Is My Orange Your Orange?


Nope, this isn't a post about Christmas oranges, and it's not a deeply philosophical exploration of consciousness either. But, it's still a good question: do we see colour the same way as others, and if not, what impact does that have on creating (or even reading) colour books?

Colour, especially on a cover, plays an important role in situating your book in the right genre and evoking the appropriate emotional response from your readers. Take the internationally bestselling For Dummies books. A lot of market research went into choosing the distinctive, vibrant yellow covers for the launch of the series (which was, incidentally, initially focused solely on software and technology topics, beginning with DOS for Dummies). Test groups found that the "happy" yellow colour evoked the non-intimidating nature of the guides, and they were easily recognizable as instructional/reference books. Today, no matter where you are in the world, those bright yellow covers, and the brand itself, is immediately identifiable.

And yet, according to the technicians at Friesens, colour is a never-ending challenge in the printing and publishing industry: "as we labour towards getting the perfect colours, the person next to us most likely will see colour differently." Even so, it is possible to get it "right." After all, one of our best cover designers is in fact colour blind, and he hasn't done a cover yet that has disappointed. Technology in colour standardization – in both digital and press printing – has improved in leaps and bounds, and whatever printer you're working with should be able to offer your designer guidance in calibrating their monitor for optimum colour effect and printer matching. Many printers, like Friesens, will even allow you to send test files of several interior pages well in advance of printing your book so that they can output high resolution proofs for you to review.

Colour has intrigued, and baffled, scientists, artists, and philosophers for ages (case in point, check out Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Theory of Colours, first published in 1810!). But if you just want to have some fun assessing the quality of your colour perception, try this colour vision eye test or the Munsell Hue Test.

And finally, we wish you a happy, and colourful, holiday season!