On color and readability in graphic design

Subscriber JA writes:

“Bob, have you noticed how many websites use gray typeface on a
white background?

“It’s difficult to read.

“How about taking a minute to address the importance of color

Entire books have been written about color in design. And I am no
expert in color. Far from it.

But the whole of it can be boiled down to one principle:

The primary purpose of design is to attract the eye to the ad,
and to make the text easy to read — and the latter just as
important as the former.

Anything that makes the copy difficult to read, no matter how
dazzling or creative, is bad graphic design, whether in print or

So at a glance, the color and type rules to follow are these:

1–Make all type large enough to be easy to read for older adults
with average or less-than-average eyesight.

2–The best color scheme is black type on a white background.

3–In body copy, avoid reverse type, which is white type on a
black background.

4–Avoid low-contrast color schemes such as gray type on a white
background, or dark blue type on a light blue background, or the
horrific but not uncommon gray type on a black background.

5–In the body copy for print materials, use serif typefaces —
letters with little extension on them, such as Times Roman.

6–Online, use sans serif typefaces — letters with no extensions,
such as Arial — in body copy.

7–On web pages, subheads can shine and make a statement when you
use an easy-to-read bold serif font such as Georgia bold, for
example, and set them in a darker color to pop off page online
and draw the reader’s eye down the page.

A dark blue looks nice. A deep red or rusty red can also feel
easy-to-read. The color depends on your overall design and what
type of audience and product you are working with.

8–In direct mail, despite what the vendors of handwritten
envelopes and letter mailing say, I have seen no proof that
handwritten outer envelopes or letters outpull typeset. If
handwriting universally outperformed typewritten, everyone would
use it all the time.

Remember, the primary functions of graphic design in advertising
are (a) to attract the reader’s eye and (b) make the copy easy to


13 thoughts on “On color and readability in graphic design

  • Being a Logo Designer from Dubai, UAE, I am admiring this post as the color schemes and the way to choose them is the most difficult and time taking work in the Graphics Designing and Animation. The colors if chosen wisely and creatively could empower the brand and icons easily and significantly.

  • My friend was read this book about color in design, your above details are dam true regarding colors & graphic designing, i do work in Toronto web design company & my company follow the design rules, they know how design is important in any sector.

  • If we talk about colors & graphic designing, we should know about the basic rules of designing & understanding the art of this work. I also agree with Bob details about colors & design that he mentioned above. I developed my client Houston design company & he was happy with his site color schemes & combination.

  • As a web designer, I have a great web designing Dubai sense and I must appreciate that designer who selects the best theme that wow the viewer.It is very important to select the right colour theme, because if your colour theme is not correct then you will not increase the sales of your brand

  • Your information is good and friendly this article very helpful for me. Thanks for the post.! read paradise KissManga chapters for free

  • Graphic Designing, web designing is not a child’s play and we all know that when we build any website then it will demand us to design it with an appropriate manner and take some time to design it properly as we are working on cheap assignment writing services which is for students related and our all focus will be for students to help them in their academic writing-related issues.

  • I think color is what one need to master to be a great graphic designer. Although I am working as a dedicated seo expert with an SEO company my love for graphic design can never die. I always wanted to be a graphic designer but you know as life come.

  • This is an excellent post about graphic designing and when we talk about color and readability in graphic design so it is must that we should creative and we have must be designing skills. Well, thanks for sharing the post and I read the whole article who is very interesting. Visit our site admission essay writing service

  • As a representative of a software development company in Canada, Our policy is to have a strong focus on UX design and colors. The feel of software need to be great. Organizations prefer to buy software that look great and design is everything for the success of products especially digital products.

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