The Complete Graphic Designer
Color has the ability to evoke
powerful emotions from people,
so when used properly, it can be
a highly effective tool for communi-
cation. Although cultural associa-
tions of color vary, there are some
commonalities in terms of color
preference and meaning. The three
primary colors—red, yellow, and
blue—tend to be the colors most
people are drawn to. For example,
the most popular color in the
world among adults, male and fe-
male, is blue. Among children, red
is the preferred color, while
yellow, the most luminous color in
the spectrum, tends to draw the
attention of infants and toddlers
with developing vision.
Red is the most passionate color
and tends to excite and get adrena-
line pumping through the body. It
is associated with both love and an-
ger; it can mean good luck, represent
lust or adultery (as in The Scarlet
Letter or a “red light” district), dan-
ger, and also helps to incite warfare
(the ancient Romans carried red
ags into battle because of the
color’s association with blood).
Blue, the most popular color, uni-
versally symbolizes serenity and
tranquility. It has a calming effect
if used in moderation or suggests
a deep depression if the viewer is
inundated with too much blue.
Part of this color’s soothing quali-
The Communicative
Quality of Color
Governments around the world
have long been patrons of the arts,
commissioning graphic designs for
paper currency and even postage
stamps. These books of stamps
for the Royal Mail use color-coding
and large typography to quickly
communicate denominations for
different types of stamps.
Design: CDT Design
The new Food Pyramid released by the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration uses different color
wedges to represent the daily recommended
portions for various types of foods, a simplifi ed
version of the old, higher-context Food Pyramid.
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Design for Communication
• signifi es good
things to eat
• most “edible” color,
especially in brown
tinged shades
• evokes thoughts
of autumn
• stimulates
• signifi es danger
love, passion, desire
lust and adultery (U.S.)
• fertility, life and
happiness (Asia)
• expensive
• high quality
associated with royalty
• spirituality
• relaxing
• serenity
suggestive of the
sea and sky
frozen or cold
most cheerful color
if viewed briefl y
most fatiguing color if
viewed too long
suggestive of the
sun and gold
• fear
• most restful color
suggests jealousy or envy
growth or ecology
natural, fresh or healthy
• fl
avorful, suggestive of meat, chocolate,
and bread
associated with earthiness
• richness
warmth and comfort
• mellowness
color of mourning in Western cultures
suggestive of darkness, night, or evil
elegance, such as “black tie” events
color worn at weddings in Western cultures
symbolic of purity, cleanliness, or goodness
color of mourning in Asian cultures
Color Meaning and Association
ties and appeal are attributed to
the sky and ocean. Blue is a cool
color and is often associated with
cold things, such as frozen food.
Additionally, blue is suggestive of
both quality and expertise (blue
ribbons are given to fi rst-place
winners). Because of these positive
attributes, blue is the most popular
and widely specifi ed color in cor-
porate identity programs.
Yellow is the most luminous color
of the spectrum. Because of its
high visibility, warning signs are
often painted this color. Yellow
traditionally represents the sun
and is a most cheerful color when
used in moderation. If used too
To aid in nighttime driving, most automobile
dashboard displays use green-white or blue-
white illumination because they are easiest
to see. As the eyes age, they tend to yellow,
making red-illuminated dashboards, such as
those found in sports cars and fi ghter jets,
more diffi cult to read.
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