Why Colour Clashes Work in Design

Colour clashing is a very subjective thing. One person might think black and brown are hideous, and another might think the two are perfect for a design. Generally speaking, though, discordant colours clash the most. Still, they can be used to create dynamic designs, if used carefully.

What are discordant colours?

Discordant colours are those that are almost opposite each other on a colour wheel. In colour theory, a complementary colour is the one directly opposite of a colour. That means yellow and purple are complementary colours because they are directly opposite each other.

Why Colour clashes work in design

Why Colour Clashes Work in Design

Image Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BYR_color_wheel.svg

Discordant colours, on the other hand, are not quite opposite the colour. Where purple and yellow balance each other out and make each other look more vibrant (this is because of a phenomenon called simultaneous contrast), discordant colours are just a bit off.

This discordant colour to yellow, according to this wheel, is the maroon colour between purple and red.

Why do they work in design?

Clashing colours in this way can work well in design. Discordant colours may not be as soothing as analogous colours or as vibrant as complementary colours, but they are stimulating and exciting.

Think about an eighties style top that is pink and orange. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it will certainly grab attention. In the world of design, grabbing attention is hardly a bad thing.

Discordant colour schemes evoke energy, rebellion and newness, which is why they are often used in youth-orientated designs. They can also be used to great effect in more sophisticated designs, if used judiciously.

How to use discordant colours in design

Use of discordant colours in a design should be done carefully. When they are placed right next to each other, they will clash in the most jarring of ways, like complementary colours. They can seem to vibrate along the line where they touch, or they can make each other too intense to look at for very long. Still, there are many ways to get around those issues.

If you want to use very bold colours, you can put a neutral like white or grey in between them. They will still play off of each other, but they won’t be so visually aggressive.

You can also play around with the actual tones you use. If you want to have a cyan and red colour scheme, you can make the cyan more saturated and the red more muted. The red can then act as the more neutral of the two colours, and the cyan can be the accent colour.

When designing with a discordant colour scheme, it is crucial to keep in mind the purpose of the design. It’s all about energy, youth and playfulness, so it’s more suited to a social media startup than a five-star hotel. It’s also easy to get wrong, so make sure you play around with the hue, saturation, shades and tints to make sure you’ve got the best, most intentional contrast there is.

About Author

This is a guest post contributed by Julie on behalf of Clickinks, exclusive provider of Epson T0691. Julie works in design and marketing, she provides creative and practical advice with hands on support.

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