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February 03 2012


The Color of Love Through the Artistic Eye

Love is most often associated with the color red. Be that by conditioning of incessant advertising or that we are drawn to it by nature. Secondary to red is of course pink, in almost any level of saturation.

Red is one of those colors that possesses the strongest Ying and Yang of its theoretical definitions. Between love and hate, rebirth and death, the human relationship in any combination, could literally be summed up in the meaning of the color Red. Pink has what I would describe as a temperamental scale, more based on softness versus loudness than the extreme left or right end of the spectrum.

"Red is the color of fire and blood, so it is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination as well as passion, desire, and love." - // COLOR THEORY poster freebie

As we know, colors can generate a wide variety of emotions. Red might be the most diverse and along with pink, a tag-along little sister, many other colors in tow can lend a visual message of love a great big pop!

Falling in Love by Etsy artist,  DJEMBE & CANVAS

"Cranes represent longevity and grace. The flocks ascend our champagne symphony, where love is blessed upon those who simply believe." - posted by artist at the listing

The artist gave us a wonderfully light feeling with this palette and the birds adding further motion. I also like how the painting balances the realities of "love" with a little bit of darkness in the bottom right corner. What do you think of this palette and representation of falling in love?

Love Trees by Etsy artist, Patrick Law

This slightly abstract ensemble uses blues, lavenders and coral blend to articulate a center of warmth within the heart tree. This makes me feel warm, cozy and safe. What does it do for you?

The detail on this acrylic print is amazing. The tree's are textured and have an amazing visual feel to them.

 Long Distance Love by Etsy artist, PopHeartPress

This digital art gives off quite a pop with a wild color palette that is sure to get your blood pumping. A wonderful way to make a positive statement about a long distance love situation.

You Ctrl + Z Me (You Undo Me) by Etsy artist rawartletterpress

This red certainly screams for attention and a laugh. Clearly using red against white in a funky, fun way. Comes in both PC and Mac versions.

Language of Love by Etsy artist TheMemoryGallery

Red, black and white always seem to say, "sexy." A very elegant and formal piece with the word, "Love" in, you guessed it, red.

Soulmates by Etsy Artist, Ben Will

In this abstract expressionism piece, the artist depicts the two soul mates in red while surrounded by an abstract world of cooler colors with a touch of warmth within a vague heart shape in the center between the figures. I feel that it is plainly portraying red as the connection of love. How do you see this piece?

 Modern Love Art Print by Etsy Artist, finedaypress

Mundane colors and ordinary shapes (the circles) surround an off-red, almost burnt orange heart to show love can exist in the midst of everything else in life.

Love Runs Through by Etsy Artist, papercraftsbyk

This fantastically bright mixed media piece tells a story. I like the composition because it literally shows a display of dark muddle in the center and love coming out the other side (running paint). A great visual representation of love. What do you think of the color scheme?

Heart Leaf Love by Etsy Artist, BouleDeNeige

What kind of feeling of love does this palette represent? With cooler hues, does the natural, organic shape soften it up?

I Love You This Much by Etsy Artist, hairbrainedschemes

Here we are, ending with this fabulous lipstick, lovey-dovey, sexy red. I still think nothing says "passionately, deeply in love" like this hue of red.

In reviewing these other palettes and artwork that goes with them, I think of things that a relationship brings such as trust, feeling safe, making me laugh, best friend, that person who is my rock, appreciation, admiration, etc.... but I still come full circle to the richness of what true definitive love feels like in this rich hue of red.

What do you think?

palettes used in this post:

Color by COLOURlovers

December 09 2011

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November 17 2011


November 14 2011


The Theory of Information & Inspiration for creative endeavors

As creatives, we rely heavily on inspiration. There are so many sources for inspiration, and sifting through them all can be a daunting, time consuming task. While inspiration definitely shouldn’t be downplayed, we can miss the mark easily by thinking that immersing ourself in the creative work of others will simply saturate our minds with creative ideas.

It’s important to consider that true creativity, at its source, comes from within. Whether it is influenced by other creative work is irrelevant to the creative quality of the work.


For the sake of our conversation, cybernetics (Wikipedia link) is the study of working within a constrained system of control. Cybernetics is an interesting study that spans many disciplines, and therefore can be generalized to almost any practice. A subjective definition that illustrates the scope of cybernetics comes from Larry Richards at George Washington University’s American Society for Cybernetics: “a way of thinking about ways of thinking”.

3408652875_ef30da56ea_z 3408652717_8b5be3219a_z

So how can I use it, practically?

Instead of focusing on what cybernetics is, let’s think about how the theory applies to a creative project.

When we approach a creative project, as we have stated before, we attempt to look for inspiration. But perhaps we are going about this searching in an incomplete way; instead of searching for external inspiration as is our original tendency, a creative cybernetic approach would attempt to search for inspiration within the project itself. Instead of thinking about what the project is (a cool looking website, a great looking poster, a logo), instead we look at what the project does. We look at the form and pattern, control and communication, and we in turn begin to create towards this.

A way that we can leverage this towards inspiration is by introducing artificial constraints within our creative projects. This was the premise behind Roy Ascott’s two-year Groundcourse program. Students would begin by studying illustration with given constraints that were often bizarre. For instance: “If a cough is represented by 5 jagged lines, draw the BBC Time signature“. The bizarre nature of these assignments was far different than traditional art assignments that may focus instead on previously created art (such as a prompt similar to the following: “draw a picture that is influenced by cubism”). The assignments continued to become more involved in the first year, moving towards 3-dimensional sculptures. In the second year, the students were asked to apply the constraints of a system to themselves by literally taking on a different personality than their own. For ten weeks, students would act and respond in opposition to their ingrained “nature”.

The program forced students to understand the power of control and systematic constraints, and the ways in which to work in and out of those systems.

In your next project, begin by examining the function and purpose of the finalized piece of work. What are the possible (both common and uncommon, expected and unexpected, “good” and “bad”) directions? What, if any, are the constraints that are already naturally on the project? What rules exist (both from a media format sense as well as a subjective, imposed sense)? What are some restrictions you could introduce that might provide a more finite sense of control over the project itself?


