Web Designer Magazine
Colour Interview - 2007

1: Why is mood important to web design and what do we mean by that? How can colour effectively convey a mood?
Whether the site is client based or personal it's important to set the right mood so that people remember the site, the product and the company. If your site is too plain, colorless, boring or lacking in content, then no one will remember your site.

Colors as well as motion, style, fonts and music are a big part of being remembered. The right colors feed off of the design of the site to inspire a person's emotions to what the designer wants them to feel. Through color and those other factors we can make people feel happy, sad, inspired, scared or any other emotions we want them to feel. The more a person feels the specific emotions we want them to the more they will remember your site.

2: How does the concept of a design mood influence how we interpret web content?
Every site has a personality. How we establish that personality is up to us as designers and developers. The design mood is therefore any combination of things like Colors, Fonts, Music, Photography, Layout, etc.which combine to create each user's interpretation of a site.

Various design moods are important for different reasons. Sometimes the goal is to inspire excitement over a new product. Other times it is used to inspire and evoke emotional responses from something like a portfolio site for a photographer. Whatever the end goal the mood we set always helps us to interpret the content.

3: What key techniques can designers employ to steer mood and target audiences?
The key technique is really looking at your client and what your client needs to accomplish with a site. First address those factors so that the site works and is successful. After you've addressed them you can take a step back and consider the things you can add to a site to really improve it's mood. If you try let the mood dictate the site completely you risk missing the mark completely to the people who aren't fans of the mood you've established. Some things which enhance the mood of a site are Inspirational Photography and Music.

4: What role does colour play in web design? Can you suggest some harmonious colour schemes you have used, or that you have seen on websites that work particularly well? I’m looking for groups of colour with the Kuler codes from Adobe’s new application [http://kuler.adobe.com]. If you can provide a few of these colour palettes I’d appreciate the info. Can you relate the palette to the mood or emotion you think they convey and what context they work best in such as retail, business, Web 2.0 etc.


Personally i'm a fan of blues. Every project has it's own style and branding colors to adhere to but so many seem to use the color blue that it seems to me that Blue is a universally appreciated color.

5: Different user groups will obviously interpret what they interact with based on their cognitive ability, experience, age group, social background, and gender. How do you think that a designer should handle colour when considering these factors?
It's near impossible to account for every single user's preferences. Every individual in the world has a different take on their personal favorites for color, fonts, design stlye, font size, music genres, etc... Combine all of those things together and the combinations are endless. Designing a site for every possible user group isn't possible without losing a lot of the soul and personality of a site. Take for example Apple.com. It is a beautifully simple site but it is mostly devoid of any special mood or color. In order to breath life into a design it helps to have a site which does cater to a smaller more specific audience within a set demographic. When I do car sites for Ford it is fun because they tell me exactly the type of people who buy a specific car before I design the site. Age, Sex, Personality, Income are all things I find out about the end user and this information helps me to establish the color and personality without fear of alienating certain users.

6: Web 2.0 sites seem to have their own particular design toolset and colour palette. Can you deconstruct why these particular fonts and colour have been adopted by many of the so-called social networking sites?
To me most Web 2.0 sites seem to be blue based with large simple fonts and playful logos. It's hard for me to argue not using blue colors and big fonts on sites that needs to be appealing to a majority of it's visitors. I would venture to say it's not so much a web2.0 style but its more of a "safe" and "logical" style done to not take chances. The simpler the site..the less people can argue it's design and the more they can focus on the content.

7: Can you identify any trends in the use of colour to enhance mood in today’s web design?
I'd have to say that I've seen a trend in the past few years where many artists are designing sites and art using the complete spectrum of the rainbow all together. Very reminiscent of the psychadelic style of posters and art the 60s. Very bright and vibrant. I also see a trend with many flash microsites being much darker to emphasize colors and mood than in years past. For me the thing that really enchances the mood of a web design is more the color palette of beautiful photography. Being a photographer myself I always try and use my most colorful photos in sites where appropriate.

8: How can the other components of a website’s design such as text, images and graphics all be used to enhance the mood of the site to appeal directly to its target audience?
It gets easier to use text, images and graphics to enhance the mood of a site when the target audience is more specific. Take for instance a portfolio site for a designer trying to get a job in the design community. We often see such sites take more chances and being much edgier than a company site for a client would be. This is because it just needs to be "cool" to Creative Directors looking to hire these people for jobs. Do these sites need to be appealing or functional to Mothers/Fathers/Kids/Grandparents? Not really. They just need to show an eye for Design or Style that someone might be looking for.

9: It's often said that the best websites are those that have intuitive interfaces so that their users can easily navigate around them. Do you think that you can quantify what constitutes and intuitive interface? How important is colour in that design?
Intuitive interface means not overdesigning a site or relying upon interaction to show/hide navigation. Too often as visual designers we try and create things to be cool rather than functional. For example buttons that might be flipped 90degrees to read like a bookcase would. On the surface it looks cool and saves space but ultimately a navigation style like this can be frustrating to people.

Color can play a big part in how intuitive a design is to a person browsing a site. The key is to be consistent with your color usage across a site with things like buttons, headers and visual items.. If you design a single button in a site to be red, then all of the buttons in the site should be red for consistency. This creates what we call a "Visual Vocabulary" for the site.