Natalya Shelburne

Practical color theory for people who code

Date: This event took place live on August 11 2016

Presented by: Natalya Shelburne

Duration: Approximately 60 minutes.

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Something as simple as picking a color palette is often the very thing that scares developers away from diving into design. Design decisions are so open-ended and exposed, and everyone's a critic. And if your colors clash, there's no compiler throwing an error or tests failing to let you know. No wonder amazing developers clam up when it's time to make design decisions, deferring to "someone creative, who knows more about design."

Natalya Shelburne breaks down color theory basics the developer way—by abstracting away her domain knowledge as an artist into variables and functions and sharing that information—to demystify design decisions, revealing them to be logical, predictable, and driven by principles that anyone can learn. Along the way, Natalya explores wavelengths, old-school fine art resources, and code code code. This isn't a talk about how colors make us feel—this is science.

Key questions include:

  • What should you do when someone says "make it pop"?
  • How can you improve accessibility with intentional use of color?
  • Why are most "call to action" buttons a warm color like red or orange?
  • Why shouldn't you use #000000 on your website?
  • Why are red and green color schemes troublesome in design?
  • What happens if you mix exactly equal parts red and green? How about blue and orange?
  • Why do highlights seem to always go on the tops of buttons?
  • Why do certain colors look good together?
  • Why does a color look good in a color picker but bad when you use it on your site?
  • Why does using more white space make things look so much better?
  • Why are Sass variables and color functions such awesome tools for developers?

About Natalya Shelburne

Natalya Shelburne is a classically trained fine artist who spent six years lecturing and teaching people how to paint, draw, and grow their creativity. Upon realizing that the Renaissance had in fact already ended, Natalya decided to join the modern world and is now a frontend developer. She loves writing code as much as she loves painting and wants to convince the world that writing CSS is an art form. Natalya holds a bachelor's degree in developmental psychology and a master's degree in creativity and talent development. She combines these disparate fields by weaving interesting facts about how our brains work, learn, and develop into her talks on applying old-school design theory and knowledge to the infinite canvas that is the Internet. When she’s not writing code, Natalya paints, teaches, and drinks coffee.