Colour Me Dreary

As someone who is a self-proclaimed rain cloud, it should surprise no one that 80%—okay maybe 90%—of my wardrobe is black or grey. I have always lacked the appreciation of colour many of my friends have always had, except when it comes to hair and lipstick. I have recently noticed an increase in colour across graphic design which honestly hasn’t sent me into fits of rapture, so I thought I would dig deeper into the colour trends from recent years and how they affect Graphic Design.

Now personally, I think excessive colour is over-rated. While I think colour theory and psychology are important—no, fundamental  for Graphic Design, I do feel that it has become a crutch some designers lean on to make a weak design stronger. Colour theory can bring meaning where there isn’t any, or completely overwhelm what substance there is. In this article, author Paul Joyce says this, “Colourful elements compete with each other, resulting in dilution of importance of everything.” He also addresses the fact that as a designer, you must be conscious of who is using your product, and the disabilities they may have. Joyce brings up the issue of colourblindness and how some people may be partially colourblind, or completely colourblind and therefore rely on saturation. However colourblindness isn’t the only issue. My fellow design student, friend, and writer of oh, crop. suffers from partial blindness. There have been several instances in which I’ve asked her opinion on a logo design, website layout, or what have you, only for her to say that she honestly has a hard time seeing it, just based on the colours I’ve used. While we may find it edgy, interesting, or just plain neat, many of our choices with colour can alienate an entire group of possible consumers just because a trend tells us that low contrast is “in”.

Now putting aside accessibility, aesthetics is really what Graphic Design is about: does the product appeal to who it’s supposed to appeal to? In the past couple of years, “flat design” has been gaining momentum. Flat design strips down everything (gradients, shadows, embossing, et cetera) and creates something, well, flat. This trend is visible even in 2012, though it has undoubtedly picked up speed. Google has forsaken their old, beveled logo for a new, flat design. While I can appreciate the cleanness of the design, I must admit the sans serif, bright Google colours, and flat design don’t do it for me.

Google logos

Top: Redesigned logo debuted September 1, 2015. Bottom: Used from September 19, 2013 to August 31, 2015.

Colour trends in web design for 2015 and 9 Graphic Design Trends for 2015 both reaffirm the emerging popularity of flat design. In the article Flat Design: Trend or Revolution? by Caleb Malles says this about colour:

The one thing to remember here is to not use a color just because you see it on another “cool” site. You really need to think about the company or product you are designing for, and what their message is.

Malles hits on a key problem I have with colour in design. How often have we seen the “Pantone Colour of the Year” plastered on everything, only to be forsaken in a few months for the next one?

During my search for material for this post, I dug up Graphic Design Trends 2015 which showcases several typefaces that sport rainbow colours. While I think certain companies and organizations can pull off the multicoloured look, it cheapens the appearance to me.

What do you guys think? Are you loving this bright world we’re living in or do you long for the days of simplicity? Let me know in the comments section!




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