Colours: Tone it down without tuning out.
Updated: Mar 6
A guide to high-contrast colour combinations that don't look like they're shouting.
We could take a page from mama nature when it comes to tasteful combinations of high-contrast colours that won't offend retinas en masse.
Impression management is your first order of business.
We're used to seeing signs in our periphery that compete for our attention constantly and it can be exhausting.
On one corner stands a glaring TTC poster box with the latest mobility ad, followed by a series of haphazardly placed neon orange and green lawn signs promising the best deals on plumbing, window trim and tax services. Punctuated by the bright red 12 foot tower across the street, shouting "BIG SALE! HURRY NOW!!".
Before we know it, the light has turned green, the driver behind us is honking, we accidently oversteer into oncoming traffic for a moment, scaring the child in the backseat and ourselves to screams, cursing the ads that distracted us to everlasting heck.
While the example above may be a teensy melodramatic, the truth is that we are collectively over-stimulating our senses. Often sabotaging the first impressions of would-be customers.
How then do we tone it down and still get noticed? To your rescue, a classic colour wheel and complementary colours! For a bite-sized colour theory lesson and inspiration, read on.
What are complementary colours?
These are pairs of colours on the colour wheel (see image above), that are exactly opposite to each other. When placed side-by-side in a design, they create the strongest contrast. High contrast colour combinations are particularly noticeable and easy to read. To make your own combination, simply take a look at the colour wheel above and pick two colours opposite to each other.
Here are some examples of complementary colours as found in our natural surroundings. Taking a hint from flora and fauna (Plants! And itty bitty animals), we're naturally programmed to find these combos more pleasing to the eye.
Purple and Yellow (Primary Complementary Colours)
Blue-Green and Red-Orange (Tertiary Complementary Colours)
Red-Purple (pink) and Yellow-Green (Tertiary Complementary Colours)
Blue and Orange (Primary & Secondary Complementary Colours)
Red and Green (Primary & Secondary Complementary Colours)
The next time you set foot in a public park, try to observe what colours please your palette. Cool colours, that is blues, greens and purples tend to have a calming effect. Psychologically, they're known to be associated with luxury, logic and professionalism. While warm colours, that's reds, yellows and oranges are seen as inviting, often associated with passion and movement and they can drive people to action. Keep in mind that many of these interpretations are culturally specific, a little research goes a long way. It's always a good idea to tailor your choices based on who and where your market is, and what message you're trying to send.
We look forward to seeing what you come up with!