This is the second in a series of articles on graphic design for dancers. In the first article we considered the impact of design on the public’s perception of the dance and on the success of bellydance as a business, then explored crucial typography guidelines. Now we’ll delve into applying colors in marketing materials, returning to the ever-present concepts of hierarchy and legibility introduced previously.
In design, color is used to:
Convey a mood or feeling
Draw attention to certain elements
Group and structure related elements
Enhance the message
Establish brand identity
While color can be a great asset to your work, its improper use can thwart your efforts to present professional, polished, and sophisticated pieces. It can be easy to give enthusiasm free reign and go a bit overboard but, in design as in dance, it pays to exercise restraint. That’s why the following essential points, gleaned from my years of design work, focus on subtlety to allow colors and patterns to support your content instead of stealing focus. I’ve included examples, as well as links to additional resources at the end of the article. This guide applies to both print and web.
Select colors that support your message and audience. If you’re designing a flier for an autumn-themed event, earth and jewel tones are a better fit than pastels. Light colors might work better for a daytime event than a nighttime event. A webpage for children’s classes would need upbeat colors instead of slick and moody colors.
Use colors as your viewers expect them to be used. Some colors are already established in user design and subconsciously inform user behavior. For example, bright red and yellow are associated with errors and caution, while bright green is associated with successful actions and confirmation. Using bright red for a positive message can be confusing and jarring when users are accustomed to seeing green.
Get ideas for color combinations from sites like Adobe’s Kuler (see link below).
Draw attention to important information with saturated colors, while keeping other colors more desaturated. A flier headline might be brighter than the other elements, or maybe you need to emphasize a deadline date.
Be consistent with your use of color by using it to relate items with similar content. For example, on an event flier the headline and date might be presented in one color, while the address and ticket price are presented in another color.
Keep your color palette limited. A couple of accent colors are enough to draw attention to the most important parts of your message, while too many can be messy and confusing. [Figure 1]
Keep the colors in your gradients analogous to prevent them from competing with more important elements.