At the end of the day, inspiration is an elusive beast. We have ontological models of how to become inspired; perhaps we are more creative than we give ourselves credit for, and only when we feel constraint and pressure can we actually release our creativity.

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The Theory of Information & Inspiration for creative endeavors

July 26 2011


Using the Power of Subtext for Your Website

If you’re a big film, tv, or theatre buff, you’ve probably witnessed a fair amount of subtext. This principle can be applied to more than just those mediums though! Today, we explore how you use the lens of subtext to look at your website and improve your digital presence by uniting your color scheme with your actual text.

First though, what is subtext? Think about it as the underlying theme or message in a conversation. In film, it can be seen with lighting choices, costumes, a character’s body language and really anything that isn’t apart of the actual dialog. I’ll use the movie Jurassic Park as an example.


In this scene, John Hammond, the billionaire philanthropist and creator of Jurassic park, has already given the guests a tour of the park and talked about how the dinosaurs are created.He’s trying to convince them that the park is ready to be opened to the public and as you remember, the invited guests are experts brought in to verify that the park is safe for visitors. So far, we haven’t seen anything scary in the park - just cute baby dinosaurs.

During the dinner scene, John argues that the park should be open but Dr. Ian Malcolm is against it.

As you can see, while John is making his argument to open the park through his dialog, everything outside of his language is also backing up his point of view. He is dressed in white and outlined in a halo, looking angelic, even god-like, and unquestionably good.

When the camera is on Dr. Malcolm, we not only hear his words countering John’s, but the director has set him up to be the “bad guy” through his black hair, black glasses, black clothes, and even a reddish light behind him. It’s very ominous.

Back again to John and he again looks like a good and benevolent creator. Still haloed with light, he now has his hands outstretched a la compassionate holy man.

When Malcolm counters John’s argument with an irrefutable observation, we see the surroundings echo his despondence - John is no longer haloed, no longer god-like or all-knowing.

In the end, we see Ian come out the winner, wise, thoughtful, ringed with white light.

All of the above are an excellent example of when subtext is used to support the words being spoken in a scene and influencing or heightening our perception of the conversation.

Subtext can also be used to imply a meaning that is the opposite of the words spoken in a scene. An example of this is when a young boy must give up his pet to be free in the wild and yells at the pet, saying he doesn’t love it in order to get it to go be free. His words say, “I hate you” but everything else about the scene says, “I love you.” Make sense?

From Film to the Web

So, how does this apply to a website or color for that matter? I want to take a look at a couple of different websites and look at their text - the written copy on the site - and their background - the colors - and see if the two match up.

After all, if your website’s subtext, through color and design, are subverting the message you’re sending through your written copy, that’s going to leave visitors to your site confused and less likely to find what they’re looking for, which is never what you want as a businessperson.

Subtext Case Study #1

Let’s take a look at a site that gets it right and why.

First, what does the text of this site say, what tone does it portray?

When designing, we needed to convey the professionalism and excellence of Grant’s career combined with the warmth and dedication of his family life. So, every word centered around those things.

Clearly, we wanted the subtext of the site to match the literal text. So, the design and layout of the site suggests the clean, smooth organization of a man in charge of his affairs. The color palette of rich browns, soft creams, and warm, golden honeys speaks to the assured gentle calm of a father who cares not only for his family but his community and his responsibility in making the world a better place.

With text and subtext in alignment, successfully puts across the message we want.

Subtext Case Study #2

Your website should, from first glance to detailed inspection, speak to your core audience. Once you know who that audience is, you can make smart, targeted choices for the text and subtext of your site. By doing that, your site will be more successful at generating the leads that are the lifeblood of small business.

That is precisely the plan of action we implemented for our client Jackson Therapy Partners.

By focusing on Jackson Therapy’s target audience - job-seeking physical therapists - we were able to easily target all text at highlighting the benefits of working through Jackson Therapy.

We then align all that targeted text with the color choices that provide equally important subtext. The text showcased medical benefits, matching 401ks, and retirement planning - and the subtextual color choices shored that up.

Dark blues back up the stability of working with a company as trusted as Jackson Therapy as white signifies clean, professionalism. Lighter blues and blue-greens suggest the fun, energy, and opportunity for travel provided by Jackson Therapy while pale yellow, with its happy tone, complements that message.

Lessons Learned

Whether you’re watching a great film or choosing your company’s website colors, subtext is a powerful tool that can either support or subvert the straightforward surface message that you’re aiming for.

With smart color choices you can be sure your website’s subtext is sending a message that backs up the other content available to your target audience. When all messages are aligned, you can bet your site will be more effective at delivering your message and results.

Rise Above,

July 14 2011


July 07 2011


June 28 2011


June 21 2011


May 26 2011


RAW COLOR - Photography

The work of Daniera ter Haar & Christoph Brach, who have become better known by the name of one of their projects, Raw Color, is highly prismatic, covering the spectrum between art, design, photography and color research by mixing the powerful colors of vegetables, innovative color harvesting processes, with unique applications for print and textiles. Each project is created with an astute design sense and captured with stunningly composed photography.

The Eindhoven, Netherlands based team uses color as the 'connection between their different practices' posing questions like, 'what is the nature of a color and what is the connection to its physical state?' This post focuses on their use of photography. In a pervious post we covered their  research on vegetable pigments, and we will cover their design work in an upcoming post.

