Color in graphic design: An analysis of meaning and trends

Barbara E. Martinson, Carol Clare Waldron

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Graphic design is visual communication through the selection, arrangement, and presentation of words and images, most often for the printed page which offer the designer almost limitless options for color use. The objective of this project is to identify patterns of color use. Ethnographic content analysis was used to document color use in annual represented in two publications, Print and Communication Arts, 1993-2000. The analysis focuses on the selection, combination, and contrast of hues; and their use with achromatic values. An analysis of the entire sample indicates that one-third of the annual reports used a palette that include black, white, and a hue from quadrant one (red to yellow). Nearly one-fifth of the designs used black, white, and colors from quadrants one and three (cyan to blue). The large samples for Technology, Health Sciences, Financial, and Civic organizations follow the first pattern. Food Service, Business products and services, and Transportation industries favor the second pattern.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-214
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes
Event9th Congress of the International Colour Association - Rochester, NY, United States
Duration: Jun 24 2001Jun 29 2001


  • Annual reports
  • Color palette
  • Graphic design


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