The language of colors in assertive communication


Color is also language, and just like all languages have grammar, syntax, morphology, etc., colors also have their own systems. Colors take on different meanings when interacting with each other, just like words. Also, most people see in color, create connection and associate certain colors to memories and cultural or individual experiences. Therefore, it is important that communication provides a color palette that is consistent with the intention and content of the information.

Almost every element of visual and written communication can be combined with assertive color choices: typography, use of threads and embellishments, contrasts, alignments, repetition and grouping, symmetry, and asymmetry, and, of course, images and illustrations.

The first thing we need to do when choosing colors for assertive communication is to think about the medium in which that message will be given, since there are differences in the range of colors depending on this medium.

The human eye can see more colors than computer screens can project, but screens project a greater range of color than print media. This is why there is so much difference in color perception and different color systems are used for print and digital communications.

For digital communications, the additive model RGB (red, green, and blue) is used. It is called additive because the more colors the whiter, and the colors on the screens are colors of light, that is, it is a color that comes from the light that is projected towards our face.

For print communications, the color model to be used is the CMYK subtractive model (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key, that is, cyan, magenta, yellow and black, represented by the Key). The color in this model is pigment and not light, so the more color there is, the blacker it will be. This color is reflected and not projected.

There are other models, such as Pantones, to resolve the issue of range and difference in color perception in print communications. CMYK tries to approximate the printed hues to the colors projected on the screens but does not make them identical. Pantones are special colors that generally use more than five color channels (not a rule) to obtain the ideal shade.

In addition, it is necessary to remember the reference of the use of colors in the collective unconscious. Although some meanings of colors seem obvious, it is important to note that color psychology does not apply universally. We must consider the context of the group of people with whom we want to communicate. For example, in some parts of Europe blue can refer to war, as Prussia used shades of blue in military uniforms (there is a color called Prussian blue). In American and Latin countries, this color would be green or even its “military green” hue. Going further, although in the physical world the warmest color is in fact blue, in the visual world and, therefore, in general understanding, the colors related to heat are yellow, orange and red.

The color wheel can be a good reference at this stage, as it will help to harmonize the use of colors, which will make communication more attractive and allow for more conscious choices. There are different types of harmony between colors. The first one that we can mention is the monochromatic one, which will use the same hue, or color, but in different shades. Analogous harmony is when we use adjacent colors: for example, if the base is red, the colors used as support will be magenta and orange. Then we can mention the triadic, in which a triangle is mounted inside the chromatic circle. Complementary harmony uses the color opposite to the main color circle. We also have split complementary harmony, which is when, instead of using the color directly opposite the color wheel, the colors adjacent to it are used.

There are other harmonies that can support the creation of good semiotic planning based on colors and we can help you with that.

By: Emanuelle Bezerra, international account at Media em Movimento


Nespe – Núcleo de Estratégias e políticas Editoriais