Stuffed - Peep

This photo series is playing with the perception of stuffed birds. The written word is a reference to the former voice signature of each bird, the peeping. In Ornithology (the study of birds) this is specified by each bird species. These animals being exposed to the camera are now nothing more than an image of themselves, they are no longer flying or whistling. Via a mix of colours, letters and birds evolves an image from universal language. Our starting point was the historical collection stuffed animals from MEC in Eindhoven. 'Peep' is presented at the exhibition 'Stuffed' during the Dutch Design Week 2008, were all the participating designers are inspired from the stuffed animals, translated into their own designs. After this exhibition 'Stuffed' went on tour and was on show at Salone del Mobile, Milano 2009 and at the NAI, Maastricht 2009.

cawcawk hu_hu

Photos for Sight Unseen

A  still life series that tries to capture the characteristics and associations of certain color shades. For example, reddish is represented as tensed, explosive and dynamic, skin shades are shown by softness and purity. The objects used are a part of our inspiration archive that is permanently growing through the years. We created the images for the New York based online design magazine Sight Unseen. After their studio visit and a long chat with Jill and Monica, we decided to make a photoseries that visualises our approach and fascination about colours, materials and their character.

we decided to make a photoseries that visualises our approach and fascination about colours, materials and their character.

This is Basic

Planes, shadows, hues and reflections are subject of this research. For this study we chose paper because this material had all the appropriate qualities we were looking for. Paper is both flexible and stiff , it has colour, structure, it reflects and absorbs light. Besides that, it is one of the most natural materials you can work with. By means of folding and cutting, two-dimensional sheets are transformed into three-dimensional shapes that form abstract images and shaded illusions.

Part of  the 'This is Basic' photoseries, the focus is on the structure and spatiality of paper by means of shadow, reflection, lines and color arising as abstract images. Through exposure color gradienst and reflections which normally stay unnoticed appear. Paper doesn't look like paper anymore. The photos were exhibited at the exhibition Lift Off, during the Dutch Design Week 2008. Curated by Freek Lomme / Onomatopee and Dave Keune

Through exposure, color gradients and reflections which normally stay unnoticed appear.

Invertuals 2

Invertuals is a photo series created for the group Dutch Invertuals. All the participants are covered up with big foam volumes. Through the characteristics of the material; the stiffness, volumes, mat structures and the usage of their minty colours, we created these statues.

Flow – Kleurenwaaier

"Flow" was a group exhibition during Dutch Design Week 2010, created by a group of independent designers. As part of the organization putting on the exhibition it was our job was to design all the communication materials. Flow was about movement, transformation and change. We were searching for an image giving the suggestion of motion and covering the nature of the exposed pieces. In the end we added colour-charts (Kleurenwaaiers in dutch) on a drilling machine and photographed the turning movement with a long exposure time, creating a colour movement in the shape of rings, turning round and round. The contrast of the solid machine with transparent rings, blended the two worlds in one object. A series of different colour-rings on drilling machines, were used for posters and flyers.

We attached colour-charts to a drill and photographed the movement with a long exposure, creating colour movement in the shape of rings.

April 11 2011


RAW COLOR - Design

The work of Daniera ter Haar & Christoph Brach, who have become better known by the name of one of their projects, Raw Color, is highly prismatic, covering the spectrum between art, design, photography and color research by mixing the powerful colors of vegetables, innovative color harvesting processes, with unique applications for print and textiles. Each project is created with an astute design sense and captured with stunningly composed photography.

The Eindhoven, Netherlands based team uses color as the 'connection between their different practices' posing questions like, 'what is the nature of a color and what is the connection to its physical state?' This post focuses on their design work. In a pervious posts we covered their research on vegetable pigments, and in an upcoming post we will cover their use of photography.

This is Basic

Planes, shadows, hues and reflections are subject of this research. For this study we have chosen for paper because this material has all appropriate qualities we were looking for. Paper is both flexible and stiff , it has colour, structure, it reflects and absorbs the light. Besides that it is one of the most natural materials for us to work with. By means of folding and cutting two-dimensional sheets are transformed in three-dimensional shapes, that form abstract images and shaded illusions.

The series of posters is part of the installation 'This is Basic'. The big pop-up shapes are triangles, circles and squares, by unfolding the poster the shapes open up and become three-dimensional. This transformation highlights the effect of shadow and reflection on the surfaces and shades.

The series is limited to 8 basic colours, both used for the shapes and the background, that makes 192 possible combinations. For those who are interested, they are for sale!

The booklets were sketches and starting point of our research at the same time. They are based on paper planes, their relation and interaction with each other. The contrasts of cut paper planes form new compositions every time you turn a page.


StrijpX is a design platform established in Eindhoven, showcasing emerging talent in product, fashion and graphic design. The core of this visual identity is the special developed dessin, composed of geometric shapes relating to the letter X. Every layer makes efficient use of the C,M,Y based offset printing process. During the printing the colours are turned on and off to reach a maximum diversity of transparencies, overlaps and colour combinations. The four basic combinations were created in one print run, C/M, C/Y, M/Y, C/M/Y. All on papers from 90, 120 and 250 grams. The offset printed sheets are finalised by a black information layer, adding the specific information of every exhibition. The black is added by the usage of silkscreening, hereby the C,M,Y,K is completed.


For the food design studio 'Keukenconfessies' we searched for a mixture of moods, prints, colours and printing techniques. We were asked to design a ‘logo’ that could change, for this we came up with different, independent shapes coming from food and cooking, some more abstract then others. With these shapes you could mix endless combinations. For the business cards we added a stamp layer, to make the identity a bit more rough and playfull. The identity is based on a simple and strong shape language. For the typography is chosen a black and bold lettertype, it gives a robust feeling next to the colourful shapes. For all the printed matter we used uncoated paper. The stationary paper is only printed on the back site, here the overview from all illustrations are visible, in this case they can use the paper for different occasions.

Other Design Work

kunstlicht grafiek



March 29 2011


RAW COLOR - RBP Printing with Vegetable Ink

The work of Daniera ter Haar & Christoph Brach, who have become better known by the name of one of their projects, Raw Color, is highly prismatic, covering the spectrum between art, design, photography and color research by mixing the powerful colors of vegetables, innovative color harvesting processes, with unique applications for print and textiles. Each project is created with an astute design sense and captured with stunningly composed photography.

The Eindhoven, Netherlands based team uses color as the 'connection between their different practices' posing questions like 'what is the nature of a color and what is the connection to its physical state.' This post focuses on their research on vegetable pigments. Two other posts to follow will focus on their design and photography.

