Tag Archives: color

How Smelly Is Your Design?

In the world of design we’re brought up to understand there are certain rules to follow when laying out a piece. Guidelines exist to help designs resonate with our intended audiences. For example, in photography the “rule of thirds” teaches us to divide our shots into a grid format and place our subjects in any of the nine sections—none of which is dead center. The phrase “form follows function” is another example that’s been around for a century. It reminds us that an object should be designed considering its function first and that this will determine its form.

A poor creative team, on the other hand, may spend hours deliberating about the appropriate message for a direct mail envelope. In reality, it’s the shape of the piece and the color of the design that humans connect with first. Content always comes later.

These rules exist because they’ve been tested over the years. Through the use of eye-tracking technology and decades of focus groups, we’re able to say with certainty where eyeballs go when they look at design.

But what if we did more than just followed the rules of design visually? What if we triggered other senses beyond sight? What about taste? What about smell? We’ve been to the grocery store enough times to know that giving away food samples is one of the most ingenious forms of marketing. From the sizzle of the frying pan and the smell that fills the aisles to the moment you take that tiny toothpick and take a bite––you’d swear you’ve never eaten such good sausages.

Well, that full-blown experience is a marketer’s dream. There isn’t a limb on an advertiser’s body that he or she wouldn’t give up to utilize scent in an ad campaign. The limbic connection between smell and memory is the perfect recipe for all things nostalgia. Freshly mowed lawns, our mother’s baking, and even the smell of Play-Doh all have the potential to elicit something deep within us.

It doesn’t look like Smell-O-Vision will be put to practical use anytime soon. It does seem, however, that a team out of Belgium has figured out how to express both scent and taste using stamps. The Belgian post office, known as Bpost, has produced more than 500,000 smellable/edible stamps celebrating Belgium’s world-famous chocolates and chocolatiers.

While it’ll be a bit before I see myself licking an already-licked stamp, I can’t deny how effective it might be in triggering those chocolate-driven memories stored deep inside me.

The Belgians are breaking the rules—those zany rebels! What else can we come up with to more effectively reach our consumers?

To learn about how those chocolate stamps are made, check out this video: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21388234

Author: Eric Swenson


Color in the Ad

A lot can be said about a good brand. A brand is instantly recognized, assures customers of product quality, and solidifies customer loyalty. Some brands are founded on logos, others on catchphrases, and still others on mascots. All of these brands have their own colors that are immediately recognizable and are often the first connection a consumer makes to the brand. But what happens when your brand is color? Does it get harder when the product you’re trying to sell uses color for its marketing concept? Doesn’t look like it for these three companies:


Image from Adweek.com

Kool-Aid is that sugary drink that you definitely had as a kid (and may still enjoy from time to time now). Why do I know you drank it as a kid? Because you were its target demographic, and the company got you to drink its product by selling you something very specific. Adweek posted an article last month showing the history of Kool-Aid’s advertisements, and they all have one thing in common: they never seem to mention taste but always highlight how colorful and happy the drinks are. This is ingenious, because who wouldn’t want a tall glass of the deepest royal purple or of the brightest summer-grass green? You know your twelve-year-old self certainly did.


Have you seen Skittles ads? They don’t want you to just “Taste the Rainbow.” They want to make sure you know they are the rainbow. Skittles has been putting all its effort into marketing to the social generation, because they are the new youth. This recent campaign uses clever text describing the experience of eating Skittles along with bright, colorful, and captivating imagery. Skittles ads are always image-heavy, with a rainbow motif mixed in. And more likely than not, you think of Skittles every time you see a rainbow.


All right, I admit that Apple’s brand isn’t based solely on color. But every product normally gets a color campaign at some point. Remember the iMacs? Those candy-shaded desktops were made to be customizable to you, in whatever color fit your personality. Later on, the iPod’s iconic silhouette commercials featured Technicolor dance parties. Even though the iPod was made for everyone, it was going to bring you joy and happiness so you could be like the silhouette. Now, the latest ad from Apple (above) presents the new iPod and iPod nano.  Although thinner, smaller, and with more capabilities than before, the key feature here is color. Bouncing all around, the iPods come in a wide range of colors, so pick the one that helps you express yourself. Brilliant.

