Principles of design and animation, part 4: Colour
William Marler gravatar avitar

Principles of design and animation, part 4: Colour

Author: William Marler | Posted on: 9 February 2017

The colour spectrum provides a wide range of creative choice and is often a matter of taste. However, capitalising on a colour’s meaning can be very effective. Changing a colour can completely transform the mood evoked by a design or animation.

Different colours take on more specific meaning when compared

A single colour may have hundreds of meanings, but two different colours in comparison can have a singular, vivid meaning. Blue and black can symbolise any number of things, but comparing the two can denote day and night. Similarly, Red can say “no”, “sell”, “bad”, and “stop” to name a few, but place it next to blue and it will likely be read as “hot”.

Colours can mean opposites, with an intermediate in between

Often, two-colour meanings such as these can be supported with a third, middle colour.

You may wish to stick with a limited range of brand colours, but by doing so you could be limiting the semantic possibilities at your disposal. Don’t be scared to use colours outside of your brand palette - as long as they are similar in tone, you can use a whole array of extra hues. If you are strictly limited by colour, any of the concepts discussed here can be expressed through the other principles we’ve explored thus far.

If you’re creating content for a worldwide audience, it’s important to understand that colours carry different meanings in different cultures. Sometimes the meanings differ only slightly, and sometimes the difference is huge. For example, in Western culture, yellow can suggest cowardice. However, in Japan, it means courage.

Mailboxes are different colours in different countries 

Cultural objects that are often recognised solely by their colour also vary from country to country. Mailboxes are a prime example of this. In this case, it’d be better to avoid the mailbox altogether and use a universal icon, such as a letter.

Shape, size, shape, and colour can all be used to create meaningful imagery in design. Adding animation to these images, however, can open up a whole new range of possibilities and ideas. Next time, we’ll explore movement.

In case you missed them, here's the rest of the series:

Part 1: Shape

Part 2: Size

Part 3: Space

Part 5: Movement

Combining the principles of design and animation


Author: William Marler

William Marler gravatar avitar
William is the Animation Lead at Ember Television. He graduated from Birmingham City University in 2016 with first class honours. In that time, he had already completed work for prestigious clients including the BRIT Awards and Fujifilm, and was selected by Adobe as part of their student showcase.
Principles of design and animation, part 4: Colour

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