Lesson 17Colour for communication TOPICS COVEREDBasic colours, what different colours mean, ways of discussing colours, how the brainsees colour .Use of colour in communication OBJECTIVESUpon completion of this Lesson, you should be able to:. Do you really need to learn how important colour is in communication?. How many of you like to see a black and white TV show?. In this lesson we learn the various aspects of colour, relevance of colour and form.Our sensations of colour are within us and colour cannot exist unless there is an observer toperceive them. Colour does not exist even in the chain of events between the retinal receptorsand the visual cortex, but only when the information is finally interpreted in the consciousness ofthe observersNature of colorWhat we perceive as color is primarily the wavelength of the light stimulating. The shortestviewable wavelength (about 380 nm) is what we see as blue and the longest wavelength (about760 nm) is what we see as red. The other wavelengths that fall between them are what we see asother colors, as shown in figure below. However, color perception is very subjective. We do nothave any ways to prove that two different people receive the same color, yet we refer to 760-nmwavelength as RED and 380-nm wavelength as BLUE.
We see color from objects around us because they absorb most of the wavelengths from the sun,called white light, and reflect only a particular wavelength into our eyes. For example, a redapple absorbs all but the 760-nm wavelength; therefore, we see it as red in color. Objects that arewhite in color are objects that do not absorb any viewable wavelengths; while objects in blackabsorb almost all viewable wavelengths. We know that the white light from the sun consists ofmany different wavelengths because of Newtons prism (shown below). Because of therefraction, the white light is split into rays of different color of light. They all have differentwavelengths. The same phenomenon happens in nature, as we see as rainbows.
The dimensions of colorEven though wavelength explains difference in color we see around us, color is something morethan that. There are three psychological dimensions of color: Hue, Brightness, and Saturation.Hue is what we usually refer to as color, therefore, most people use the two words hue and colorinterchangeably. We recognize a change in hue as color change. The physical dimension of hueis wavelength. Brightness is another psychological dimension that refers to intensity of thestimuli. The more intense the light, the brighter that object appears. For example, the same objectis brighter in the room with more light bulbs. Saturation is related to the physical dimension ofspectral purity. It tells us the amount of a hue that we see on an object. In other word, it refers tohow complex the light wave is. If the light is simple (for example, a sine wave light), it is pureand therefore appears to be very saturated. This pure color generated by a single wavelength iscalled monochromatic color. Examples of effects of hue, brightness, and saturation are shownbelow.The mixture of colorMonochromatic color rarely happens in general. Objects we see around us consist of more than
one hue. Their colors are mixtures of wavelengths of light. There are two kinds of colormixtures: additive and subtractive. Additive color mixture is referred to the mixing of threeprimary lights, namely red, blue, and green. Under this adding principle, when all three colors oflight are present, we see the white light (the same as the one from the sun). Subtractive colormixtures, on the other hand, are colors that are results from the mixing of pigments, paint, or dye.In other words, these are colors that we get from mixing watercolor. The primary colors forsubtractive mixtures are magenta, yellow, and cyan.Memory colorEven though there is a strong relation between what we perceive as color and physicalcharacteristics of light stimuli as discussed above, our perception of color can also be influencedby other factors. Examples of these factors are familiarity and past experience. For example,Duncker (1938) found that a green paper cut in a leaf shape is perceived to be greener than thesame green paper cut in a donkey shape. This is because leaves are typically green but donkeysare not. Therefore, we can conclude that sometimes previous color and form associations have astrong effect on perceived color.Theories of color perceptionNow, we know quite well about visual stimuli or dimensions of color that we can see. The nextquestion is how exactly does our visual system detect color. Among a large number of theoriestrying to explain our perception of color, there are two main theories that gain strong supports.They are Trichromatic receptor theory (or Young-Helmholtz Theory) and Opponent-Processtheory. The trichromatic receptor theory is proposed in 1802 by Thomas Young and revived in
1866 by Herman von Helmholtz. It says that there are only three types of color receptors (cones)on our retinas. They are most sensitive to a specific range of wavelength of light. They are Scones, which is most sensitive to 445-nm wavelength or color blue; M cones, which is mostsensitive to 535-nm wavelength or color green; and L cones, which is most sensitive to 570-nmwavelength or color red as shown below.As we see above, there are some overlaps in the absorption curves (a small one between S and Mcones and a bigger one between M and L cones. These overlaps, then, show that somewavelengths stimulate more than one types of cone. For example, a 450-nm wavelength light isabsorbed almost 91% by S cones, while it is absorbed less than 25% by both M and L cones.Therefore, colors other than green, red, and blue, according to this theory, activate mix patternsof cone following the additive color mixture.
