Your Guide to Colors

If you can't read this you are colorblind.

Color is very important in the display of ideas. Color can convey a sense of professionalism, neatness, and organization when used correctly. Conversely, when used incorrectly, color can show immaturity and disinterest and can even turn people away before they even know what the project is about. Remember, no one will notice if proper colors are used; however, everyone will notice if poor color choices are made.

Limit color choice to two main colors with white being the third (background).

The colors should be used to accentuate the information, not be the center of attention. Using too many colors can be distracting to the eye and shows more interest in playing “coloring book” than doing a serious science project. But remember to use some. Don’t just have a blank white background with nothing on it, that’s boring.

Color temperature

Colors are divided into two different types: warm and cool. Warm colors; reds, yellows, and oranges, are typically more aggressive to the eyes and can be distracting. Cool colors; blues, greens, and violets are soothing and calming, a very appropriate choice for science. No need to aggravate the eye when trying to teach the mind.

Most important invention of mankind: the color wheel.

Color choices should be muted tones.

Choose colors that are simple and low tone. Bright, garish colors are for party invitations, not science layouts. Also, avoid using bold colors, they can be too strong for the eye.

Here is an example of good color, taken from a Microsoft PowerPoint slide. The colors used are professional and simple. They do not distract the eye nor are they too bright.

And now, here is the same slide, but with bad color. Notice how the colors are aggressive and offensive to the eye.

Make sure the text and background colors are distinct and unique.

This is mostly to avoid the dreaded tone-on-tone mistake that is common in so many bad layouts. This happens when two colors of the same tone are used near each other. Never use two of the same color type, (for example, two blues, but different shades) especially when they are touching. The low contrast is a strain on the eyes when read. Even if the colors aren’t necessarily touching, avoid using the same tones at all costs.

Tone on tone mistakes can be compounded if the background changes in the middle of the text, as it is hard for the eye to go from dark background to light when reading. Try to avoid having text over color changes.

Avoid bells and whistles.

Try to keep a scientific mindset when designing the layout of the board. Things should be to-the-point, efficient, and most importantly, on topic. Don’t put flowers on it unless the project is about flowers. Don’t stencil designs on it unless the project is somehow about stenciling designs on things. If the project is about frogs, go ahead and put a frog or two on the board. But keep it tasteful, no one wants to see 35 frogs all over the place. Remember, good display is an art form, but it’s not art.

See also