Drawn to Colors
Story by Katherine Garvey | Photo courtesy of Riley Hoonan
Bellingham-based graphic designer Riley Hoonan explains how the poster he designed for his former band, Queen Amina, gets attention, even if it is unreadable.
"It's big, it's really colorful, it's blasting colors at you," Hoonan says. "We got more people to come to this show than any show we had advertised via the 11-by-17 [inch] posters that were printed off. And it only uses two colors.
The whole is more than the sum of its parts, Hoonan says, and color is one of those parts. Whether promoting a show, company or product, color provides the ability to go beyond simply explaining what something is or does.
"Color sells," Rosalie King, a professor in Western's design program, says. "Things that used to be light-we used to have white kitchens, white appliances, white dishes—now everything is just so colorful."
Graphic design consultant Ericka Bakkom, who owns Bellingham's E Fresh Design, taps certain colors to reflect her clients' style. Her coffee remains untouched as she avidly, hardly stopping to take a breath, walks through her portfolio.
For a rebranding of Seattle Speciality Insurance (SSI), Bakkom and SSI's Marketing Director of Communications Jennifer Nausin used a muted chartreuse and slate to play on the company's image and its Northwest heritage.
"But if [the product] was something that resonated clean and fresh, you wouldn't want the dull earth colors for a natural product," she says. "You would want bright and vibrant against a lot of white."
Companies often adopt colors or pallets that eventually become synonymous with that business: Starbucks' green logo. McDonalds' golden arches. Google's rainbow text. Target's red...well, target.
Apple Inc.'s iMac campaign draws on a white, minimalist pallet to reflect its distinctiveness and reliability, Hoonan says.
The vivid color and movement of the iPod campaign certainly has a different effect, but it relies on the same methods.
"They were probably like, 'What can you do with an iPod that you can't do with a CD player? You can dance with it, you can have it on your body, and shake your booty,'" Hoonan says.
The meaning and use of colors is ever-evolving.
Blue and pink are associated with baby boys and girls, respectfully, but that wasn't the case 70 years ago.
Until approximately the 1940s, blue was used for girls as it was considered calmer and softer, Jill Morton, a branding expert who works in color psychology, has said.
"Color is extremely important," King says. "But we have no more rules about what color should be used with another one."