On ColorBy Burkey Belser
April 15, 2001
Interview with Burkey Belser, LMA Strategies, April 15, 2001
Do you have a favorite color that you use in the design process? Can there be such a thing?
For me, color is one of the tools in the designer's toolbox. However, everyone is partial to a distinct color palette. I can identify the color palette of young designers after seeing their first two or three designs. One of the great challenges they face is to expand their palette beyond their natural inclination. They will learn this is one way to get out of a slump or become re-energized about your work. By the way, some palettes are defined by a product or service category. While designers should certainly experiment with that palette, they should do so knowingly.
Does the downturn in the economy affect your use or your client's choice of colors? Should it?
If colors are chosen—as I believe they should be—strategically to promote the client's market position, the economy should not affect those color choices unless the changed economy fundamentally affects the product or service strategy. It's hard to imagine singling out color as determinative. Market downturns affect messaging and, yes, imagery, but less often color. Is there hidden in the question a suggestion that color could become either brighter or more sober in response to economic conditions? Will the bright yellow Beetle disappear? Will the iMac go corporate? Seems unlikely.
Is color on the Internet getting better? How do you deal with color when designing a Web site or a project, e.g., a logo or annual report, that will also be featured on a Web site?
Managing color is tough enough on paper without the limitations of the Web. Color varies from app to app, screen to screen, printer to printer, paper to paper and press to press. Morever, a significant percentage of individuals are color-blind in part of the color range. Even those who see all colors see color differently. For some aqua is blue; for others green. Meanwhile, clients aren't typically sympathetic. They are protective of their perceived identity palette and impatient with variation. Who hasn't reprinted a job to keep a client happy even when the initial printing fell safely within color standards? The key is to manage client expectations.
In Web design, we do not show screen captures in color—only in black and white for making notes or making text edits. Designs are viewed as PDFs on an extranet site. Leaving color printouts with a client will encourage their allegiance to a color that may not be achievable on the Web. Remind clients to make their Web color decisions on screen, view from one screen consistently, expect dramatic variations and be pleasantly surprised if the site appears identical from one screen to the next.
The limitations of color on the Web have not been improved. Cross platform colors and dithering are still important issues (Is this true? Greater screen resolution? Browser solutions?)