Graphic Design for Dancers, Part 2
posted November 16, 2014
Part 1 available here
This is the second in a series of articles on graphic design for dancers. In the first article we considered the impact of design on the public’s perception of the dance and on the success of bellydance as a business, then explored crucial typography guidelines. Now we’ll delve into applying colors in marketing materials, returning to the ever-present concepts of hierarchy and legibility introduced previously.
In design, color is used to:
- Convey a mood or feeling
- Draw attention to certain elements
- Group and structure related elements
- Enhance the message
- Establish brand identity
While color can be a great asset to your work, its improper use can thwart your efforts to present professional, polished, and sophisticated pieces. It can be easy to give enthusiasm free reign and go a bit overboard but, in design as in dance, it pays to exercise restraint. That’s why the following essential points, gleaned from my years of design work, focus on subtlety to allow colors and patterns to support your content instead of stealing focus. I’ve included examples, as well as links to additional resources at the end of the article. This guide applies to both print and web.
- Select colors that support your message and audience. If you’re designing a flier for an autumn-themed event, earth and jewel tones are a better fit than pastels. Light colors might work better for a daytime event than a nighttime event. A webpage for children’s classes would need upbeat colors instead of slick and moody colors.
- Use colors as your viewers expect them to be used. Some colors are already established in user design and subconsciously inform user behavior. For example, bright red and yellow are associated with errors and caution, while bright green is associated with successful actions and confirmation. Using bright red for a positive message can be confusing and jarring when users are accustomed to seeing green.
- Get ideas for color combinations from sites like Adobe’s Kuler (see link below).
- Draw attention to important information with saturated colors, while keeping other colors more desaturated. A flier headline might be brighter than the other elements, or maybe you need to emphasize a deadline date.
- Be consistent with your use of color by using it to relate items with similar content. For example, on an event flier the headline and date might be presented in one color, while the address and ticket price are presented in another color.
- Keep your color palette limited. A couple of accent colors are enough to draw attention to the most important parts of your message, while too many can be messy and confusing. [Figure 1]
- Keep the colors in your gradients analogous to prevent them from competing with more important elements. [Figure 2]
Figure 1 and 2
- Avoid bright, saturated backgrounds, as they make text difficult to read and distract from images. Desaturated colors are more refined and easy on the eyes. [Figure 3]
- Make sure there is ample contrast between your background and text. Not enough contrast makes the text hard to read. [Figure 4]
- When presenting large amounts of text, use dark text on a light background. Light text on a dark background is hard on the eyes for prolonged reading, especially online. [Figure 5]
- Mute your background patterns to keep text legible and avoid distracting from your content. [Figure 6]
Putting It Together
This flier uses deep blues with accents of medium yellows, a limited palette that retains simplicity and makes sense for a nighttime restaurant event. Saturation and brightness direct the viewer to what they should see first — the headline, date, and image — while the other colors take a secondary role. The background gradient is kept in the same color family and patterns are subdued, letting the information take the spotlight. There is enough contrast between the dark background and the light text for easy reading, and there is not so much text to make it difficult to read in a light-on-dark combination.
Learn the basics of color theory:
- The Art of Color Coordination –
- Using Color Theory to Create a Better Color Palette –
Ready for more?
As artists of an often misunderstood dance, we dancers understand that everything we present publicly reflects back upon us as individuals, upon bellydance as an art form, and by extension, the Middle Eastern culture. When presenting these facets in the most favorable light to other dancers or the general public, good design becomes paramount because it is the most unmistakable way to demonstrate our worth.
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