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Chapter 8: Color Science

Color is one of the most mysterious and subjective aspects of design. Color tastes and meanings vary across cultures, and from individual to individual. In fact, the very notion of color is rooted in subjectivity. As I’ll explain in this chapter, what we perceive as color as a species varies from the experiences of other species. There are colors we can see that, say, a dog cannot see. There are other colors that other animals – such as birds – can see, that we cannot. Additionally, there are variations within the human experience of color. To complicate matters further, our representations and codifications of color (such as the hexadecimal color system that powers the web) often don’t do color its full justice, and representations of color vary from medium to medium, and device to device.

No matter how subjective of an experience color is, one thing is for sure: to use color lucidly, it’s very helpful – if not a requirement – to understand how color works. Understanding the incidence and impact of colorblindness, for example, helps you know when it’s appropriate to rely on methods of communication other than color. Additionally, understanding how different devices (such as computer screens or printers) reproduce colors will ensure that the colors your audience sees are the colors you intended for them to see. Finally, being a master of the science of color can make your work faster and more efficient (while impressing your friends), so you can move ...

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