How to brighten up your designs


A month on from the launch of iOS 7, creatives have had time for the new OS to bed in mentally, so thought we'd find out how leading designers think Apple's brighter outlook will impact design, and get their advice on how designers can brighten up their work.

For the past month, there have been millions of people around the world exploring a new piece of bright and bold design that they're likely to see and use every day for the next year or two. That piece of design is iOS 7.

With such widespread iOS 7 adoption, Tim Smith, design specialist at digital design studio ustwo, told us that he expects to see bolder and brighter colours become more prominent in design this year, and also suggests that the lightweight typography that Apple has adopted for the new operating system is becoming more popular.

While larger clients are likely to have set guidelines containing colours that work with their brand already, start-up agencies that operate on digital platforms or release mobile products might decide on a more colourful approach.

So how can designers use bright, bold colours successfully?

When it comes to mobile app design, designers can take advantage of the colour accented title bar, which allows the brand's primary colour to stand out, Shaun Tollerton, Visual Designer at ustwo tells us.

Tim Smith highlights the analytics app Analytiks by Blatt Labs as a good example of the successful use of bright colours. "It's an app without a brand that has been using bright colour in its visual data representation for some time. It uses just two bright colours against neutral whites and greys – it's simple but effective."

Tim believes the Analytiks app is a good example of a successful use of bright and bold colours - just two bright colours against neutral whites and greys.

Simon Norris, CEO and founder of digital agency Nomensa, also has some advice about how to use bright colours in design.

"To create drama or conflict, designers should use complementary and non-complementary colours," he told us. "When using bright colours they need to consider using different shades and think about colour in a completely different way."

The types of questions designers should think about when using bright colours include, "What mood do you want to create? What does the design require? What do you want to achieve?" Simon suggests. "For example, if you want to create a feeling of ambiguity, a combination of unusual colours works well."

"First impressions are absolutely crucial so you need to immediately set the tone with the right colours," he continues. "However, how people feel at the beginning of a journey may be different to how they feel at the end. In other words, designers need to balance the whole experience so the user has a positive journey from start to finish – and the colours need to reflect that."

It's crucially important to get colours right in design, because colours can affect the way we feel. "Our ability to perceive colour is down to our cone cells which are responsible for colour vision," Simon explains. "These cells, which are in the retina of the eye, have three wave lengths: long (red), medium (green) and short (blue). It's important to note that we have a greater ratio of cone cells at the long end and as a result the blue cells are more sensitive, and can create a calming effect."

"It's also important to consider context of colour," says Simon. "For example, a red square on a black background will look more brilliant than a red square on a white background. However, in general, red is a difficult colour. Although it's bold and often used as a call to action, in western culture it also has negative connotations as the traditional colour of warning and danger."

Of course, there are times when bright isn't right. "For clients who need to cater to an audience where full accessibility is of key importance, bright colours may not always be appropriate," Simon notes.

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