Design Filter: Do I need to use these colors in a layout?
February 18, 2013 8:15 PM   Subscribe

Posting for my wife, a graphic designer who is tasked with doing a website layout job for a client. Here's the rub: The company has an existing logo that's red and blue, but she doesn't necessarily want to use red and blue as the dominant colors in this particular layout, but someone from the company is convinced that they MUST use red and blue as the primary colors throughout the site. I've had no luck coming up with any kind of evidence to support my wife's point, and so now I'm here to query the hive. Do any of you design-minded folks know of any articles or collections of layouts that might help my wife make her case? Sorry if the question is very vague.
posted by doogan nash to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This link about readability might help.

Additionally if your wife is able to meet in person with the client, have her do the following:

1. Go into a room with a projector.
2. Turn off all the lights.
3. Project this image on the screen.

Here is an article explaining why the color blue is particularly not-friendly to human vision. It might help.

And also some palettes using red and blue on the Colour Lovers website.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:43 PM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

Here are a bunch of sites for the first red-and-blue-logo companies/entities that come to mind:

American Airlines
Tommy Hilfiger

It seems to me the worst use the company colors most heavily (e.g. Tommy Hilfiger). Tons of white with red and blue bits is not much better (the USA site is the most extreme example). Sites that are subtle about the company colors and heavy on neutrals seem nicest to me, subjectively, though they're also pretty conservative in feel.

The Pepsi site is kind of interesting, once you click through the annoying overlay, but I suspect there's some sort of Windows 8 cross-promotion going on.

But the short of it is these companies are heavily invested in an identity system that uses these colors, so they're going to be there, even if there's room to play around with neutrals, different background colors as accents, or design elements (like the Pepsi tiles) with their own palettes.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:44 PM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

Oy. No.

I mean, there's no authority out there that is going to have written down: you shouldn't use red and blue in a layout. Or, rather, you shouldn't use the logos colors in a layout.

Of course she doesn't want to use red and blue as the dominant color scheme. Because, hello!, American flagapalooza! Burning retinas! Argh!

But, man, as a prior graphic design website professional, can I just say... your client is just not going to get it. They will make her life a living hell until she acquiesces. How much are they paying her? She should pad her rate and do the best as she can under the circumstances.

Pick one dominant color: either blue or red and use it in muted ways. Or pick a neutral grey tone. And run with it. That's the best she can hope for, I think.
posted by amanda at 8:46 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have done a bit of design work. I'm afraid that if she doesn't want to go with the red and blue, she'll need to find another client. Clients tend to want what they want. That's what they pay for.
posted by trip and a half at 8:48 PM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

Her best argument may be for her to do a few different mock-ups that she can present to the client that span the range from heavy use of the logo colors to light use as accents to whatever other alternatives your wife would recommend as a design professional. I find that color design is something that is much easier to discuss when you have something to work from than when you're just talking conceptually.
posted by platinum at 8:51 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with amanda. I say give them what they want and run.
posted by mattoxic at 9:05 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would recommend against providing a range of mockups - especially if the range includes designs that she feels are not as strong due to how they use the logo colors. In my experience if you give a client more than one design to choose from, one of which aligns with their preconceptions, they will invariably choose that one even in the face of much better alternatives. Do as many sets of mockups as you like, but only present one at a time. Or at least only present ones that you believe in enough to make working on them pleasant. Feel free to add a duck if you think it'll help.

You may still end up producing something you don't like to satisfy the client, but at least you've given them a good chance to choose something better.
posted by expialidocious at 9:14 PM on February 18, 2013

My company has a red & blue logo & we're actually implementing the new logo/brand/look we developed w/an ad agency starting tomorrow. We're dropping all the overuse of logo colors and white white-space in favor of grey as a tertiary color and a subtle parchment background. It looks 1000 times better and the logo is actually visible. When everything else on the page is logo colors, the logo looks like everything else.

Memail me if she's curious about our site & I'll send a link after we go live tomorrow.
posted by headnsouth at 9:16 PM on February 18, 2013

I don't understand why she can't or won't figure out a way to use the existing logo (with the retina-burning, horriblenogoodreandblue) that the client has and wants. Finding ammo to back her up might make her right, but it's not going to make the client happy.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:30 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

She should use them but sparingly, subtly and never next to each other with neutral tones (white - grey - black) throughout.
posted by missmagenta at 1:31 AM on February 19, 2013

if the client insists she use red & blue as the primary colors then just pick one of those colors and use the other very sparingly as an accent color. she can also use a lighter/darker shade to make it more attractive or use other neutrals to go with it as missmagenta suggested. she just needs to come up with some creative solutions to this design problem. that is what good designers do.

she has told them what she thinks and they have responded and now she needs to get creative doing what they hired her to do. remember: the customer is always right. i bet she'll come up with something great because she is being forced to be more creative than she might normally have to be.
posted by wildflower at 2:59 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's a good case to be made for not using red hues at all, given the usability problems it gives colourblind users. There are many simulators out there for different kinds of colourblindness (I use this one) showing just how hard it is for 5-10% of visitors to distinguish reds. So if there are any moves to make red a vital component of way-finding and navigation, she should stop them right there. It's not a good idea.

Oh, and colour palettes. Make some here.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 5:20 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

If it's what the company wants, give it to them. That, unfortunately, is what a lot of design has become. Clients have become art-directors, and the designers their wrists. She's lucky the client hasn't handed her a mock-up done in Powerpoint "in my spare time."
posted by Thorzdad at 5:21 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

She should recommend that the logo will stand out more if there is contrast rather than everything being the same two colors. The logo would get lost in a sea of read and blue, and therefore the brand will be weakened rather than strengthened. It's all about your wife's assertiveness and confidence in communicating this info to the client. She should also ask a lot of questions, starting with "what do you mean by 'primary colors'"?
posted by kmel at 12:45 PM on February 19, 2013

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