Now that we have covered Colory Theory Part 1 - the color wheel and basic color schemes, we are ready to move on to communicating effectively with color. If you are just stopping by, these are graphic design lesson plans for middle school, intended to introduce students to the fundamentals of communication design. You can start back at the beginning here.
Remember, graphic design is all about communicating a message through pictures and text. When we pick colors for a design, we need to make sure that (1) the message can be clearly seen and (2) the color conveys the appropriate message. Let's take a closer look at each part.
1. Communicating Clearly
Whatever message you want to convey, that message should be able to be seen. Your color choice impacts this a lot. This is extremely important for text.
But... You may object... Red and Green are complimentary colors, right? How can they be a bad color combination? This is where the use of tints and shade come in handy. Lightening the green, or darkening the red, can make it readable and appealing...
Also consider the location of your design when picking colors.
-->Far Away Designs - e.g. billboards, store signs, road signs
Use bright and high contrasting colors that will stand out and be easy to read.
-->Close Designs - e.g. magazine, product label, website
You can get a little wilder with your color combinations, but avoid using light text on dark backgrounds, unless your font is very bold. A dark background makes the text appear thinner than it actually is and can strain the eyes.
2. Communicating Accurately
Secondly, your color choice should accurately reflect your message. We all know that colors make us feel a certain way. The colors you choose for your design will also create a feeling. You want it to help your message, not confuse it.
Your kids already know this. You don't need to teach it, you just need to get your students to think! Write the following colors on the board, and let them fill in the words that come to their mind. I've given you some answers if you get stuck, but see what the kids come up with first. This is also known as the psychology of color.
YELLOW - happiness, attention-grabbing, bright, caution, sun, day
ORANGE - playfulness, youth, joy, heat
RED - love, warning, fire, blood, war, intense
GREEN - nature, growth, money, fresh, life
BLUE - peaceful, soothing, water, sky, stability
PURPLE - royalty, creativity, magician's robe, luxury
BROWN - natural, organic, rustic, earth, dirt, chocolate
BLACK - darkness, classy, sophisticated, sad, serious, night
WHITE - purity, clean, wedding, snow, winter
But of, course, its not that simple. Tints and shades will affect the mood or meaning of a color. Suddenly blue can become somber by adding black, or red can become soft and delicate by adding a touch of white.
3. Activity Time
Think About it...
Ask your students the following question...
If you were making a flyer for a __________________ what COLOR(S) would you use?
--> Health Food Store
--> Jewelry Store
--> Fancy Restaurant
Research & Compare
If you have time, bring old newspapers and magazines and have the kids search for advertisements from the previous list. Compare the answers the students gave to what colors the actual ads are. If you don't have time in class, you can assign it as homework or an extra credit assignment.
Of course there is not a definitive "right" answer and the kids will quickly see that not every bank advertisement is the same color. Sometimes good design requires an ironic color choice for dramatic effect, or a totally unexpected color choice to draw attention. But as I have said before, you have to know the rules of color theory before you are able to break them effectively!
Hopefully this lesson will have your students, and YOU, noticing more of the design world around all of us. Keep your eyes open for how color is used and how it makes you feel. It will improve your own understanding and application of color theory.
A few more fun facts your kids will enjoy...
RED and YELLOW make people hungrier, so you find a lot of restaurants using that combination! Can you name some?
BLUE is the most popular color on earth (think... the sky and ocean), and the most used color for business logos!
WHITE vehicles get in fewer car accidents.
PINK reduces anger and is therefore used in many prisons and mental health institutes.
For more color fun, check out these great infographics on color psychology and the meaning of colors in different cultures.
Luke and I are married and have four little munchkins that travel the world with us. I blog about living overseas, travel, kids, education and graphic design.
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