Category Archives: design

What colour is your city?

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I came across an interesting blog by Tom Wolley – a freelance illustrator based in West Yorkshire who specialises in illustrated maps and hand lettering – who developed an illustrated colour may of Leeds (which happens to be where I live). What is particularly interesting is that Tom describes his process somewhat. It is well worth looking at and I think his final design (shown above) is rather nice. The yellows and blues are derived from the classical colours of Leeds and Yorkshire although somewhat more muted.

It makes me think. Are certain colours associated with places? Or even with districts? A recent paper by Willem Coetzee and Norbert Haydam at CAUTH 2016 (The Changing Landscape of Tourism and Hospitality: The Impact of Emerging Markets and Emerging Destinations) looked at this. Their paper was called – Colour association test as a target market analysis technique at an emerging destination – an exploratory study. They used colour association as a market analysis technique to measure tourism demand in a small town. The results indicated that different segments of the market had different associations of colour for the same destination.

cigarette packaging colour

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New regulations – from 20 May 2016 – will see all cigarette packaging in the same drab green colour.colour with other standardised features such as opening mechanism and font, and with 60 per cent of the casing covered by text and images showing how smoking affects your health. The decision was made in Parliament on 15 May last year.

They have also been told to get rid of any misleading information from cigarette packs, and have been prevented from using words such as ‘organic’, ‘natural’ or ‘lite’, which could lead consumers to believe there is a healthy smoking option.

Further information can be found in this article in The Independent.

The images shown above are from a similar scheme in Australia.

Colour: Art and Science

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I run a module at the University of Leeds called Colour: Art and Science. For me colour is a classic meta-discipline and understanding of colour requires and appreciation of ideas from lots of different academic fields. So I like to present a very multi-disciplinary perspective of colour and I have students enrol from all sorts of different departments in the University which is a lot of fun. One of the main reasons I run this blog is as a resource for those students.

So I was interested to just come across this Brief History of Colour in Art by Sarah Gottesman which covers some of the same stuff that I talk about.

In the same vein I came across this discussion by @CINEMAPALETTES about cinema colour palettes that shows how colours are used to set the mood of iconic films.

what colour is your passport?

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Whenever I am travelling to a conference and standing in a line at an airport it seems to me that everyone has either a burgundy passport like me or a red one if the are from USA. It turns out that most passports really are the same colour as this great infographic shows. Well, one of only about four colours so it seems. It’s interesting the way they are grouped; I wonder why Africa tends to use green or black. For the full story see. here.

why people have started to buy brown cars again

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Interesting article by Ian Johnston in The Independent today about consumer colour choices for second-hand cars in the UK. Bucking the recent preference for silver, black and whit, the top 10 list of colour schemes includes green, beige, yellow and gold – colours that we associate with the 70s.

Please see the original article for further information.

I like pink

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Pink is one of my favourite colours. Generally, however, if you ask people what their favourite colour is, the most frequent response is blue irrespective of gender, age or culture. Adults, that is. Because most young girls prefer pink. There is a huge commercial machine that pushes girls towards pink and boys towards blue. I support the Pink Stinks campaign which I blogged about in 2009, but I fear its chances of success are slender.

In my 2009 I linked to a BBC article that noted that pink for girls and blue for boys was not always the case. People cite the Ladies’ Home Journal from 1918 saying:

There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger colour is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.

For some reason I always thought that it was the association of blue with the British Navy in the first world war that started the association of blue with boys. But today I read an article that suggests that the association did not start until the 1950s!! Apparently in 1927, Time magazine surveyed 10 major departments stores across the country about how each store associated pink and blue with boys and girls. The results showed that most children dressed in gender-neutral clothing and typically wore white because it was easy to bleach and keep clean. It wasn’t until the 1950s that pink became a female colour according to Estelle Caswell. Read all of what Estelle had to say here.

curved displays are the future

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Yesterday I spoke an an event to launch Samsung’s latest curved screen displays. The technology is really gorgeous and everyone who attended was wanting one of the new displays after seeing them.

