Thursday, September 10, 2009

Liar, Liar, the Color Wheel is on Fire

Does the web provide an open door for "color experts" to dish out bad advice? Maybe in the dark days before the web, the color wheel was on fire but no one could see it. Whatever the case may be - and on the heels of last week’s Benjamin Moore report - there’s a new one.

The latest bad advice is based on the assumption that the "old rules" about how to use and combine colors are out the window. Here’s the exact quote from an interior design professional:

"This marvelous freedom is facilitated by people finding out this simple color truth: ‘The more colors you have the more colors work.'"

That couldn’t be further from the truth because the biggest mistake amateurs and professionals make is using too many colors. It’s a recipe for disaster unless you’re a very gifted color designer.

As is the case with music, there are formal principles about color harmony that have evolved over thousands of years. Breaking or bending a few rules can be exciting and refreshing. However, there is always an underlying logic in all innovative work.

Aside from art and design theories, here's a basic fact about how the brain works: If there's too much visual information, if there are too many colors, the brain can't organize it all. As is the case with other sensory input such as sounds, the brain becomes overloaded and shuts down.

To encourage people to toss the whole color wheel into a design is heresy - and even more so because this can result in very costly mistakes by homeowners who are spending a lot of time and money on design projects.

For more information, see Color Logic.


Rachel said...

that strikes fear in my heart. throwing in the whole color wheel? wince...

we had a great discussion going on the blogosphere a bit ago about what makes someone a color "expert". with no real credentials to merit this title, so many people hang out his or her shingle, ready to take on color design without any real understanding of what they are doing. i wish there were a way to qualify people for this title...

Arte Styling said...

I constantly see quotes from "designers" and color "experts" that are equally disturbing!! And it's not just the web!!! I have an entire collection of quotes and articles about color from "credible" home design publications. (I'll try to get some more up on my blog, but it takes a lot out of me to respond to these ridiculous things. I don't want to turn into a crotchety old color-nazi!)
Can you imagine if this "the-more-colors-the-better" advice catches on? Hello, circus themes! And I love your analogy to music. You can't just put any old notes and chords together and expect to come up with a song. It just doesn't work that way.

Cristina Acosta said...

Here's my rewrite of the quote about simple color truths,"The more colors you have to work with, the more you can make your colors work." Which is one of the reasons there are so many colors on the Pantone fan deck and most paint company fan decks. I'm glad to have found your blog and look forwards to following it. You can check out my color work at my blog
Drop by and say hi --
Cristina Acosta