Sunday, June 3, 2012

Elements of Design - Color

Elements of Design - Color
 The next and one of my favorite elements of design is color.  Color is the hue, shade or tone of an object.

Categories of Color
There are 3 basic categories of color.

  • Primary Color - They are red, blue, and yellow.  
    • These colors are equal distant on the color wheel and are used to make up other colors.  
    • Most large companies use primary colors since people think of them as safe are people relate to the colors ( Walmart, Target, McDonalds etc..)
    • I have found these 3 colors are very safe colors to use at work and home design and people do except them easily.
  • Secondary Colors - They are orange, violet and green.  
    • These colors are created by mixing of two primary colors.  
    • Secondary colors are used to be more vibrant than the primary colors and more unique.  
    • Companies that use secondary colors are trying to stand out and are sometimes are more sophisticated than the standard Primary colors (Starbucks, and Home Depot) 
    • I have found that people have strong positive and/or negative reactions to Secondary colors at work and in home design.  Some people love or hate orange, purple and with green, it all depends on the shade of green you pick.
  • Tertiary Colors - They are Red-Orange, Yellow-Green, and Blue-Violet.
    • These colors are formed by mixing of a primary and secondary color.
    • Tertiary colors also are not as accepting as primary colors for people.
    • They do ad a layer of richness to a color palate and makes it feel less childlike and more sophisticated.

Below is the color wheel to show you the 3 different types of color.

Color is categorized by how the colors are used together.
  • Analogous colors:
    • The analog color are those colors that lie on either side of it in the color wheel.
      • For an example, Red, red-orange and orange.
  • Complementary colors:
    • These colors are opposite of the color wheel and when placed next to each other they look bright.
    • When they are mixed together they neutralize each other.
      • For an example, blue & orange or red & green, or violet & yellow
Perceptual attributes of color
There are tree attributes of color which creates the millions of different colors used in our world.
  • Hue - It is the redness, blueness or yellowness in each color
  • Value - It is the lightness of color.  Tints and shades of color that are created by adding black to a color for a shade and adding white for a tint.  Creating a tint or shade of a color reduces the saturation.
  • Saturation - This is the color's brightness or dullness

Grouping of colors
There are also three grouping of colors that have similar characteristics.
  • Monochromatic is the where one color is used but in a different value or intensity.
    • For an example, using a dark brown, brown and light brown colors together
  • Warm colors are the colors on one side of the color wheel that give the felling of warmth.
    • For an example, red, orange and yellow
  • Cool colors are the colors on the opposite side of the color wheel as the warm colors and they give a feeling of coolness.
    • For an example, blue, violet and green

Ways I use color in design
I love using color in my interior design and fashion. 

 I like to start with a neutral background and add layers of color into the design.  I like to use color as accents and end the use of color at an inside corner.  I use color to create/accent an architectural element in the design.  

Like the picture shows the use of red near the TV adds in a layer and a pop of color which a white background.  I also like to add pops of color with accent pieces.  (I tend to use color the same with interior design as I do fashion which is really fun).  

I also use color in my Corporate projects to organize the space.  I am using warm colors on the east side and cool colors on the west side of my Canada project to create order and way finding.  So if you are standing in a green space you know you are on the west side of the floor.

The use of color in ways that is can be changed out as color trends change.  I use it in less expensive materials (fabric, paint & accessories) and use neutral colors for the more expensive things (wood cabinets, carpet, furniture).  This allows the space to easily be updated with low cost as trends change.

Never be afraid of color.  It is a simple way to energize a space or outfit!


  1. White Alex, (2011). The Elements of Graphic Design, New York, NY Allworth Press pp 81-105.

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