Colour for CommunicationMan and animal both respond to colours. But man is endowed with a special ability todistinguish between millions of colours including their shades and reacts, as he possesses brain.The communicators use colours as a tool, which can do something different from the spokenword and a written language, because the impact of colours is direct and emotional, while theappeal of spoken and written words is indirect and based on cultural differences. Colour then, ingeneral, is free from the laws, which govern a language or design. It is more so, because nouniversal system has been developed so far for distinguishing colour.Even now, many people in our country identify colours by the objects, which represent particularcolours. Examples: Sindur(red). Kajal (black), Haldi (yellow), Jamun (violet) and Mehendi(sepia).An artist or a printer uses the colours of various shades made by a colour manufacturer withoutknowing the names of more than a dozen colours. In giving the colour statement of a design,give the description of a colour. If it is green, which green?-leaf green, pale green, bluish greenand so on. Vincent van Gogh rightly says, “Colour expresses something by itself.The source of colour is light, which is made up of various wave lengths. But we see most of itbecause of pigments and dyes, which have a special ability to absorb certain wave lengths thatfall on them and reflect others to the eyes and also on the way our eyes and brain process colour.The shirt you are wearing looks blue, because it reflects mainly blue light, and absorbs mostother colours. But the pen you are holding reflects all colours oflight, so the eye perceives it aswhite. Since this area of light is a specialized subject for scientists, we‟ll discuss here only thecolour logic used in graphic communication.Why Colour?“No colour - only black and white” is almost unthinkable in the printing world today. Theadvertisers and publishers have realized that they can recover their invested money 10 timesmore easily, if it is in colour, even though colour printing is approximately three times asexpensive as black and white printing.Colour has got the maximum attraction value. A small colour element in a book page design canattract the reader more in the presence of many black and grey elements. Though we know thatblack has its role in the printing world, yet black itself is a dominant colour of pigments. Often acolour with black offers the greatest contrast which calls for attraction.Colour can create the right atmosphere and represents with high fidelity a product orColour can create the right atmosphere and represents with high fidelity a product or an object. Itmeans less work for the brain, and results in successful transmission of the communicationmessage. It can provide accent and contrast, where they are wanted and it can help emphasizeimportant points. It can add sparkle to the page. It can direct the reader through the message.Colour can cheer. How exciting is receiving a gift from your friend, wrapped up in colouredpaper and tied around with a coloured ribbon! Colour can stimulate. You would not have gonethrough a magazine article hag it not been illustrated by coloured photographs. Colour can
provoke. The provocating colour of a poster forces you to act upon. How tranquilizing the colouris when you are in the landscape of a green field, a blue river and sky with icy and hazymountains. Colour makes one proud. Bold stripes of colour of a soccer player‟s uniform are aproud badge of identification for his team. Colour can antagonize when it is “colour for colour‟ssake”. Subdued and rusty colours can be the colours of the past. Jarring colours of a pop concertare restless, symbolizing the restlessness of the teenagers:Colour is a sensation. The sense of sight functions only when light reaches the eye. Coloursensation produces physical reactions. We feel cool in blue colour or light or a shaded room withblue and green-coloured curtains. And we feel warm in a brightly coloured room with red,orange or brown-coloured curtains. Colour is information. It is a quicker way of communicatingan instant information. On the road we stop at a red light and move on when it changes intogreen. In a coloured chart each colour stands for a certain information. Colour is perception. Itincorporates some conscious associations. Our strong likes and dislikes for certain coloursnotwithstanding, you will hardly associate a black dress with a young girl, whereas it befittingfor old people. For men, a blue suit is traditional and formal. Green is associated with freshveg-etables but not with fresh meat.Colour is for retention. Colour has a strong memory value. This characteristic of colour is fullyknown to advertisers. They use it well in their communication materials in order to bring back tothe viewer‟s mind the product or their own corporate identity. Think of Maggi noodles; the firstthing to come to your mind is yellow colour. Surf, blue colour: Liril, lemon green: and so on.Despite the undeniable clout that colour has, colour cannot compensate for a poorly visualizeddesign. If it is not skillfully used in a design, the communicator may fail to communicate themessage. He or she may be attracted immediately by the power of colour, but the reader‟sinterest may not be sustained, unless the design has the strength to build up the reader‟s interestand persuade him to give