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November 21, 2014 /Uncategorized /

Ten Ways to Use Color to Capture Attention (Part 2)

The second of a two-part series that shows ten ways to use color in design to capture more attention.

In the first post, I focused on hue, chroma, and contrast; in this post, I’ll take a closer look at psychology—how things like color preference or expectations can grab attention. Check them out and let me know what you think by posting a comment.

6. Keep the palette small

In 2010, researchers studying consumer preferences found that most people preferred product designs with fewer colors—four  to be exact (read more). That’s good to know because psychologists have also proven that people are more likely to listen to and be persuaded by people and products they like.

Another excellent reason to keep your color palette small is more design-related than psychological: Too many background colors will steal attention away from the item you want to be the focal point. So ease up on the gas when choosing colors for your design and limit that palette.

Now, the caveat: Good designers know that the right number of colors in their palette really depends on context. So, while this is a good reminder, don’t hesitate to rely on your “inner design voice” to tell you when to veer away from this principle.

7. Know your audience

What’s true for food, sports teams, movies, relatives, and pretty much everything else is true for colors and color themes, people respond better to what they like than what they don’t. Makes sense, right? Well, as obvious as this concept may be, it’s still something to keep in mind when you start a project. Give yourself enough time to know your audience’s preferences.

If you don’t have a good handle on your audience’s color preference, try Adobe Color CC, an online color-inspiration tool that allows you to use color-harmony principles to create palettes that look great.

What’s more, Color CC collects millions of color themes created by users who vote on which colors they prefer. This means that you can find colors that people generally love and begin experimenting with them right away. From a previous month’s most-loved colors:


8. Boost the brightness

It turns out that you can use brightness to make your design more likable—and if you’re promoting a brand, that likability will transfer to the brand as well. Researchers have found that they could accomplish this by using “high-value colors” (read more). Value is a measure of the brightness or lightness of a particular color. So, on your next project, experiment with brighter colors because your audience will like them more. And that means they’ll pay more attention to your design.

Researchers have shown that people "like" lighter colors.

Researchers have shown that people “like” lighter colors.

9. Try unexpected color pairings

You can grab people’s attention by pairing colors with objects or symbols in unexpected ways, a technique you’ve probably seen in advertising. The jarring juxtaposition gets people to stop and think about your message. As an example:

You can grab people’s attention by pairing colors with objects or symbols in unexpected ways.

You can  capture more attention by using colors in unexpected ways.

10. Employ exotic color names

Give your color an exotic name and people will pay attention. Really. Researchers have found that products with exotically-named colors rated higher than those with generically-named colors (read more). Not only did people favor those colors, but their preferences translated into purchasing preferences.

Some of the more interesting color-theme names from Color CC:

ten-ways-candy-coated ten-ways-passionate-watermelon

So, the next time you give your colors a name, jump outside the norm! And your audience will be more inclined to surrender their attention.

Take these tips and run

Our brains are, among many other things, phenomenal “salience detectors.” In the world of color and design, salience has a two-part definition: 1) the difference between one item and its immediate surrounding items, and 2) the difference between all of the surrounding items.

You want your design to have a high degree of salience. In other words, if you want an item to seize and hold people’s attention, you must design it to stand out from the surrounding elements AND you must design the surrounding elements to blend in with each other.

Our ten color tips will help you do exactly that. Now, go be creative! (Read Part 1.)

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