“Color is a really nice connection between those disciplines. We use it almost as a material, and it’s transformative the way it can make something seem hard or light or heavy.”


A visual research about vegetables and their powerful color. Vegetables are dismantled and purified to their visual essence 'RAW COLOR'. The harvested color is captured by a new process preserving their intensity on color cards. Categorized by shades and families a new map is created which shows their beautiful diversity. This projects reinterprets the vegetable and puts it into a new context.


Trying to apply some of our strongest pigment we made some juice cartridges. These inkjets prints are done with (C) Red Cabbage, (M) Beetroot en (Y) Pumpkin. Caused by the irregular juice flow, the ink jet created unique stripe pattern in every print.


A series of photography created as a reaction of the earlier research done on the color cards. This is a further examination on the visual structure of the vegetables.


100%SAP is a project about the power of natural color. Vegetables are transformed to a natural ink to feed a new printing process. This process enables the viewer to watch the posters print slightly grow. A 3-D ingredient returns as 2-D icon.

Liquid Palette

What is the nature of a colour and what is the connection to its physical state. Based on the ongoing research of deriving pigments from vegetables, the aim was to showcase the liquid condition of the colour before it is fixated to the medium of paper or textile. Compared to its solid condition, transparencies and volumes play suddenly an important role.

Presented in a cabinet the 130 preserved containers expose pure and mixed shades of different vegetables and different mixing ratios. This project was developed for the exhibition Dutch Domestics at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt.

What unites Raw Color’s work in general — is a steadfast devotion to the exuberant exploration of color.

Raw Textiles

We were asked by Edwin Plerser to showcase the Raw Color project. One of our aims was to develop a 'product' that could be sold in his shop, and similarly add a new chapter to our research on vegetable pigments. For the exhibition we developed 'Raw Textiles', a series of hand dyed silk scarves, that derived from the vegetable pigments. This was the first time that we examined the application of the dyes on textile. We deepened ourselves in the old techniques of dyeing textile with natural pigments and their possibilities. After dyeing the silk for several days it resulted in 18 unique shades that were created by pure and mixed vegetable dyes. We presented them as a big gradient in the window display. For those who are interested, they are for sale!


Exposure 2 - Textiles

Fascinated by the idea of shaping a textile by the pure usage of light, we developed 'Exposures' a photosensitive fabric based on the blueprint technique. The 'gradient machine' is especially designed for the production process and exposes the textile in horizontal lines to the daylight. These line-thickness can be adjusted. Depending on the length of exposure, the light is captured in the material, that is resulting in different shades of blue. The longer exposed the darker the fabric will become, which is not only indicated by the colour itself but as well by the numbers representing each lines' exposure time in minutes.

"White isn’t wrong,” says ter Haar, “but it does mean you don’t have to make a specific choice.”

Quotes from Sight Unseen who asked Raw Color to "explore their love for color" in a special commission. Project descriptions from Raw Color.

March 10 2011


Review & Giveaway: The Smashing Book #2

Don't go anywhere!!! There's a super fantastic book giveaway after our feature presentation!


Just holding this book makes me go, "ahhh..."

Everyone is raving about the quality of book #2 compared to book #1 (or published media in general). I don't blame them. I almost didn't mention it, because everyone else has, but that was ALSO my initial thought upon receiving my copy of the book. Straight from the box, I instinctively noticed these things in this order:

First, I noticed that I can plop it in my purse, no problem (and I don't carry an overly-large purse!). It's not too heavy or too many square/cubic inches. That's important, because I dread getting a great book, but eyeballing how thick it is sometimes hurts as I rarely have time for reading real books. My arms aren't going to fall off trying to hold it up while I'm laying in bed reading it.

Second, most definitely the quality. Smashing Magazine did not skimp on getting this little ditty published. Quality, stitch-bound, hard cover and hefty pages that produce sharp graphics. It's a nice tight number that you'll probably keep on your desk or prop on a shelf just because it's so pretty.

Third, artwork and graphics, amazing! They seriously couldn't go wrong with using Yiying Lu (yes, forever known as the creator of the famous Fail Whale from But seriously, who can resist that kind of work, I know my three year old can't! What three year old do you know peruses a web and graphic design book with focus and interest? I will admit mine has a great attention span, but still... I'm caught flipping through the pages simply studying the chapter artwork. I have to laugh at myself.

Fourth and last, the cutest little ribbon bookmark comes attached. What a nice little touch! I bet this is the most talked about ribbon bookmark in the history of books. I suppose I will not be lazily dog-earing my new book.

So hands down on the book construction and makeup. Smashing you get a full applause in that area (I think everyone else would agree, no?)!

My thoughts from reading & perusing...

Chapters include:

  1. #1 The Principles of Great Graphic Deisign
  2. #2 Visible vs. Invisible Design
  3. #3 Designing Mobile User Experiences
  4. #4 Sketching, Wireframing and Prototyping
  5. #5 Red Flags (Warning Signs) in Web Development
  6. #6 The Future of Web Typeography
  7. #7 Applying Game Design Principles to User Experience Design
  8. #8 When they Click: Psychology of Web Design and User Behavior
  9. #9 Design Patterns in e-Commerce Websites (Study)
  10. #10 How to Make a Book (Like this One)


I realize that you can make something look pretty dang great, but fill it with garbage. Not in this case. I might be a bit bias because I am a HUGE fan of Smashing Magazine and the fantastic information they continue to provide to the design and web communities.... I will note, however, that the previous Smashing Book #1 seemed somewhat of a letdown to a "few" folks, which has become more prevailiant with Book #2 being such a positive hit and maybe with more of a comeback in the comparisons being made.

My primary area is Design. Both in print and web. And I will openly admit, I'm not ever going to be in the one of the top designers of the world because of this and that - so a book like this is absolutely PERFECT for me. I think anyone who wants a nice review, more insight

What I enjoyed in the first chapter was the correlation between the two, how different and yet similar they are.

