The sixth design element: color

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Slide 1

The sixth design element is color. Color adds appeal to documents. It attracts attention and makes readers want to pick up a brochure or handout. Color also can be used to ad emphasis. Text that is in color can stand out on the page. To catch the eye of the reader, we often put important “need to know” information in colored text box to catch the reader’s attention. Color also helps the reader scan and navigate through longer documents. Headings that are in a bold color help readers find the information they want and can also serve as signposts guiding readers through the document. Color can also increase identification and meaning, especially when we choose colors that have a cultural or social meaning to the intended audience. A consistent color theme in your documents can also help your audience identify your organization or brand.

Slide 2

This is an example of a document that uses color well. It is the inside panels of a tri-fold brochure. Color is used to identify headings in the document and draw the reader’s attention to important information listed as bullet points. Color photos and graphics add appeal and make this an attractive document.

Slide 3

Here is another example of a document that uses color well. Notice how your eye is drawn to the headings. This makes the document easy to scan and navigate. Notice, too, that your eye is drawn to the shaded boxes that highlight quotes from patients.

Slide 4

This is an example of using colors, graphics and photos that have cultural and social meaning for a specific audience.

Slide 5

One way color can have a negative impact on readability is what I call “color overload.”

Slide 6

Here is an example. Readability would improve for this document if the main sections of text were in black, and only the headings and key information were presented in color.

Slide 7

Contrast is an important consideration when using color. Contrast is also addressed in the discussion of fonts, but is included again here because low-contrast is a common error when using color.

Slide 8

Here are some examples of low contrast. The yellow text is hard to read on a white background. Also note the blue shading behind blue text in both examples.

Slide 9

You can design your document in high contrast, for example black text on a white background. But the contrast between text and background is altered when printed on colored paper. In your opinion, which one of these examples is the most difficult to read?

Slide 10

Keep in mind that low contrast can also be a problem in black and white or grayscale, too.

Slide 11

Approximately one out of twelve men and one out of two hundred women are born with a color deficiency. About 99% of people with color blindness are “red weak” and “green weak” and have difficulty distinguishing the difference between these two colors. In total, there are actually 7 types of color deficiency. In addition, the elderly see colors differently, but are not color blind in the usual sense of the term. Use colors with high contrast and avoid using colors that are similar in shade or intensity.

Slide 12

Reverse text, light text over a dark background, is more difficult to read than dark text over a light background.

Slide 13

Here is an example. Notice that the main body text is difficult to read. The larger, bolded text, however, is much easier to read. It is best to limit the use of reverse text. However, it can sometimes be used effectively as headings or to draw attention to important information. The key is to reserve the use of reverse text for small chunks of text and avoid putting longer passages in reverse text.

Slide 14

A good test for using color is to check how the document transfers to black and white (or grayscale). Color printing is expensive, and there may be times when you want to make copies of a handout or brochure in black and white. If you designed your color document well, it should easily transfer. Documents that have low-contrast between the text and the background, as well as documents that use reverse text often do not transfer well from color to black and white.

Slide 15

Here is the example of a document using reverse text.

Slide 16

And here is that same document in black and white. Notice that it is more difficult to read than the original color document.

Slide 17

Here is an example of a document that uses color well.

Slide 18

And here is that same document in black and white. Notice that it retains much of its readability.

Slide 19

Use the design readability scorecard to evaluate the use of color in your documents, giving both positive and negative points when appropriate. Subtract the total negative points from the total positive points to determine the document’s design score for use of color.

Slide 1

6. Color Adds appeal Adds emphasis Assists in scanning and navigating Increases identification Audience identifies cultural/social significance Audience identifies your organization/brand

Slide 5

6. Color Negative impact on readability: Overload

Slide 7

6. Color Negative impact on readability: Overload Low contrast

Slide 12

6. Color Negative impact on readability: Overload Low contrast Reverse text

Slide 14

6. Color Negative impact on readability: Overload Low contrast Reverse text Poor translation to black and white

Summary: This presentation explores how the use of color impacts the readability of printed patient education materials.

Tags: design readability documents patient education health literacy seubert doug

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