time and attention to absorbing the message. Here colour plays asecondary role. Between colour and shape, shape plays the primary role, because if there is nocolour and only shape, there is a design; but if there is only colour and no shape, there is nodesign.With a view to taking the advantage of the powerful communicationtool that colour is, understand well the following aspects of colour.:(1) Physical characteristics of colour(2) Psychological implications of colour (3) Choosing the colour scheme (4) Production aspectsof colourPhysical Characteristics of ColourThe physical characteristic of colour is the way we view colour. Normally there are four ways itcomes to us: nature, TV/computer screen, printed or painted objects and colour film.The widest variety of colours is the visible spectrum. This spectrum consists of the colours thatmost people are capable of seeing. Some ofthese colours can be encountered in nature; other visible colours are entirely man-made-ink,paint and dyes, for example. Since the colours are viewed reflecting light from the object, theyare called reflective colours.The number of colours that you see on a TV/computer screen is, believe it or not, as many as 16million. The TV/computer screen shows colour by emitting red, green and blue light, which is
added together at different levels and shows an incredibly wide range of colours. These areluminous colours, because colours are seen by radiating the screen.The colours, which are seen on the silver „screen by passing light through positive transparenciesor a film are called transmission colours.Reflective colours are a component of pigment and dyes, compared to luminousand transmission colours, which are a component of electron and light respectively.‟ Colour hasthree other physical dimensions, namely hue, value and chroma. Hue is used to describe aspecific colour, such as red_ green or blue. We see a red colour, because a red hue is there, a bluecolour because of a blue hue and so on. The quality of the hue can be changed by adding anotherhue. By mixing one hue with another we change the basic nature of the hue. value refers to thelightness or darkness of a hue. Value is more when the hue is light and value is less when the hueis dark. The scale of value is determined by the amount of light it reflects.Chroma refers to the purity or intensity of a hue. Like value, it too can be changed, by makinglight and dark. Both ways, it loses its intensity. But chroma can be changed without changing thevalue by mixing a hue of the same value with the original one. Primary ColoursColours in both light and pigment might be as numerous as the stars. But the basic componentsof colour, that, when combined, produce the remaining hues, are called primary colours. Red,green and blue are the primary colours of light. They are also called additive colours, becauseadding these three colours together can produce white light.We know that the presence of all colours of light (both sun and artificial) is white and that theabsence of all colours is black. A combination of any two of the primary colours produces thesecondary colours of light.A combination of red and blue produces magenta; of green and blue gives cyan; and of green andred, yellow. Therefore, magenta, yellow and cyan are known as subtractive colours. These arethe primary hue of pigment. They are subtractive because, in contrast to additive primaries, theyproduce dark colours when combined, and reduce the light reflection. And they are primaries;because any range of colours can be produced by mixing these together in various proportions.In the case of pigment, the presence of all colours is black (almost) and the absence of all coloursis white (paper). In full-colour printing, these primaries are called process colours. Pigmentprimaries are complements to light primaries, whereas light primaries are complements topigment primaries. This characteristic of colour is used in separation and printing a continuoustone coloured illustration.Psychological Implications of ColourColours playa vital role in our emotional life. Though we occasionally hear people expressingstrong likes and dislikes for certain colours, yet the impact of colour sensation is dependentprimarily on the frame of mind. Colour sensation produces physical reactions. People feel co.!)1in blue-coloured or pre-eminently bluish rooms and warm in red-coloured or preeminentlyreddish rooms. Colours like blue green and blue-violet slow down our metabolism and bloodpressure. That is why they pre called cool colours. Cool shading of colours looks clean andinviti!1g but passive. The hues from red to yellow, including orange and red-violet,psychologically transmit heat. Warm colours are bright, splashy an9 aggressive; they attract theattention and excite our emotions. Warm colours tend to make a room smaller, while cool
