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Animosity for Animus

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In: Columns > DigiSect

By Stephen Van Doren

Published on March 5, 2001

What?

A strong dislike or hatred of animal fat.

What?

Animal fat. The stuff you cut off of a steak to enjoy the meal--the stuff that is thrown out to make the experience more enjoyable.

Oh, cute. You're using metaphor to express your Nielsonite views.

Not at all.

Then what are you saying?

I'm saying that there are many aspects of design (on the Web in particular) that should be thrown out if they are doing something that is detracting from the experience. More importantly, it's getting rid of stuff that is under-developed that could be so much more than what the designer chose to include. Style. Content. Colour.

What does colour have to do with this?

We, as designers, use colours that work well with eachother. We use colours that our clients ask for specifically. We know colour!

Okay, so colour, as you just admitted, is a style.

I choose to call this new style the Style of Light, or the Style of Intuitive Response. Colour has built-in communicative abilities that few have been willing to expound upon. Emotion is a powerful option to evoke in design. Trust me.

Trust you? You haven't even explained what the hell you're talking about!

What does colour have to do with my designs? Simple. Coffeeshops are earthtones. Businesses historically prefer blues and greens. Conspiracy theorists tend to be black and white.

What does this mean?

It means that colour is already being accepted as an official forum for expressing emotion and/or tone immediately. It means you can evoke a response from the get-go, before you even make the user/viewer read a word, or see a graphic.

Cool! Where do I begin?

Well, there's a lot of variation there. It's tough to pin down absolutes in the business of colour-expression. But there are combinations of colours that will always evoke certain responses from people.

So now you're getting to the heart of this.

You're going to give us colour combinations to ease the transition from the Web that Was to the Web That Could Be?

Yes. Well, no. Yes and no. I'll teach about colour yes. I'll teach about specific design elements that need to start being controlled, that need to start being important. It's about taking all aspects of design and putting them into one big bag for each project. So, yes. And no.

Okay...Great. So one final question: why are you talking to me as though I was someone other than you?

Actually, I'm glad you asked. It's a clever variation on the narrative voice. Using literary licensure, I've decided that it's important to incorporate yet another aspect of design that few people notice. Trust us, it works.

Us?

Hey, it works for Zeldman.

» Okay, enough introduction! On to the beef! (next page) »

It's official: we think colour is a pretty spiffy idea. Further, we think colour combinations should utilize emotion and provoke the proper response from the viewer before we have to take up much bandwidth. So what, intrepid explorer, do you want to do now?

Colour Combination #1

I'll be honest with you: I love robust colour schemes. I just love them. I love buying a bottle of Weinhart's Root Beer, just so I can stare into the deep maroons and browns with accents in tans. If you haven't had this root beer experience, I suggest you go to your local supermarket and see to it. I just love it. I call that theme "traditional," or perhaps simply "robust."

When I think of this first colour scheme, I'm immediately reminded of my root beer. I'm reminded that it's not so bad, everything is going to be okay. I remember more simple times, a period in my life when I didn't have to worry about bills, or clients, or even colour. I just had to remember to wash my hands before dinner, and help my mother take out the trash every day. It was a simple life. I'm calmed by that. Keep in mind that the following colour combinations are, by no stretch of the imagination, web-safe. So, if you're using something less than 24bit colour on your monitor, chances are good that these won't look right. Consider yourself forewarned.

1 2 3

TrueToForm
#9B3242 :: #C06F00 :: #5E6C3C

4 5 6

Variation
#B53A4C :: #D97E00 :: #70853D

At first glance, this colour scheme is very soothing, dipping almost into earthtones but not quite. The main color (the maroon) exhibits a personality of depth, but not pretentiousness, as do most reds. It's simplicity immediately invites trust, something that we are trying to go for here.

Why it works

The orange colour, though subordinate to the maroon, pulls out some of the deeper saturation of the other two colours. Because of it's closeness to gray, it's able to neutralize the surrounding gray, giving everything a more saturated feel. (see table #3) What this means is that when this umber is combined with any good, saturated colour, that other colour will lose most of it's gray properties.

2 . .

Table 3
#BF7000 ::: #A66F21 :: #867358

Why is this good?

I knew you had to ask.

The maroon (1) in question actually has green in it; a great deal, to be exact. While it sits promptly in the pink/maroons of the Pantone 490s (it being Pantone 492 CVC), it exits a near 26% saturation of green in it's makeup. Why is that nice? The accent (3) pulls out the green tones, giving it a much more robust feel.

Okay, so who would use this?

I know, nothing is quite the same as actual experiences with these colours. I can speak about them until I'm blue in the face, but I'm afraid you'll not understand until you see a few examples in the works. The most important thing to think about when looking through these sites? Colour, composition, content. Three Cs. If the colour works with the content, then composition must work with, not against, the colours.

My personal favorite site using these colors is Scores Daily, which immediately strikes the user with it's traditional, down-home American touch that everyone seems to enjoy. If I cared, at all, about sports other than the Avalanche, this site would be on my hotlist for many years. Instead, its in my list of sites that use colour well and appropriately.

Though Flip Design uses a touch more saturation in their colour schemes than what was discussed here, the theme remains the same: traditional, robust, trusting colours that allure the audience.

Everyone loves art. Everyone seems to have a link somewhere to an art site somewhere. The North Caroline Museum of Art uses a scheme that is very warm, and very similar to what we've talked about here. I suggest going to the museum and telling me if the inside is as robust as the outside.

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Stephen Van Doren is a software developer and graphic designer from Denver, Colorado.

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