"It stands to reason, then, that the process of design involves making deliberate and appropriate graphical choices in order to best communicate the intended message. This applies as much to designing for the Web as it does to designing for print." - excerpt, page 15

What I most enjoyed about this chapter was it's focus on using design effectively and timelessly. When I was reading through the pages of Timeless Thinking - which included talk about simplicity, adding too much gaudy junk (aka ornaments), minimalism, contrast, space and tension... it really brought me back to the basics in art school and working with drawing techniques. Sometimes I feel that I start a project over-designing and after I get that part about needing to impress the client out of my system and go minimal, it never fails to be the winning pick - this chapter was a kick in the pants refresher.

Then I read on to variations of  Type and its effectiveness as well as the role it plays. Overall, a golden chapter to set your path a little straighter or teach you a few things.

"While a good graphic designer works to create an attractive design for the client, a great graphic designer pushes further, striving to understand the  crux of the project's objective. The great designer builds on the various concepts ..." - excerpt, page 44

My other favorite, is chapter 7: Applying Game Design Principles to User Experience Design. What I most enjoyed was the play off of understanding the correlation between the two to make an easier way to think about UX Design. My favorite part starting with the section, The Name of the Game which goes through each of the five key attributes of the "game" of online interaction. It became a fun way to think about UX Design.


In conclusion, I like that the end of each chapter will sum up with a number of useful resources, about the author, some history from that section and even a nice extra Reading List for more in-depth study on a subject if interested - actually, I would have liked more reading resources at the ends of more chapters. I thought that was very helpful and resourceful to place in one area, instead of having to dig back through my dog-eared and highlighted pages and notes to locate a good resource I just know I marked.

I do find that this book is something I will be keeping on my desk for some time to reference and re-reference when my mind is fogged or fighting to go a direction my gut knows I shouldn't.


Are you tired of hearing me blab blab blab about the book? Are you just dying to get your hands on your own copy? Well here's your chance, we have 3 copies in our giveaway!


Contest Rules are simple. This will be a random drawing of three lucky commenters who provide the following information in their comment:

Please provide what your specialty is be it Design Warlord, Freelance Web Designer or Couch Potato... but seriously, I would like to know what you do for money or fun in the relationship to wanting the book in your grubby little paws.

The contest will run from March 10th, 2011 through March 18th, 2011 - Winners will be announced the following week, Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011. Winners will also be emailed via Love Notes on so make sure you turn your notifications ON for both in-site and email so that I can collect your address and get your prize out ASAP. Contest is for users only, so if you aren't a member, get signed up and get commenting!


December 16 2010


How do Colors Affect Purchases? - Infographic

Color impacts our perception of products, websites and retail experiences, but how much influence do colors have on our behavior as consumers? We know that the power of color is very much in the eye of the shopper, attached to cultural and personal associations. So when we read about how 'red makes people do this' while 'blue makes people do that,' we know to take it with a grain of our own knowledge that information is only as good as the data and conditions it is based on. To answer the question posed in the first sentence: we don't know. If you know, please share it with us.

The main point KISSmetrics tries to make with this infographic is that color is the strongest and most persuasive visual cue... What do you think? are you persuaded by colors? Is this infographic just recycling the same old unproven information? Are we making it worse by re-recycling (we've done it before)? Check out the sources for yourself, they might be able to help you make those color choices, or they could just simply be an interesting read. You can also look at the discussions about this infographic going on in the comments at KISSmetrics & Huffington Post.

So, if you can't trust the color data what can you trust? Yourself, your customers and your own findings. Keep it visual: if it looks good on your products and it looks good with other colors you've already decided on (i.e. existing website, business identity) then it will look good to your customers.

I think the best colors to use are those that reflect the personality of the products and the people behind the products. If you make products for likeminded people, and you're one of those people, chances are those people will share your taste in color. And if you really want to consider the thoughts of others (which is a smart and nice thing to do) A/B test your colors and let your own data, based on your own customers, help you decide.

Infographic Sources

The Psychology of Web Performance

The Psychology of Color in Marketing by June Cambell

The Effects of Store Environment on Shopping Behaviors: A Critical review by Shun Yin Lam

The Profit of Color by Color Marketing Group


Large Version

The color love in this post was sponsored by HP.

March 25 2010


The Definitive Color Wheel

Selecting a color has not always been something that was a few clicks away. Color used to be collected from pigments of the earth and then died into fabric. You had to collect the berries to make the purple-ish/reds or dirt to get a brown. Color, binds the creative realm together be it graphic design, photography, interior design, textile design, transportation design etc. Of course you can take pictures in black & white or make a logo black with greys but the colors are where we can experience emotion and that emotion ties us to the image, art, design or product. The colors bring the brand, the curtains, the rug, the subject, the foreground or the background to life.

Do you just start picking colors and hope for the best or is there more science at work? In order to make your color picking easier there are several different color relationships that will help you along the way.


Primary Colors


Primary colors are the basis of the color spectrum. With these three colors, you can create any other color in the spectrum. Red, Yellow & Blue. This is a bold and powerful color scheme when used together.

Secondary Colors


Secondary colors are made by mixing two of the primary colors together. They lie opposite of the primary colors on the color wheel. Green, Violet & Orange. These colors are very bold like primary colors, when used together.

Tertiary Colors

Color-04The colors in-between the secondary & primary colors are what make up the tertiary colors. You can create these colors by mixing one primary color and one secondary color. Using tertiary colors as a color scheme is very bright and vibrant.

Monochromatic Colors


Monochromatic color schemes use a single hue (green above) and then use various tints and shades of that original color. They are very low in contrast but can be used very easily because of their simplistic nature.

Analogous Colors


Analogous colors are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. One of the colors is dominate while the others are accents for the main color. These schemes are easy to create and have unity and consistency.



Clash color schemes pair a first color with a second to the left or right of it’s color wheel compliment. Clash colors are VERY bold and have high contrast. The more colors you add the harder it is to make clash colors work effectively.

