AD100 Color Theory



Here begins the ABCs of the Visual Language, the tools to understanding why you react in a predictable manner to what you see, and more importantly, how to use this knowledge in your own work.


Unity With Variety

Below we have two same-size rectangles,
both of which have had two lines drawn through them.

The rectangle on the left is divided evenly, yielding us four panels of the same size and shape while the one on the right creates four differently shaped panels. Both images achieve unity, with the panels seeming to belong properly with the whole, but only one has variety. The first image is much less visually stimulating to our eyes and as a result does not hold our attention as long as the second image which has something for our eyes to explore.

The images you create should hold your viewer's attention, should give them something to explore. A good notion to remember is, "Anything in the center is boring" so if your design does not require it be in the center, then it should not be.

This is as good a time as any to introduce the concept of Dominance. Design is an act of premeditation, there is a goal in mind, and to achieve our goal we need to focus on that which brings us closer to doing so. You will hear over and over again that, "something MUST be dominant." This is especially true when part of the goal is that your idea be understood as quickly and as clearly as possible.

Although the images above are simple, it is clear that no one panel is dominant in the first image, and that the large rectangle clearly dominates the second.

"There is only room for one big idea in a design." -Scott Kuntz


The Aesthetics of Beauty

The Greeks believes that things can only exist in one of three states:




Yes, I am sure many of you are going, "Huh, what is beautiful about a rectangle?" well, think about the words you might use to describe the first two images. The square might be described as even or balanced, but we quickly run out of words with which to express what we see because it really is just a simple object. The rectangle however gives us more opportunity for description with words such as sleek, slender, long, stable, sturdy, resting, etc... which, when compared to the simplicity of the square, might be considered beautiful.

So now we get to the Ugliness of the third image, and once again I hear the question clearly, "Isn't that just another rectangle?" Yes, it is, but for the Greeks Ugliness was the state of not being Beautiful or Simple, and our third image is certainly not the same as either of the first two.