A fresh look at design basics, coming May 2008
Graphic design was once seen as a fundamentally blackColor exists, literally, in the eye of the beholder.
We cannot perceive color until light bounces off an object
and white enterprise. This is no longer the case. Color
has become integral to the design process. Color printing,
once a luxury, has become routine. An infinite range of
hues and intensities bring modern media to life, energizing
the page, the screen, and the built environment with sen-
suality and significance. Design and color have converged.
or is emitted from a source and enters the eye. Our percep-
tion of color depends not solely on the pigmentation of
physical surfaces, but also on the brightness and character
of ambient light. We also perceive a given color in relation
to the other colors around it. For example, a light tone
looks lighter against a dark ground than against a pale one.
Surfaces absorb certain light waves and reflect
back others onto the color receptors (cones) in our
eyes. The light reflected back is the light we see. The
true primaries of visible light are red, green, and blue.
The light system is called "additive" because the three
primaries together create all the hues in the spectrum.
In theory, combining red and green paint should
produce yellow. In practice, however, these pigments
combine into a blackish brown. This is because pig-
ments absorb more light than they reflect, making any
mix of pigments darker than its source colors. As more
colors are mixed, less light is reflected. Thus pigment-
based color systemsare called "substractive."
Offset and desktop printing methods use CMYK, a
subtractive system. Screen displays use RGB, which is
addictive. CMYK color uses nonstandard colors because
the light reflected off cyan and magenta pigments mixes
more purely into new hues than the light reflected off of
blue and red pigments.