Learn about the various ways in which color is used in design to attract, to contrast, and to connect important details of the message and of your overall presentation.
- [Instructor] In this chapter we're going to be discussing color, a topic that many find baffling. But first, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I was super excited when my son began to draw, because it gave me an excuse to go out and buy more coloring books and crayons and colored pencils and spend time in the evenings sitting on floors, hunched over paper, quiet and still, filling in white places with shades of blue, pink, green, or purple. It was nice.
It's no wonder that adult coloring books have become so popular now. And even though I love the act of coloring, when it comes to design work, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with color. The act of coloring, sure, I find that calming. Choosing colors though, especially for presentations, that makes me want to gnaw my own arm off. There's just so many choices and pressure and, let's be honest, people with opinions.
If you are lucky, you will be handed a predetermined brand color palette from a company to work with. But sometimes that's not really the case. It seems the topic of color itself, mixing or blending colors or even the science of it, our perception of it, it can get quite complicated if we let it be. But let's not make this too hard. Not for presentations. Not for an intro design course in PowerPoint. After you become more advanced in design and if you want to further your studies, be my guest.
Dive deep. But for right now, here are the four key points that you need to know about color. Lesson the first, color should attract just like in nature. Flowers aren't colorful because they are vain. They use colors to attract bees for pollination. It is a far more effective and seductive tool. For flowers, color is a part of survival, and it's a large part of how they procreate. At a social gathering, say this party, who would you be drawn to? I don't know about you, but in this crowd, I'd find the clown confusing and far too overstimulating for any length of time.
So he's out. And now I am betting that your eye is drawn to two individuals in particular, considering the remaining choices. And it's the individuals wearing the pops of red in an otherwise dull neutral environment. So, when it comes to PowerPoint, let's take a lesson from nature and use color to attract attention. When people think of color, they often haphazardly throw color together without much thought or purpose. When it comes to communication and PowerPoint though, color is more than just decoration.
Color has meaning and should be thought about as other design and elements are. Color should also contain contrast and stand out when necessary. On this slide here, notice how color is just everywhere. And as such, we don't really know where to look. All colors here do, in fact, follow a theme, but there are too many colors to look at. If we go back to our lessons about similarity and contrast, here there is no one color that stands out.
Every color has equal weight. But, if we were to wash out all the color from the slide, just gray it all out, and now go through and decide what pieces of the design are important, let's say the names of the employees or maybe the section of the presentation we are on from the navigation hyperlink buttons below and then highlight those elements with one accent color, now the eye immediately goes to those spots.
The rest of the design elements do not have to be gray, by the way, or even a neutral color. It just has to be the same color and one that contrasts enough from the accent color. Now, this is an example of how color should contrast to draw out importance. Finally, color should connect. Here is a slide inspired from a poster at my doctor's office. Now, there is a lot happening on this slide, a lot of information to look at and not necessarily information that is placed close to each other proximity-wise.
But through color, specifically the color yellow, we can connect the information on the slide to what we should be looking at on the nutrition facts label. Now, there is one problem here with our photograph. The photo does have the color yellow, too, which is kind of getting in the way, pulling focus away from our key elements. The yellow in the photo is more here for decoration, or a distraction than there for meaning.
But, if we were to tone down the color in the photo a tad, now the color in the content really stands out. And we can guide our viewers eyes to the key pieces of information to help them connect the dots even though proximity-wise, the information is spread far apart on the slide. And so, above all, remember choose color purposefully. Color should attract and not merely be used for decoration.
Color should contrast and highlight important details of your message and connect important points on individual slides and across your slides throughout your presentation. And like a clown at a formal cocktail party, too many colors will confuse and overwhelm your audience. So, do be restrained in the use of your color palette.
- Designing as non-designers
- Key design components
- The need for hierarchy
- Hierarchy in bulleted slides
- When bullets are cognitively necessary
- Using space effectively
- Creating similarity and contrast strategically