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JUL 2009 1


red abstract image

This is the 1st article in a series that is meant to describe colors and provide detailed information about their waveform, tones, and advice on where and how to use them. We kick of with red because it has the longest wavelengths. Did you know that infrared and red lasers were developed based on this color just because it has the longest wavelength? Another reason for choosing red is because it is the first named color in the RGB color system.

Having the longest waveform, red catches people's attention, and not only. Familiar with Spanish toreadors, fighting those bulls? Well, those bulls are also attracted to red. Because it catches people's attention red is generally used in negative ways, to indicate danger or emergencies. For example, traffic signs that deny entrance are red. Sometimes, red is used in advertising to attract people's view towards a product or campaign. In "Contemporary Ergonomics" (Boca Raton 1996) we find out after several different studies that red is indeed the color that carries the strongest reaction. That's why scientists always recommend using red for warning signs and labels.

Red in web development

Having the above description, we add the fact that on the web red is usually used to emphasize errors, warnings. So, where should we use red? The question is tricky because of that little detail that says that it gets people's attention. Do we use red on errors, or do we use it on advertising campaigns? If we use red for advertising, then what color should we use for errors? Using it for both wouldn't be very smart, as it would pack a lot of confusion.

Chatting with color experts

To finish up this article, we contacted Igor Asselbergs for advice. Igor is a renowned color expert with over 20 years of experience. He blogs on livelygrey.com and is the current CEO of Colorjinn, a company that develops digital colors tools.

Webia: First of all Igor, welcome to Webia! Please tell us something about yourself.
Igor: I worked as a color consultant in architecture for 15 years. I had my own small consultancy with a few partners, which was an interesting mix of art and science people. Currently I focus more on developing tools for color and design geeks. Nevertheless, it's still color that intrigues me and I still do a bit of consultancy now and again, along with guest lectures at various colleges.

Webia: Speaking of web, especially user interfaces on the web, where should red be used?
Igor: Did you know people cannot perceive color? Seriously! It's a scientific fact. People can only perceive color differences. You can perceive the difference between red and green, but not green or red as such. Therefor your question is impossible because it depends how, in conjunction with which colors, red should be used. Think of a red door. Does a red door stand out? Only if the wall adjoining the door is NOT red. The impact and significance of red, or any color for that matter, depends on the context.

Webia: So one important factor is context. A good example for this is the image attached in the header of the post. Does it pop up? Yes it does, because it contains mainly red color tones and contrasts the site's overall dark theme.

Webia: Should red be used for advertising purposes (not just on the web)?
Igor: I don't see why not. But again, it depends on the context.

Webia: Red is generally accepted to accompany errors. What should be a good solution if red cannot be used. (Example: red is the main color of a product, brand that is showcased on the site. Errors would blend in due to this into the site and will not pop out.)
Igor: Red accompanies error because it stands out in most cases. That is simply because most of the world around us is NOT red. So if you cannot use red to symbolize error, use any other color that stands out. Which is the color that is not much used on the site. Though I would exclude green, because it often symbolizes the opposite of error.

This is the first article of a series of articles regarding colors. If you liked this article you can subscribe to the full content rss feed and stay updated as we post new information.

Published on Wednesday, July 8th, 2009 at 3:43 pm in color, interviews.

About Bogdan Pop

Bogdan Pop is a young Romanian entrepreneur who runs WebRaptor. He is a web developer with awesome design skills, who enjoys writing about everyday's work and usability. He relaxes by taking photos every once in a while and by mixing french electronic music. Connect with him via Twitter.
  1. Green sites showcase says: November 28th, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    […] is the third article of our color series of articles. Back in July we had an interview with Igor Asselbergs, renowned color expert with over 20 years of experience who blogs on livelygrey.com and is the […]

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