I am convinced that curved screens will become ever more popular in the future because not only do they look good but they offer serious advantages for users who undertake intensive tasks – the sort of tasks that need a large desktop display rather than a mobile device. When it comes to desktop displays it is really quite simple – bigger is better.

Many people – and I am one of them – are what is known as ‘double screeners’. I have two screens attached to my desktop and my operating system is spread seamlessly across them because I wanted more screen space to work in. I recently carried out a survey – you can find more details here – which showed that 38% of British office workers are already using two or more screens attached to their desktop computers.

Of course, in an ideal world one very large screen would be better than two smaller screens. But there is a problem with most flat-screen technology which is that the LED/LCD pixels emit light straight out but emit a lot less light at an angle to the screen. This means that you look at a large flat screen the light reaching your eye from the edges of the screen is a lot less. Not only that but, because you are looking at the screen at an angle, text and other fine details can be distorted at the edge. Curved displays get around this problem and I am hoping to replace my two flat screens soon with a single Samsung curved display.

With a curved display the distance from the eye to the screen is the same across the whole display and the angle of view is also constant. Not only does this solve the colour and acuity problems I just mentioned but it means that users need to need fewer eye and neck movements. Given that many of us spending longer using a display than we do actually sleeping this could have a big effect on user well-being.

Our survey also showed that about 60% of office workers think it is important that the office technology they use looks good. This can help to motivate them and help them to feel good about themselves. The new Samsung curved displays certainly will satisfy these people.

get it right in black and white

A student was asking me about use of colour in a design (that showed text on a background) today and one of the things I said to her was “Get it right in black and white”. Prof Lindsay MacDonald taught me this. The idea is to make sure there is contrast in lightness and that you are not relying on a contrast in hue for people to read the text. So, for example, if you must put red text on a green background – I don’t advise this particularly, but if you do – then make sure it is a dark green and a light red or a light green and a dark red.

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In the above two images, one is easier to read than the other. In both cases the hue of the red and green are the same. But in one case there is a large lightness difference and in the other there is not. if you were to print these out in black and white, one would be more readable than the other. That is what, “Get it right in black and white means.” It’s sensible if for no other reason than it increases the chance that someone who is colour blind (most are red-green colour blind) would be able to read it. Of course, maybe red and green would be not great colours to use in the first place – but that is a longer story.

I have come across a really lovely interactive website that helps with this. It is called colorable. It allows you to enter two colours (in hex format) – or use slider bars to control hue, lightness and saturation – and then it gives you a WCAG contrast ratio and even a pass/fail decision about whether you meet the minimum guidelines. Please try it – it’s great fun.

What colour is your office?

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I just saw an interesting article by Kim Lachance Shandrow about how the colour of your office can affect productivity. The article refers to a paper (2007) in Color Research and Application (CRA) by Nancy Kwallek entitled Work week productivity, visual complexity, and individual environmental sensitivity in three offices of different color interiors. The paper suggests that the influences of interior colours on worker productivity were dependent upon individuals’ stimulus screening ability and time of exposure to the interior colours. CRA is a top quality academic journal that is peer reviewed and so I am respectful of the findings.

However, in Kim’s online article there is a lot of stuff that I am highly sceptical about. For example, she writes that “Red … increases the heart rate and blood flow upon sight.” Is this true? Is there really any evidence for this. I have two PhD students working in this area right now and I am far from sure that colour does affect heart rate and, if it does, the effects are probably tiny. And yet we can read statements like this all over the internet as if it is a fact beyond doubt. Other things she says that I take with a pinch of salt is that “green does not cause eye fatigue” and that “yellow triggers innovation.” Don’t get me wrong – I am very interested in how colour can be used to affect us emotionally, psychologically and behaviourally; it’s just there is a danger that if some things are said often enough (such as red increases your blood pressure or heart rate) then people start believing them even though there may be little evidence.

That said, you might find the infographic fun and it is well done. See the original and full article here.