Color Communication: When You Say X, Your Designer Hears This

Color Communication: When You Say X, Your Designer Hears This


Let me paint a picture for you. You’ve just started working with a new designer. You sat down with that person, explained all of your dreams for the design, and left the meeting feeling like you were really on the same page. Then the next time you meet with them, they present a design that is completely different than what you expected. It’s not necessarily a bad design, but it is definitely different than what you described.

Sound familiar?

This is what I like to call a “lost in translation” moment. And it’s exactly what inspired me to create this guide on translating “design talk.”

Why is there a disconnect?

Many designers received their formal education in traditional art. Yes, even the digital artists! For example, my lead designer, Frank Candamil, has degrees in Art and Digital Media. Because of his background, I know that when he says something like “hue” or “tint,” he’s talking about the classic definitions of the words. However, when a client says a term like that, it’s unclear if they are referring to the definition or a colloquialism.

Common design terms and meanings

After talking with our Brand Mangers and Designers at Rise, I compiled a list of terms that we hear our clients say all of the time and can be misinterpreted. Let’s explore the terms and what they mean to each party.

BRIGHT
Client: Bold colors that are striking with high contrast. Not dull.
Designers: Luminous or shining.
Tamia

HUE, TINT, SHADE, and TONE

Client: These are all words to describe the same thing - color!
Designers: A hue is the purest and brightest version of a color, a tint (often called a pastel) is a color with white added, a shade is a color with black added, and a tone is a color created by adding both white and black, thereby “greying it down.”
Hill

FRESH
Client: Bright or perhaps pastel. Spring-themed palette of greens, yellows, and purple.
Designers: Contemporary, bright, or green. Kid Cudi.
Fresh

MODERN
Client: Don’t make me look old.
Designers: Postmodern, late modern, modern, American modernism, or post-postmodern? Maybe this client just doesn't want to look dated...
planet_of_origin

TRADITIONAL
Client: Don’t make me look too young or crazy.
Designers: Got it! You want to look like a financial institution!
Traditionally_Boring

Similarly words like: soothing, romantic, peaceful, trustworthy, youthful, and inviting are all very abstract and can easily be confused. Don’t worry, you aren’t the only ones who use vague words. Designers use them all the time too!

Getting on the same page

The key to a successful design, be it print, digital, or video, is to have excellent communication with your designer. I would choose designers that you feel comfortable talking to and that really listen to you. A designer that’s been in the game for a while will probably come to the table with a few questions that will help guide the conversation. I suggest taking time to find examples of things you like and things you don’t like, so you can review them with your designer. It never hurts to ask their opinion either.

COLOURlovers, what other terms should be on this list?

Rise Above,
Stephan


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16 Comments
Showing 1 - 16 of 16 Comments

DandaLuna

This is great! What a lolvey post... and it happens just like you described!
And I have to say that in the end those "lost in translation" moments, are the ones that make the final work special! : )
Team

COLOURlover

This post was good, but if you could just redo it and add a bit more POP that'd be great. ;)

stephanbarrett

LOL! I'm definitely going to "work my magic"!

COLOURlover wrote:
This post was good, but if you could just redo it and add a bit more POP that'd be great. ;)

omentum

The Tamia's World design is pretty, but for me it is marred by the use of a "foot" mark instead of an apostrophe.

stephanbarrett

That's a good catch! I'll have that fixed right away. I hate that too!
Stephan

omentum wrote:
The Tamia's World design is pretty, but for me it is marred by the use of a "foot" mark instead of an apostrophe.

American Women

Hmmmm is there a job market for interpreters? Unschooled artists who read art well from the creative side but are not technical and understand laymen terms!
Team

mollybermea

I really enjoyed this post as a designer having gone through this many many times.... especially working for a boss (in the past) who constantly used,"Just make it fabulous!" You eventually learn to translate it all.

I think it's still more frustrating for the client.

sundancer

What a great article! The two versions of fresh sound very similar to me though.

LiLchica

Great article and topic! My designer friends and I joke that we must be good mind-readers but I think I like "interpreter" better. Its crucial to be a good communicator and communicating well is part of the job (in many aspects), right? ;) :)

akvbroek

Hahaha
COLOURlover wrote:
This post was good, but if you could just redo it and add a bit more POP that'd be great. ;)

akvbroek

I have been asked to design based on a whole lot of subjective adjectives. The most vague and annoying for me (generally because I can never seem to guess what it is they want) are...

Youthful
Hip
Sparkling
Sharp

Although the funniest request was for a "Squishy" design. I am still not sure what that means. I mostly just used a lot of rounded corners and highlights, making everything look like square bubbles. Eh.

OnFire

Love your examples. And thanks for the refresher on the all terms. Us designers can get a little forgetful too!

monjela

I often get "can you make it funky?" ... usually by older clients.

pamnsc777

American Women wrote:
Hmmmm is there a job market for interpreters? Unschooled artists who read art well from the creative side but are not technical and understand laymen terms!
touche!! I do have my own home business,looking for business partners though

stephanbarrett

monjela wrote:
I often get "can you make it funky?" ... usually by older clients.


I love that one! "We just want something clean" is another interesting statement. I tell them we'll design so clean you can eat off it. LOL!

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