Colorless pencils

Colorless design – Why you should avoid colors

Every designer has her own style of work and procedure to follow. This procedure in most cases compose of an idea generation either using pen and paper (analog) or software of designer’s choice. This stage is then followed or mixed with an inspiration stage. Here, you are freeing up your mind and letting it be inspired by things around you. When the idea hits you, wireframing comes into play. It can be low-fidelity wireframes or high. Then, the big finale … Designing final mockup. Most of these stages are often colorless, but why?

Why color can cause you problems

The design process I shared with you above is very basic and short. This his what it looks like in theory and books. Reality is often completely different and much more painful. If design is your job, you probably already know how much time this “from zero to one” process (thanks Peter) can actually take and how many sub-steps it can include. Also, how many obstacles you will have to face along the way. One of those obstacles, the bigger one, can come in the form of color.

As mentioned in the intro, most of the stages of design process are colorless. You can find many reasons for why it is the way it is. First, if you like to use pen and paper for idea generation and prototyping, which is the best and often suggested option by other designers, you don’t want to carry dozens pens or pencils to cover all the colors across the wheel. Second, even if you are used to digital environment you know, at least subconsciously, that going colorless is faster way to get a job done. Question is … Why?

Choosing the right color is hard

First of all, deciding on color palette that will be used for a design is pretty hard (or maybe I’m just a perfectionist). It does not matter if you need one color or ten. As a designer, you can (and should) be very picky and think thoroughly about every color you want to use. Every color has its own story and psychological effect. In other words, choosing the right color will take some time – i.e. slow you down. Anything slowing you down will reduce the scheduled time frame and get you closer to the deadline.

Choosing the right color takes time

This is now obvious, but choosing color takes time. You have to consider various factors, visible and not so visible, to avoid mistakes. These factors include topics such as cultural and national traditions, psychology effect of colors, target market segment, target group of customers, company’s brand and so on. When you sum up all these factors, you will come up with pretty extensive research to get done. This will, again, affect the time frame set for the project.

The “right” color can change

Third reason, color or whole palette of the project can change during the process. You (designer or project lead) might change your mind, client might change his mind or someone in marketing can decide the color does not suit the brand anymore. Result? Color picking madness starts all over again. The last option is less probable to happen, but when it does it is indeed interesting experience. Remember, the color is not written in the stone.

So, is this the best way to go?

Colorless design as a solution

The quick answer is no. There is another option hidden in the shadows (literally). This option is to go colorless or in black and white colors only mode. Please, don’t get me wrong. I love colors. I even have a file containing my favorite ones picked across the web on my computer and also phone. Colors are great, but as you saw they can be also a pain in the ass. If you are not a masochist, this is something you want to avoid. So, let me tell you a few benefits colorless design will bring to your work.

Colorless design will speedup your work

Right now, you know how extensive can choosing the color and creating color palette be. It can take enormous amount of time. What’s more, even when it is done, it can still change. With colorless design, you will postpone this necessary part of the process and turn your focus on what matters the most – coming up with solution (the design) to client’s problem. You can turn the whole design process upside down or shuffle it completely as well.

How about to work on the idea for design, wireframe or the final mockup while someone else is working on the research part? Don’t feel bad for getting rid of your work. This way, you are narrowing your focus on design to provide the best service for your client. This is what you are paid for – provide the best solution for a problem. Your job is to put the blocks together, design them in the best way, to meet the needs of your client and his customers.

Colorless design will embrace the typography

Typography is another part of design where you can get stuck easily. It comprises of two parts, the content itself and its form or shape. Some times you control the content some times not. What is under your control, as a designer, is the form in which the content will be provided. You can change the line height, font size, color, typestyle, angle, weight, width, font, type family and so on. All of this can help you emphasize the content. However, when typography is “broken”, no color will fix that.

In order to fix poor typography you have to focus on typography, not the fancy stuff around. This is what colorless, or black and white, approach does the best. It will help you clear all the possible distractions and let your mind concentrate on typography. This way, you will be able to perfect it no matter what colors will you use in the future. Typography will still work thanks to its solid foundation. Otherwise, you can play with colors whole day trying to fix something you will not be able to.

Colorless design is more flexible

Following previous topic on typography, colorless design will win over in another way as well … It will be more flexible. Do you know what the worst thing on templates is? You see the same sh … Thing everywhere. Do you know what the best thing on templates is? They work! Well, at least the quality ones. Templates are built on solid foundation where every detail is considered. Thanks to this, you can change the colors, images, videos and other content as you want and it will still work. It is color independent, or neutral.

If you want to achieve this degree of flexibility, you simply have to use colorless approach. It is the only way to make sure the layout will look great under any condition. This is something templates are doing very well. By the way, getting better in creating these flexible design can be a good opportunity to support yourself with additional income without much effort. Nobody wants to be a starving artist.

Additional benefit of colorless design

Wait a minute! One more thing playing into cards of colorless approach. Your designs will work for people with vision handicaps such as color blindness. When the layout and content play well together – create good contrast – it does not matter if the person can recognize all the colors used in the design. Content will remain readable and overall experiences untouched. This is what I like the most on colorless design. It just works.

Summary

Colors, no matter how amazing they are, can be a potential obstacle in your design process. Choosing the right color and creating palette requires time and research. You can either undergo this painful experience or avoid it designing colorless. Designing without colors in the beginning will increase your speed, help you embrace the typography and content and make your artwork more flexible. What’s more colorless design also takes into consideration people with vision problems and handicaps.

Have you ever tried to design colorless until the final moment?

Do you have any questions, recommendations, thoughts, advice or tip you would like to share with other readers of this blog, and me? Please share it in a comment. You can also send me a mail. I would love to hear from you.

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Alex Devero

I'm Founder/CEO of DEVERO Corporation. Entrepreneur, designer, developer. My mission and MTP is to accelerate the development of humankind through technology.

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