colours make it larger. A box painted in warm or dark colour gives the feeling of heavier weightin comparison to the same size box painted in G,O91 or light colour.There is no specific law of colour preference, but, on the basis of research, it has beenestablished that men prefer plain, deep shades; women, light, delicate tints with designs. Brightcolours are preferred by children. Colour preference also varies with geographic, national,cultural and econqJ1lic factors. It has been found that people with high education and incomeprefer light, delicate colours, whereas poor people go in for bright and pure colours.Culturally, green is associated with the Muslims; saffron, with the Hindus. Think of the people ofRajasthan; always bright colours will come to your mind. But mainly soft, dull colours for thepeople of eastern India and contrast colours for South India. Turquoise blue is the national colourof Iran. Colour manufacturers have developed different colour shades on the basis of the colourconnotations of a particular country, such as Indian red, Chinese white and Prussian blue.The colour that predominates in an advertisement or some other printed piece should fit theoverall mood and emotions of the message. Man has arbitrarily chosen certain colours to saycertain things and since people are used to what these colours say, the designer uses coloursymbolism as another tool. Yellow is a bright happy colour, like sunshine. Pale yellow issoothing; it makes for a breezy atmosphere. Yellow is also a warning colour possibly becauseinsects and snakes tell us with their bright yellow colours that they are poisonous. Red is thecolour of action, danger , fire, blood and passion. In cultural connotation of it is masculinecolour, the colour of Sun-god: It is the strongest of the familiar colours. Deep red is aristocratic.Light red or pink is a feminine colour. Orange represents knowledge, civilization, luxury and aflame. Any form of orange is a positive colour. It is always near to the spirit of yellow or red.Blue is the colour of the sky and the sea. It has a calming effect. It gives the sense of infinitybecause of the vastness of the sea, sky and ocean. It also symbolizes truth, intellect, loyalty andspotless reputation. Blue is the colour of security and authority. That‟s why most banks use it fortheir Corporate identity programmes. It comes next to red in terms of frequency of use. Dark blueconnotes night and the stormy sea, doubt and discouragement.Green is tranquil and pastoral, the colour of trees and grass, nature, freshness and vegetation. InIndian culture, it represents femininity. 11 other Vasundhara is green. Bright green is for spring,fertility. It is also the colour of disgrace, envy, poison and jealousy. The use of green colour inOnida TV‟s earlier advertisement symbolized jealousy. Purple is an artificial but sophisticatedcolour, long associated with royalty, pomp, power, spirituality and in negative association-sublimation, regret and humility. Pink is a romantic colour. Brown is rich and fertile. It is thecolour of earth; also sad and wistful, like dry leaves. Dark brown suggests a wealthy hardwood,like teak, and tanned leather. White is for purity, truth and peace. In the Indian mythologicalrelationship, white suggests water. Also negative associations like ghostly, cold, blank and void.Black is the colour of night and death, evil and sin, and sickness and negation. It is the colour ofinfinite and endless space, in which all things lose their distinction just as all colours and all lightlose their distinction in black. It is popular among artists for its association with wealth andelegance. Black in advertising denotes beauty, sophistication and exclusiveness.
Gold is a rich and majestic colour, which gives the majestic aspect of sun and symbolizes honourand wisdom. Silver stands for purity, test of truth and the moon. When lavishly used in design, itsignifies richness and power. In the ancient Hindu culture, it is the colour of Fire-god.Grey is generally considered a negative colour for its symbolism Of. neutralization, indifference,grief and old age; can, however, be used positively for maturity, penitence and retrospection.To summarize, colour planning is a challenging job, calling for professional skill and a lot ofimagination. Keep constantly in view all the objectives of graphic communication and then usecolour logically to the extent that it contributes powerfully to the realization of the objective ofthe message. Abstract expression of colour may show your skill but will often fail tocommunicate the basic message.Choosing the Colour SchemeThe colour scheme should always reflect the purpose of your design as well as its intendedaudience. You have known already the physical characteristics of primaries and secondaries.Now, for making a colour scheme for a design, you must learn the further categories of colour.Colours may be bright and vivid, light and dull, and dark and achromatic.There are twelve colours, which stand out as distinct personalities. Graphic designers havedivided them into two groups according to psychological suggestions given by them: warm andcool. Red and yellow are warm colours; blue and predominantly blue, cool. Graphic designershave developed a colour wheel containing all these twelve colours for creating a colour scheme.Colours opposite to each other on the wheel have nothing in common. When a colour scheme isprepared selecting one or two colours from each side of the wheel, the result is a tremendouscontrast which is often successful in „attracting attention. The arrangement of colours in this wayis termed as a complementary scheme. This 9010ur scheme has a place in design. A sportingatmosphere, a restaurant and children‟s items may be signified by this scheme. But remember:bright colours tire the eye, if seen for a long time.Two complementary colours are more vivid” when they occupy an area in equal proportions andhave a flickering effect. By