationship but skewing it
slightly.
Adjusting the relative values
of the complements creates
greater contrast without
disturbing the clarity of the
relationship.
Altering the intensities of one
or both introduces yet greater
complexity.
The addition of a neutral ver-
sion of one of the complements
expands the palette; a second
version of the neutral, lighter
in value, introduces greater
variation.
To this already complex mix,
the designer lastly adds the
analog of one of the base
complements, adjusting its
value and intensity to cor-
respond more closely to one of
the neutrals.
Cooler Warmer
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