Split Complementary

Color-08Split complementary colors are created by taking the colors directly beside your original colors compliment. (purple above so yellow is our colors compliment) Split complementary colors can be very difficult to make work correctly. Try using one color as the main color and the other two as accent colors.



Neutral colors are a mix of a hue and its compliment and is sometimes mixed with black. These colors schemes are not bright and commanding they can be calm & effective.

Tertiary Triad

Color-10Tertiary triads are a set of three tertiary colors that are equal distance from each other on the color wheel. Tertiary triads are some of the least recognizable color schemes. They are very vibrant and comfortable to the eye.

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Compatible with CS1+ and comes with 1 color wheel.


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The Definitive Color Wheel

March 17 2010


Be Kind to the Color Blind

This guest post is written by Chris Cambell from WuFoo. It was originally posted on the Particletree blog in October, 2008. Chris is obsessed with buzz marketing and customer evangelism. He’s not afraid to get out there in a gorilla suit and respond to every one of his emails as if it were from his mom. When he’s not resolving disputes between his team members, he’s their favorite PHP developer. Chris’s favorite weapon is the broad sword.

Hi, my name is Chris Campbell and I have a color vision deficiency. Like roughly 7-10% of all males, my deuteranomaly makes it difficult to differentiate between some colors, like red and green. Color deficiency, or color blindness as it’s commonly referred to, doesn’t mean that I or people with similar conditions cannot see certain colors. They’re not invisible and I don’t see in black and white (a condition that is actually very, very rare). I can still use crayons effectively, find meaning in beautiful sunsets and even enjoy clear blue skies. What it does mean is that certain colors in the visual spectrum look a lot like one another and so I have a hard time sometimes telling the difference between certain colors and even shades.

Because of this, designing software and interfaces that will also work effectively for people like me takes a bit of concerted effort. Of all the elements of design (line, shape, size, texture, etc.), color is probably one of the most used elements to pass on informational states. This is probably because it allows a designer to say many things without having to change the form or layout of the design. While there are a number of simulators and plugins that can help you “visualize” what a color deficient person might be seeing, I honestly don’t recommend spending a lot of time with them. Instead, I’d like to propose just a few simple guidelines along with plenty of examples to help you effectively ensure that a good percentage of your audience won’t misinterpret your message.

Avoid Using Colors Alone as Visual Cues

Using color and color alone as a visual cue is appealing because it’s usually an aesthetically pleasing and a minimalist design technique. Calls to action and visual cues are critical to interface designers because users, especially on the web, have limited patience and are looking to process information and make decisions quickly. Since the brain recognizes and forms an emotional bond with colors almost immediately, colors are a natural choice for visual cues. Unfortunately, it’s easy to alienate or confuse some of your users when some of those aesthetically pleasing colors look very similar. To point out a few interfaces that use hard to differentiate colors as visual cues, here are a few examples that have given me some trouble.

Bad Cues

As you can see, all three of these interfaces use only red and green (two of the most misinterpreted colors) to convey states or provide information to the user.

Apple’s iPhone availability indicator uses color alone as a visual indicator. Interestingly enough, they state in their usability guidelines (pdf):

“Although color can greatly enhance a user interface, make sure it is not the only source of information. A color blind user may not be able to distinguish between two objects that differ only in color.”


Now, what they do provide is a legend of what red and green are supposed to look like for each state. But for me, it’s still barely possible to match their indicators to the live data, and so the example remains pretty frustrating. It is, however, slightly better than the other two examples.

Warhammer Online, a video game, and MAMP, a development server application, exemplify the worst culprits because not only do they use similarly contrasting red and green colors as cues, but they don’t give you a reference or legend to help distinguish or label what “red” and “green” are even supposed to look like.


In order to avoid an angry mob of color deficient users, or to just ensure that you and your users are on the same page, here are some aesthetically pleasing interface examples that use text and icons, in addition colors, to communicate what’s going on.


Good Cues

Dropbox users know the status of their files because of the colored circles and icons attached to each file. The colored circles can be confusing to a small percentage of viewers, but it’s pretty hard to misunderstand what’s going on unless you’re both colorblind and not familiar with their commonly used icons.


The Wufoo and Versions screenshots pretty much leave no room for misinterpretation because they, like a stop sign, use combinations of shape, color, and a word / icon to give their visual cues meaning and context. You’re sure to leave very little to interpretation when you use three visual cues to convey a single message.



More Good Cues

Again, Apple uses the hard to distinguish red, yellow, and green orbs as visual cues throughout their OSX windows, but this time they help those with color deficiencies by providing icons whenever you hover over the colored orbs. Since a user is only going to be interacting with those orbs when their mouse is hovering over them, it doesn’t hurt to hide the icons and keep the interface aesthetically pleasing until the user is clearly interacting with them.


The TiVo interface is strapped for space, and in order to give multiple visual cues using color by itself, a recorded show is represented with a full, green orb, and a show that is currently being recorded is represented with a smaller, red orb. Even if somebody cannot differentiate the colors that Tivo is using in this situation, they can tell the difference between a small and large circle.


Use Contrasting Colors

Of course, as an interface designer, there are going to be times when you do not want to use icons or text as a cue due to space or aesthetic constraints. While I recommend using icons or text when you can, sometimes color and color alone is the most logical way or only choice to convey different information. Maps, for example, often use colors to display separate areas of information about a location. Also, sometimes designers want to indicate state by coloring just the text itself.

If you are going to use color alone, the best way to accommodate for the color deficient viewers out there is to get familiar with contrast. Kevin wrote an excellent article recently on programmatically finding good contrasting colors. Additionally, a couple of great resources about how to choose proper contrasting colors can be found over at and 456bereastreet, but to give you a quick overview of what works and doesn’t work in my world, here are a couple examples.

Bad Contrast

This New York Times map is frustrating because the “Yes” and “Did Not Vote” colors are extremely close in contrast, and they basically look like the same thing to me. I wouldn’t even recognize there are four colors being used on that map. And actually, the classic example for bad contrast for the color blind in Wikipedia is this NY Times Map.


