Science or art: How humans perceive colors? Impact on design

Understanding color

Color is perception. When our eyes see something, they send data to our brain telling him it’s a certain color. But how? Let’s say we see some object, that object reflects light in different combinations of wavelenghts, our brains pick up that same wavelength combinations and we see something that we call color.

There are two primary color systems – additive and subtractive. In simple terms the colors on screen are additive, printed colors are subtractive. Basis for additive colors are red, green and blue (RGB) and for the subtractive we use cyan, magenta, yellow and key(black) (CMYK).

Mastering color

We all know that there are many shades or tints, saturations and hues of every color, so there are endless color combinations. Regular monitor can display 17 million colors, which is more colors than human eye can distinguish (10 million).

Hue is the actual pure color. Brightness refers to how much white (or black) is mixed in the color. Saturation indicates the amount of grey in a color (how rich a color is). Saturation and brightness are normally referred as a percentage between 0 and 100%.

Are the colors subjective as we think?

Some people will love a particular set of colors, while others will not. So, how to choose the perfect option? Do a research and follow the general rules.

There are certain associations that we’ve been thought over the years, that we don’t even know. Depending on our demographics as well as the cultural environment, we use certain colors to describe the world. For example people from West will use pink to describe femininity, green for freshness or growing, dark blue for safety, red for passion and so on, and people from East will associate that same colors for something else.

Impact on design?

So before we choose color(s) for design we need to know general information about target audience, because colors make huge impact on branding, marketing and sales.