changing the proportion of these colours an entirely different visualeffect is achieved. Flicker is „an attention-getting colour device often used in advertising,packaging, and poster and hoarding designs, which may be seen from a great distance. Differentproportions of colour help in orderly movement of the eye over the design.Colours that are adjacent to each other on the „wheel are more harmonious. In a colour scheme ofblue, green and yellow-green, blue or a bit of blue is present in all the colours, leading to loss ofcontrast. This type of scheme is known as an analogous scheme.Though the scheme is passive and less exciting, yet it is capable of creating an atmosphere ofharmony. The eye undoubtedly finds pleasure in seeing harmonious colours. Here again,proportion plays a role in design perception.The use of different values and strengths of a single hue is called a monochromatic scheme. Theeye easily adopts the sensation of a single hue, and such adoption affects the perception of othercolours seen immediately afterwards. It is smooth but less exciting, if it is in the same hue. Thisarrangement is generally dull and weak, but it assists quietly the other elements of design tocome to the forefront. This is often used on a printed page by screening a colour in differentpercentages.Split complements are colours that are selected by choosing a colour on the wheel and finding itscomplement but using a colour adjacent to the complement, e.g. complements of orange are
blue-green and blue violet. The combination of these colours, each of which is at the point of animaginary equilateral triangle placed on the wheel is termed triad scheme. Examples: red, blue,yellow; orange, violet and green. Colour schemes can be visualized without pure hues or withcolours beyond the colour wheel. When grey is added to a pure hue, the personality of the colourchanges. Grey makes the colour soft and muddy. Like a monochromatic scheme, it creates a dulland passive atmosphere.But it helps reduce tension and creates an almost dreamy mood. This colour scheme can beeffective in .its own quiet way, and may, in fact, surpass in effectiveness the brash, overconfidentcolour schemes that surround it. A dark colour scheme gives the feeling of heaviness. Thisscheme is created by mixing black or a dark hue with the basic hues. It helps the basic coloursretain their identity, if it is used as a background. On a light complementary, dark colours aremost legible. Therefore, in order to give accent to design elements and type, prefer a dark colourscheme.Most designs are being painted only in black and white. When the colour scheme consists ofblack and shades of grey, it is called monochromatic. Black on white creates the maximumcontrast, and is capable of retaining certain value of colour in the form of tone and shade. tn mostcases, therefore, it transmits the message successfully.When you choose colours for your graphic design, bear in mind thefollowing points: . Know the physical characteristics of a colour and its association with all othercolours. . Select a colour with reference to your intended audience and the type of effect youwould like to create. Do not use colour for its own sake. Try to differentiate between background colour and information-bearing colour. Type, illustration, etc. carry information for a design. Keep the colour harmony at a reasonable level by means of compatible hues. Too many colours, particularly when they lack common elements, kill the design, so limit the number of colours. Also allow one of the colours to dominate for the purpose of contrast. Use vivid colours consciously, for this may give a lift to the printed page. Control, however, the amount of space it occupies and the proportion. Use the most familiar colours, e.g. the colours of nature to convince the conventional audience rather than unfamiliar ones. The effectiveness of a particular colour will depend on how and in what combination you use it, for no colour is inherently bad.
We can associate white with honesty, virginity and purity, and mat black with death and sadness,glossy black with classy stuff and formal clothing.Here is a little list, (and by far from complete) of associations that are probably lesser known.· Purple: a high spiritual colour (top chakra) sorrow, remorse· Yellow: happiness, warmth, the sun, success, intellect· Blue: masculine, commercial, erotic, timeless, cool, inner peace· Gold: wealth, rich, expensive, prosperous, delightful· Red: passion, heat, vitality, creativity, blooming, embarrassed· Silver: intuition, dreams
· Violet: transmutation, change· Orange: pride, endurance, assertiveness· Green: health, fertility, environment, New Zealand, self-esteem· Brown: earth, comfort, security, low emotional toneAs you can see there is a wide variety of expression permissible if you consider that all thesecolours come in different intensities or mixtures.Couple these colours with the props that you are using and you can see that your emotionallanguage of your photograph is gaining momentum. The type of prop that you include in yourphotograph will have certain significance. There is a definite difference between an apple or abanana in a photograph used as a prop, in a similar fashion there is a definite difference betweena dove and an eagle.Outdoors you will find similar differences, water or trees, as a backdrop will convey a totaldifferent feel and impression.