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J David Ford

Color Isn't Primarily An Aesthetic Medium

Color — as color — is just a neutral raw material, just like space, type and pictures. Using it cleverly demands more than just “running a title in blue” or that the page could use some “dressing up.” Undoubtedly, color may well improve the images and be pleasing to the eye, but that is hardly enough.

Color must also be revealing to the mind. Color must have broader significance that grows out of the meaning and is integral with that meaning. Such practical utility is far more valuable to the reader than color’s “prettiness,” however exciting that might be.

Don’t pick colors because you like them.

Plan deliberate effects with purpose. Peaceful harmony is usually more successful than clashing variety.

Choose colors that are related. Play it safe and pick colors related by one or more of the following:

1)hue (i.e., the kind of color it is — e.g., redness)
2)saturation (i.e., its intensity, brightness, chroma)
3)value (i.e., its shade, darkness, paleness)

Value is the most critical factor in print because it affects contrast. And contrast is what makes things stand out — and making things stand out is one of the effects intended when one uses color.

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