People rarely ask my advice on color — I made my bones with this black and white Web site, after all — but when they do, the best I can do is basically say, “Try a bunch of different stuff, and get lucky.” That’s why I was intrigued by Pentagram partner Eddie Opara’s new book “Color Works,” a guidebook to color usage in graphic design.
The book is organized into thematic chapters that cover various conceptual aspects of practical color theory, e.g., “Context,” “Awareness,” “Production & Information,” etc. Over at Pentagram’s blog, a post about the book explains:
Within each chapter, a series of illustrated case studies look at iconic projects that have used color for impact. The essays are written by designers who share their first-hand experience of working with color: Stefan Sagmeister and Tony Brook on using color conceptually; Brian Collins and Michael Rock on color for branding; Paula Scher on helping Tiffany establish its own PMS color; Willy Wong of NYC & Company on using color in the master brand for New York City; Gale Towey on using color to set up themes in Martha Stewart Living magazine; and Hjalti Karlsson and Jan Wilker on using a simple palette of black and white.
If you can get past the fact that this is largely the usual cadre of famous graphic designers that show up again and again in graphic design books, there is some interesting stuff here. I particularly liked London design studio Cartlidge Levene’s comments on color and wayfinding, which have some parallels with usability in digital products.
“Color Works” is also quite attractive. It has some of the hallmarks of a designer-authored book (though to be accurate, Opara shares author credit with writer John Cantwell): the layouts are visually striking; it’s laden with beautiful, probably too small type; and it features an inscrutable, debatably useful iconographic system that requires a “How to Use This Book” legend.