This week, our instructor asked us to discuss “Do you think in visual design colour has an important role to play or is grey scale better at telling a story to people?”.

Use of colour does attract attention and can emphasis an area or make sections stand out. While colour can do this, I think using greyscale can also have a similar impact amongst other things featured in colour. An example is photography and use of colour, sepia, black and white.  When selecting school photos or portraits for my children I notice looking at the black and white or sepia seems to bring forward other elements that are muted by the colours in the photo.

THe effectiveness and use of colour vs. greyscale I think depends on the medium, for example in a newspaper where most of the content is in black and white colour would stand out. In a magazine where there are lots of pictures or on a website where there is a lot of colour, greyscale would stand out (or may get lost in the sea of colour but would at least catch the viewers attention because it is not in colour). While colour will make more of impression in most cases, greyscale can have an impact depending on how it is used. e.g. use of greyscale for the majority of the site and then colour to make an element stand out, or using greyscale to have the focus on something else eg. words rather than imagery.

I couldn’t recall any sites on the web where I remembered seeing predominately grey/black/white vs. full colour so I did some searching – here are some interesting examples I came across:

Here are some examples of black, white, greyscale websites – within which you will find uses of grey and colour accents.

40 inspiring greyscale websites

21 examples of black-white-grey in web design

Through browsing through sites, I found an interesting statement:
“Avoiding colour is also a great way to quickly improve as a designer, because you’ll no longer be able to lean on your colour pallet for visual interest.”

While these websites looked clean and sophisticated, adding colour brings a new dimension or level to a design and helps to draw in a viewer.  While in the symbolism section of the reading, it stated there is no substantive evidence supporting effect of colour, using warm or cool colours using colour can help viewers connect and draw on other senses, emotions, and experiences.

Colour also helps with memorability and association, for example schools have school colours, organizations have colours that help with association of their products and logo with customers or the public.  For example: Eg. ING direct + orange, McDonalds red + yellow, IBM + blue.  This all helps with branding and identity.  Here is an article that explores this in more detail