25 Nov 2013by Georgie Cousens

Using Colour Wisely

Using Colour WiselyBack in the day we only really had black and white documents because it was prohibitively expensive to print in colour. In fact it wasn’t until the late 80’s that we got colour printers for the home and even then they were expensive!
So ‘back in the day’ the way to make things stand out was by using BOLD or ITALICS in your documents and overhead projector transparency sheets! (Remember when the buzz of the overhead projector would put you to sleep? In the classroom … in the boardroom!)

Thank goodness those days are long gone, because colour is vital in graphic design and it makes a huge impact on all the documents that come out of your company. Colour can change your mood –  scientists study the impact that colour has on people so you know it’s got to be important. For example Blue is associated with being responsible and trustworthy and Yellow means playful and fun. So when you are pitching for new business and want to develop some trust, blue would be a good option or if you are selling children’s music, use yellow wisely.

People are used to sorting their lives by colour – just think of the humble traffic light, we always know that red means stop and green means go (yes there is some debate over orange, some say it means put your foot down, other say it means stop). Colours are symbolic, so you can use them to your advantage, but make sure you select colours that enhance the meaning of your message. If you are talking about finances, the last colour you should consider is red – unless you’re talking about how badly the company is doing.

Just because the meaning of colour is useful this doesn’t mean you should use 10 different colours because you are trying to convey a complex message. You need to limit your palette, just like it’s a good idea to limit the selection of fonts you use. If you try and make everything ‘POP‘, nothing will pop. So you may want to consider a ‘Rule of 3’ to make it easier for you – 3 fonts, 3 colours  =  fantastic looking documents. I’m not saying that’s a hard and fast rule, but sometimes it’s easier to create a clean document when you put limits on yourself. Creating a colour scheme before you start work will ensure a consistent look throughout your document. If your company has marketing and branding guidelines, use those as a base to work from, and always keep in mind, that sometimes to make something stand out you need to take items away, this allows some visual ‘breathing space’.

So the colour take-aways are:

  • Colour is a useful tool if used wisely.
  • Use colour to enhance the meaning of your documents by working with its meaning.
  • Don’t go colour crazy, pick your colour scheme and be consistent.
  • Sometimes a simple minimalist approach is the best option.

What colours do you like to use in your documents and presentations? Do you have branding standards that you adhere to, or do you create it on the fly? If you need a little guidance in what would and wouldn’t work, let us know, we’re good at this colour stuff.

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