What is functional color?

Mar 30th, 2010 | Posted by Stone

Functional color is designed for a purpose, color whose aesthetics are linked to its application. Now, it could be argued that all color has a purpose. But here, I will be talking primarily about color used in presenting information, such as a slide presentation, an illustration, or a data-driven visualization. Functional color choices are legible, appropriately direct attention, and create results that are both informative and aesthetic.

While it could be argued that any good visual designer can pick effective colors for a specific application, an appalling number of “professionally designed” displays use color combinations that are either illegible, garishly distracting, or both. (Slide templates are rich with examples). One goal for this blog is to present some basic principles and examples, in hopes of reducing the “color chaos” that so badly obscures important information.  But more significantly, I want to discuss why, including the technical, visual and perceptual principles that make functional color effective.

I’ve done a lot of teaching and presentations, and have even written a book, A Field Guide to Digital Color.  With this blog, I’m hoping to create an on-going forum for topics ranging from perception to aesthetics, with emphasis on those that either create or explain functional color.

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