The Powerful Tool Called Color

Color Has A Big Impact On Learners

Color is an extremely powerful tool. It can affect your mood, well-being, thoughts, and motivation. Research suggests that different colors play a role in cognitive functions. For example, researchers at the University of Linz in Austria demonstrated that the color red significantly decreases cognitive functioning in men. And it’s so powerful that in some eastern cultures they practice chromotherapy, or healing by color.

So where am I going with this? It’s clear that color is powerful. Since the start of Covid-19, I’ve been fascinated (and terrified) by the rapid collection of data and how designers are displaying these numbers into visuals for the general public to digest. As a designer, it’s my job to make calm out of the chaos and to make sure the delivery supports the information.

One tool, above all others, I found myself checking daily was the COVID-19 Dashboard put out by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

Every time I looked at it, I would be discouraged by the numbers and feel a strange sense of despair and doom, but I was also fascinated that this type of data was right in front of me … at my fingertips. The thought and ingenuity behind this technology of learning and information is incredible. However, if we take the psychology of color into consideration, it’s no wonder I felt strangely defeated every time I looked at it. The map leans heavily on design features that are historically associated with anxiety, panic, and fear. Its colors of black and red represent aggression, illness, mystery, and death. Not only was I getting anxiety from the numbers but also from the color pallet.

This all leads me to caution you on the false assumption for those who may think the color pallet in your company’s brand guidelines is less important than the content you’re teaching. I can assure you it means a great deal to learners. While color might be the last thing on your mind, it can affect the neurological pathways in the brain and create a biochemical response for employees taking a course. This is what graphic designers of learning and development try to balance every day — the information and how it’s perceived. Color plays a powerful role in the message.

One Response

  1. Jackie McCarroll

    Thanks for the insightful reminder to be attentive to color and the visual impact of messages. Our readers interpret information in so many ways.

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