Color Usability (part 1)

Anyone who’s had a flight on Egyptair during the past few years would have noticed that food is usually presented in blue platters, of all the colors in the spectrum, blue is an appetite suppressant. Weight loss plans suggest putting your food on a blue plate. Or even better than that, put a blue light in your refrigerator to suppress that craving for a midnight snack… Blue food is a rare occurrence in nature, consequently, we don’t have an automatic appetite response to blue. Furthermore, our primal nature avoids food that are poisonous. A million years ago, when our earliest ancestors were foraging for food, blue, purple and black were “color warning signs” of potentially lethal food.
Subjects presented with food to eat in the dark reported a critically missing element for enjoying any cuisine: the appearance of food. For the sighted, the eyes are the first place that must be convinced before a food is even tried. This means that some food products fail in the marketplace not because of bad taste, texture, or smell but because the consumer never got that far.

Its strange how large companies with highly experienced people have no idea of this critical concept of color usability…

Comfort Tropical AD

Comfort Tropical AD

Watching the above Comfort AD, what impression do the green vapors give? tropical scented perfumes, or bio hazard poisonous fumes?

On the other hand, notice how the brand and product colors for a lot of fast food chains like Arby’s, Hardee’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Mo’men, Al Baik, and Wimpy usually have red or orange… a coincidence? Food researchers say that when humans searched for food, they learned to avoid toxic or spoiled objects, and red was the most popular food color.
The predominance of the color red in many restaurants is there only to make customers hungry, and to encourage them to order more than they normally would. Red walls and décor also cause people eat faster, since the color increases our normal levels of energy, it increases your appetite by increasing your metabolism.

Another part of the science of color usability, is the art of combining colors together, certain colours evoke particular emotions that can vary from one person to another based on certain experiences, More than half a century ago, Aemelius Müller, professor at the academy of Winterthur, Switzerland, came up with a formula that could predict the appreciation of a color-combination. In other words: Müller was able to predict which combination of colors most people would probably like, some online tools such as Kuler can help us calculate comfortable color combinations.

I have known several designers who would stick a certain color in each and every site they design regardless of brand colors or site purpose… I have also known project manager’s who would refuse a certain color regardless of its purpose or usage just because they hate it not knowing that there is a science involved in the process… people do not go to art or design schools for several years just to pick colors randomly based on their personal taste.

Check out Apple’s color video to get a stronger understanding of how color is perceived and download this free Color Theory PDF.

For further reading:

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One thought on “Color Usability (part 1)

  1. Pingback: Color Usability (part 2) « The Art of User Experience

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