By Lisa Woods
â€œHot pink is the navy blue of India.â€
Color is beautiful, but she is much more than mere decoration. Color communicates. If you treat her right, she can support and add impact to your bookâ€™s message. Treat her wrong, and she will undermine your message and confound your audience. Do not make the mistake of choosing a color scheme solely on personal preferencesâ€“color can profoundly influence the impression your book makes on potential buyers.
Color Wheels are Useless
Most of us learned a little color theory in school. Wavelength, primary and secondary, cool and warm, saturated or subdued. These terms are specific and informative, sure, but Iâ€™d guess they did little good when it came time to choose a wall color for your first home. Donâ€™t let color theory convince you that there are absolutes and rules to which you must adhere. In the field of graphic design, confounding expectation is the best form of innovation. Color doesnâ€™t fit purely in the realm of science or completely in the realm of art: She lives in the mysterious cultural territory between the two. To understand whether a color â€œworksâ€ or not, you must understand the emotion it evokes, its symbolism, andâ€“most importantlyâ€“its context.
How Color Makes you Feel
Color affects us on a subconscious and emotional level. Certain colors have the ability to raise blood pressure, speed up breathing, and increase pulse rate and adrenaline. Our visceral reaction to various shades can even be measured by Galvanic skin response. Reds, oranges, and yellows have been shown to promote appetite, since they tend to be positively associated with food. Not coincidentally, most chain restaurants use these colors for their logos, signage, and dÃ©cor. Greens have a calming effect, which is why concert halls and theaters have â€œgreen roomsâ€ to relax performers before showtime. For a fun, animated look at mood and color, check out this site by graphic designer Maria Claudia Cortes.
More Than Meets the Eye
Colors also have symbolic meaning. Culturally-rooted color associations can vary widely from country to country, or even region to region. In American culture, white signifies the concepts of peace and purity. In China, however, white plays a very different role as the traditional color of mourning. We often donâ€™t realize the deep messages basic colors communicate to us on a daily basis, and how much certain connections have been ingrained in us. Diana Vreeland, fashion columnist and longtime editor-in-chief of Vogue, is famous for noting that even the neutrality of colors is a cultural construct. And there are many distinct culturesâ€“youth culture, corporate culture, gender culture, professional cultureâ€“each of which abides by its own constructed color symbolism. This table from Grantastic Designs illustrates the concepts colors convey in company websites and is a good example of how context can drastically alter a colorâ€™s meaning. (Not a lot of positive color associations in the medical fieldâ€¦)
|Red||Loss||Hot, Danger||Danger, emergency OR healthy, oxygenated|
|Yellow||Important, substantial||Caution, warning||Jaundice|
|Blue||Reliable, corporate||Water, cold, cool||Death, Poison|
|Cyan||Cool, subdued||Steam||Poison, lack of oxygen|
Soâ€¦ What Color Should My Book Be?
When choosing a color scheme, you and your designer must consider the target audience of your book, the mood you want to evoke, and the symbols that best connect to your bookâ€™s content. Then capitalize on the power of color to send your audience cues about how perfect this book is for them. The covers below show how color, paired with compatible symbolism, serve as emotional triggers and help support a bookâ€™s primary message.
The Power of Nice by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval
Target Audience: general business readers
Symbolism: the happy face
Predominant Color Scheme: canary yellow
Dying Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me by William Hablitzel
Target Audience: self-help/inspirational, gender neutral
Mood: hopeful, peaceful, introspective, tranquil, spiritual
Symbolism: cycle of life, death and rebirth
Predominant Color Scheme: pale green and yellow
The Memory Keeperâ€™s Daughter by Kim Edwards
Target Audience: general fiction readers, predominantly female, parents of children with Down syndrome, book club members
Mood: somber, nostalgic, distant, detached
Symbolism: x-ray imagery, memory, regret
Predominant Color Scheme: black with ghostly blues
Fish! by Stephen C. Lundin
Target Audience: corporate managers, gender neutral
Mood: upbeat, fun, child-like, playful
Symbolism: childhood, simplicity, water
Predominant Color Scheme: white with bright orange, yellow, and blue
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