You can go into color psychology, brand recognition, or any number of reasons why color is important to ad campaigns, but at the end of the day, the bright, shiny colors are attractive and you want it. Color is just as much a selling point as device capabilities or the taste of food (and might even overshadow more important features). So experiment with color, and sell it as a commodity. It’s one of the most valuable ones you have.

Adobe Photoshop Trick of the Day: Adjusting Color Using a Mask

For most designers out there, you probably know the site Lynda.com. Well, I came across a neat little section called “Deke’s Techniques.” I haven’t gone through all of them, but I believe most are tutorials from Deke McClelland, a guy who surely knows his design tricks.

This week he discusses a stronger way to use Photoshop’s Hue/Saturation command in conjunction with a mask. Here’s an excerpt from Lynda.com:

Whether you’re aiming for realism or an exaggerated effect that grabs attention, it’s often handy to be able to change the color of one object in a photo without affecting the rest of the image. Most people will tell you to use Adobe Photoshop’s Hue/Saturation command to do this, but if the object you’re changing has hue variations—not just one flat shade of red, for example—this relative adjustment won’t work.

Instead, you need to make an absolute adjustment. And to limit the change to a single object, you also need a mask. “A mask”? you gripe. “They take forever!”

Au contraire. You simply create a new Adjustment layer, select a color range inside the image with a click and a drag, and Photoshop will auto-generate your mask. Then you choose the Hue/Saturation command and make your color adjustments.

Watch the entire video here:

Author: Eric Swenson

Oh, Color, How I Love Hue – Color Trends and Info

In my search to find meaning in color, and more importantly, the rationale for colors presented in designs, I came across a great site that has become an invaluable resource.

Check out www.sensationalcolor.com to get an insider’s look at current trends in color and some important rationales for correct color choice. Whether it’s color for fashion, your home, or communications pieces, this site probably touches on it.

There’s discussion on theory and color in business as well. The blog portion is infrequently updated but useful when the site’s “color expert,” Kate Smith, decides to post.

If you want to know what the color orange really means or why the Blue Man Group uses blue, then this site is meant for hue!


Author: Eric Swenson

Pantone Releases New Service: Pantone Certified Printer Program. Why?

This month Pantone rolled out its own certification program, the “Pantone Certified Printer Program.” According to Pantone, this program aims to help printers gain a competitive edge by:

  • Maintaining the highest achievable levels of color reproduction accuracy
  • Optimizing their operations from prepress to final output, to ensure greater consistency and efficiency
  • Reducing make-ready times and waste while maintaining color accuracy
  • Displaying a seal of approval from the world’s leading color communications and control company

It seems to me these are some pretty large claims from a company whose core focus is color. Don’t get me wrong––I am a huge proponent of using the Pantone Matching System in the graphic communication industry, but I just view this as a transparent effort to increase revenue. Is this a move to make up for the failed attempt at revamping the entire color-matching system with the Goe color system? (Funnily enough, the Goe color books are now given away for free in the value bundles with the purchase of the standard Pantone matching systems.)

Okay, enough with the wisecracks. The real thing that turns me off is this: Pantone ink colors were put on this earth to make colors consistent no matter where you print them. The agreement is that everyone who prints PMS colors has a swatch book printed by Pantone to match the printed sheet to. As far as I’m concerned, if the press sheets don’t match the swatch book, well then try again! I would like to extend my personal services to any plant that thinks it needs this certification. I will personally come and match the swatch books to the press sheets––and for half the charge of Pantone!

One valuable aspect of this certification program could be its effect on the ink room. If Pantone were to offer just an ink room certification, I think that would be beneficial. Through my tour of various printing plants, it has been scary to see how some printers mix and store their inks. It runs the spectrum from a full-blown ink mixing and storage room to coffee cups full of PMS colors sitting on a table next to the press. I must say, though, if the inks were mixed correctly, both situations should produce the same results. (It’s amazing to see what those coffee cups can produce!)

All in all, I just don’t want to see another certification program become the norm just so we can print another seal on the back of your annual report. I mean, we are going to run out of room one of these days with all the various logos of sustainability and certifications of due process. By no means do I want to see this program fail––I just don’t see the value in it. But, I may be wrong––I have been before. Can someone show me the light?

Author: John Mehl