Trulia’s maps are sometimes extremely tough to interpret for me because they not only use red, yellow and green, but they use multiple shades of those colors. I see this a lot of times in graphs and pie charts, and it’s probably the most frustrating example of all the screenshots I’ve documented in this article.


The red/black and red/green text are sometimes used as hyperlink colors on web sites. They can be problematic because certain combinations are colors that those with a deficiency often have trouble seeing.


Good Contrast

In this map, the New York Times does a better job because red and blue are easy to differentiate, and while light yellow and light blue can be confused by an extremely small percentage of people, the stripes they use clearly separate the states.


While this pie chart in Wufoo does use red and green, the colors in this example are contrasting enough to tell apart, especially when viewed directly next to another.


Here’s another set of text examples that are again a red/black and red/green combo, but they’re more distinguishable due to their higher contrast differences.



For the most part, this isn’t a call to arms. I’m not on a quest to change the world, fight discrimination or demand visual equal rights. As you can see, if you want to avoid making color blunders, all you really need to do is to take a minute to make sure you provide a legend, use icons or words when possible and make sure your visual cues are high contrasting. You probably do not need to run your designs through a color checker and stress over whether or not your interface is going to offend your viewers. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance you’re working near or know somebody with a color deficiency, so having them give your design a once over is a great way to ensure your message is seen properly.

Additional Reading

Blindness - A series of images that are shown in both normal vision and how they appear to someone with a red/green colorblindness.

What about Traffic Lights? - Daniel Flück writes about why traffic lights do not confuse him. Wikipedia also notes, “Usually, the red light contains some orange in its hue, and the green light contains some blue, to provide some support for people with red-green color blindness.” This explains why color blind people do not actually need to memorize the location of where green and red lights are located, especially in the dark when you cannot pinpoint the location of where a light is coming from.

Emerson Moser - In 1990, Moser was Crayola’s most senior crayon moulder and retired after 37 years. After moulding approximately 1.4 billion crayons, he revealed that he is actually color blind.

Camouflage Detecter - There is an upside to being color blind and it’s that you have the super human ability to detect camouflage like U.S. soldiers did in World War II. That might also help explain why most animals have some form of color blindness.

Colorblind gaming or: Table Tennis is impossibly hard! - A color blind video gamer explains why Rockstar’s Table Tennis may be the most difficult game ever.

Seeing Through the Eyes of The Color Blind Shopper - “Many consumers throughout the United States have impaired or limited information processing capabilities as part of congenital or illness-related disabilities, yet their specific problems and needs are often not formally considered by firms, by researchers, or by students preparing to enter the business world. I learned this quite by accident in my own Consumer Analysis class when I gave a routine assignment to my students.”

Header image adapted with photo from B Tal.

Disclosure: WuFoo is a proud sponsor of COLOURlovers and we appreciate their support. We've reposted Chris's article because it is high quality and in our opinion very interesting reading for our members.

Tags: News Theory

March 11 2010


Calculating Color Contrast for Legible Text

This guest post is written by Kevin Hale from WuFoo. It was originally posted on the Particletree blog in Sept. 2008. Kevin is a champion of good user experience and brilliant interface design. As much as Kevin likes keeping things clean and reliable, he loves innovation. Kevin was also the kid in elementary school who ate a box of crayons for a dollar.

In the past on Particletree, we’ve shared some of our favorite resources and guides for helping the color challenged and uninspired get their chromatic deliciousness on. As a designer, getting to choose the colors is often the part of the job I like the best. However, there are times when it’s nice to be able to write some code to help make some of the decisions for you.

One of my favorite implementations of using programming to supplement the color picking process was done by the clever Canadians over at Dabble DB. All you have to do is upload your logo and their application will automatically pick the colors based on the information contained in the image and create a theme for their web app that will match the logo.


It’s an impressive feature that helps the user focus on getting things done rather than worry over the details. While I won’t be going into all of the ideas they used to implement their feature in this article, I do want to take some time to talk about how you can get a legible contrasting foreground color for a piece of text when given a specific background color.

When we were working on the Wufoo Form Gallery, I wanted a way to represent the pre-made color palette themes in a concise format without having to go through the laborious process of making a screenshot for each one. After a lot of trial and error, the following format is what we came up with for the gallery to represent themes:


The problem that we ran into after coming up with a structure that we liked, was that the text inside each color swatch needed to have some sort of logic applied to it so that it would show legibly regardless of whether it was a dark swatch or a light swatch behind it. This is when we turned to color theory to help us out.

According to the W3C, when you’re evaluating your web site for accessibility, you should ensure that foreground and background color combinations provide sufficient contrast when viewed by someone having color deficits or when viewed on a black and white screen. How does one know if two colors will provide sufficient contrast? Well, the W3C, being the fastidious folks that they are, provide the following definition and formulas to make what seems subjective very quantifiable:

Two colors provide good color visibility if the brightness difference and the color difference between the two colors are greater than a set range.
Color brightness is determined by the following formula:
((Red value X 299) + (Green value X 587) + (Blue value X 114)) / 1000
Color difference is determined by the following formula:
(max (Red 1, Red 2) - min (Red 1, Red 2)) + (max (Green 1, Green 2) - min (Green 1, Green 2)) + (max (Blue 1, Blue 2) - min (Blue 1, Blue 2))
Techniques For Accessibility Evaluation And Repair Tools

And so, if you’ve got two colors and their color brightness difference is greater than 125 and the color difference is greater than 500, you’re in the clear. Unfortunately, the formulas are only a starting point. They can evaluate whether your colors are made to be together, but they can’t actually decide your colors. Thankfully, the Internet is filled with a number of wonderful people that have tackled the problem head on. One of our favorite solutions we looked at was created by Patrick Fitzgerald over at BarelyFitz Designs. His CSS Color Class allows you to refer to colors using abstract names like base and highlight, automatically generate color gradients from a single base color and also adjust the contrast of foreground colors so they can be legibly seen on top of background colors.
While the CSS Colors Class is great and comes highly recommended by us (we’ve been able to do some pretty neat experimental stuff with it that we’ll hopefully use in the future), we thought for our purposes in the gallery, it was a bit too much overhead. Eventually, we ended up creating our own Smarty Modifier plugin based on code we found in the PHP documentation on the hexdec function—boy, do we love that community. Here’s the code we came up with, which can be easily be rewritten if you don’t use Smarty in your development environment.

function smarty_modifier_contrast($hexcolor, $dark = '#000000', $light = '#FFFFFF')
    return (hexdec($hexcolor) > 0xffffff/2) ? $dark : $light;

It’s very simple and very lightweight, which was exactly what we were looking for in a solution for the problem. The way the code works is that given a hex color like #FFFFFF or #CCCCCC, it will return either the hex for black or white depending on what’s appropriate. You can also pass in variables for $dark and$light in case you want the function to return colors other than black and white. In our Smarty template, we call it in our markup structure like so:

    <var style="background-color:{$bgHtmlColor};
    <var style="background-color:{$bgLogoColor};
    <var style="background:{$bgInstructColor};
    <var style="background:{$bgFormColor};
    <var style="background:{$bgHighlightColor};

Notice that the code doesn’t take those color difference and color brightness formulas into account. Basically, it crudely (yet kind of elegantly) divides the RGB color spectrum into two halves and if the color you give it is on one side, it returns one value, otherwise, the other. Here’s a very rough visual approximation I mocked up to illustrate the concept:
And so while it’s not perfect, in 99% of cases, the function does what you need it to do without a lot of number crunching or programming overhead. Here’s an image showing off the function in action on a number of the themes we created in the gallery.
We’ve even recently reused the functionality when we made some upgrades to our graphing system in Wufoo. Now, our graphs automatically determine and use the appropriate color for the grid lines based on the background color a user has selected from their themes.
This way, the graphs are easy to read and follow even on a dark theme palette. It’s a small detail that we think makes a lot of difference in an application. If you want perfect contrast, then obviously CSS Colors is the way to go for you, but for us we’ve been really happy with the results.

Disclosure: WuFoo is a proud sponsor of COLOURlovers and we appreciate their support. We've reposted Kevin's article because it is high quality and in our opinion very interesting reading for our members.

Tags: Theory Web

February 14 2010


Eclectic Color Roundup


Coralie Bickford Smith: The Power of a Limited Palette

99% Interview

How important is color when you're coming up with a concept? Do you have any colors that you consider favorites?

Color is vitally important – the right combination can make a good design utterly compelling. I like to use a limited palette in a lot of my designs, something I became hooked on at university. We were encouraged to design within constraints and make a virtue out of it, which is one of the most valuable lessons I've learned.


With the clothbound classics, materials and budget dictate that I can only use two colors per book, and there is a further limitation imposed by the range of available cloth and foil. Rather than seeing that as a negative, I love finding the best combination. It's a time-consuming business but such a major element of the design, and when it works it really takes the cover to the next level.

As for favorites, I still love pink foil and dark red cloth on Fairy Tales. It was the first clothbound book I designed, and I spent hours looking at colors to get the choice right.

Via @AmandaMooney

Paul Tebbott

Portfolio (Cargo Collective) | Flickr

Manchester designer and electronic musician, Paul Tebbott.



Color Theory Reference Poster by Paper Leaf

Paper Leaf

The Color Theory Quick Reference Poster for Designers.

Via @COLOURlovers


iBap by OhNo!Doom


iGotaBigAssPocket Concept by Chicago Illustrator / designer collective, Oh No! Doom


Header image by Jason D Page

Tags: News Art Theory

January 20 2010


Egyptian Color Symbolism

The Ancient Egyptians had a rich culture full of advance communication, art & science. We know all this because of the record they left behind, but what we might not realize is how important color symbolism was to them, and how color plays an integral part in understanding that history. Color was often used purely as symbolism, rather then for realistic accuracy of a subject. A king might be painted with black skin, but it was only to assure the fertility of the land to his subjects, as black was used to symbolize fertility. Many other examples like this exist throughout their culture. By taking a look at the meanings behind each color, maybe we can gain a better understanding of this, or any, culture. Egyptian Color Symbolism

Here are some Egyptian color symbolism theories broken down by color.


The Egyptian palette  was made up of six colors all created from minerals: red (desher), green (wadj), blue (khesbedj and irtiu), yellow (kenit and khenet), black (khem or kem), and white (shesep and hedj).


Night, Death, Resurrection, Fertility

- The black silt of the Nile.

- The king of the afterlife, Osiris, was called "the black one."


Omnipotence, Purity, Cleanliness, Simple, Sacred

- The holy city of Memphis meant "White Walls."

- Sandals, bowls and the Apis Bulls' embalming table used during holy ceremonies were white.



Life, Victory, Anger, Fire, Chaos

- Mummies of pharaohs contained a tiny reproduction of the human heart, which was always made from a red stone.

- Egyptians would paint their bodies with red ochre and would wear amulets made of cornelian, a deep red stone.

- Seth, the god who stood at the prow of the sun's barque and slew the serpent Apep daily, had red eyes and hair.


Imperishable, Eternal, Indestructible

- Mummy masks and cases of the pharaohs were often made of gold.



Vegetation, New life, Growth

- The Book of the Dead makes reference to the deceased becoming a falcon "whose wings are of green stone", referring to new life and rebirth.

- Wadj, the word for green, means to flourish or be healthy.

- Green malachite was a symbol of joy. "Field of malachite" was used when speaking of the land of the blessed dead.


Sky, Water, Heavens, Primeval Flood, Creation, Rebirth

- The phoenix, a symbol of the primeval flood, was based on the gray-blue heron and was usually portrayed with bright blue feathers to emphasize its association with the waters of creation.

Read more about Egyptian color Symbolism at these sources: Ancient Egypt: the Mythology | Hecka | Breaking the Color Code | Science Stage

Thanks to Iona for the suggestion.

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