06 LOFI THEME SELECTION: Cheating with Color

PGCw/C is a popular color theming book, published in 2000. You can buy it used at Amazon. The book was supervised by a Senior Vice-president of The Big-P Corp, Inc.

Color Themes for Dummies
Pantone Guide to Communicating with ColorI’ve read the guru author’s other written works and they’re centered on the psychology of color almost to the point of being cosmic. This book is like a “Color Themes for Dummies” –not like the rest. Very practical and brass tacks. It’s definitely written to sell the Big-P color system. Almost every color in their palette is used in the book. It appears this was one of the major goals.

What Colors Should be Used Together?
Regardless of motive or simplicity, the book is a great tool for speeding up website production. One of the things most used on a low-fidelity site is color. This is because color on the web has no-charge, no loadtime, and no setup like print. Millions of web colors instead of a limited print palette like CMYK or Big-P. Frequently, for programmers it’s difficult to know what color should be used together. This is almost bulletproof design.

Reverse Thematic Lookup Table Online
Using the book as a key, I and my wife, Terrie, built a reverse thematic lookup table. It’s written in HTML but uses PHP-GZIP compression so it will load fast. This file is about 25,000 lines of code.

The Book is the Key
How to use the color tool is simple –but requires the book as a key. Using a color picker you select a color sample from a photo, a logo, a corporate color, or put an image through an online color filter.

Convert the hexcolor of choice to a Big-P color (Photoshop?.) You’ve now switched from an RGB palette with millions of alternatives to a palette with just 2,000 colors. Much more manageable for decision making.

Use Your Browser As a FIND tool.
The selected Big-P color is used on the Reverse Lookup using the EDIT > FIND browser function. This will indicate the theme category and what page of the book you can find it. The palette has again been reduced. Each theme page has 24 color combinations demonstrated. Color selection keeps getting easier and easier. From that you can select the dominant, subordinate and accent colors. I’ll be demonstrating this later in future entries.

It’s color combinations that create themes.
Themes are based on visual memories and emotion. This is what the designer wants the audience to feel when they view the site. Color is one aspect of theme. We’ll look at typography soon.

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03 LOFI COLOR TOOLS: Reduce thematic creation time.

Many web programmers confess they have a weak background in graphic design. They erroneously suppose art is a genetically inherited trait and not a learned experience. If you have the gift—great—but if you don’t you can compensate with low-tech shortcuts and workarounds. Sharing this information is the overall goal of this blog.
The Web Designer's Idea Book: The Ultimate Guide To Themes, Trends & Styles In Website Design
Reverse Engineering Website Themes
With a screengrabber—now built-in to most operating systems or as addons to browsers—you can capture attractive screens and start archiving ideas. There are also archival websites like www.designmeltdown.com. In the classic portion of the Design Meltdown site are thousands of screens and hundreds of classification. There is even a nice section on principles of design. I recommend visiting and reading the principles. But it’s a discouraging place when you suddenly recognize web design is just rearranging colored boxes inside a rectangle. Get over it.

Don’t Be Tempted to Buy
A book evolved out of the designmeltdown website: The Web Designer’s Idea Book: The Ultimate Guide To Themes, Trends & Styles In Website Design by Patrick Mcneil. I have read this book and quickly sold it. I don’t recommend it for your reference library. It has a seductive title. Get it through Interlibrary Loan instead. You cannot reverse engineer websites from a book of printed pictures.

HTML Color Picker: A key tool for reverse engineering a website.
There are lots of freeware color pickers. A color tool is an application, utility or addon. They are usually found within graphics software and online. They are used for color management, creating color schemes, picking colors, and more. They sometimes feature a color harmonization interface, a color picker, RGB and hex conversion and manipulation, a collection of saved schemes, and other similar features. Web masters, designers, developers, and professionals that work with other types of screen or print media use these tools in their work. Do I have a recommendation? No. It depends most upon your operating platform and programs you use—including your browser. Firefox has lots of nice addons—but many don’t work on Linux machines. So you must decide. Find one.

A Picker Isn’t a Color Expert
A color picker allows you to explore other designers successful color combinations (themes.) You may wonder where I’m going based on the blog entries thus far:
1) I’ve talked about how web fees are dropping and lowtech can combat the price erosion.
2) I’ve talked about The Big P Corporation and how they won’t let online color tools use their reference numbers.
3) and now I’ve mentioned screengrabbers and color pickers.
While these topics may seem random, soon I’ll tie the ideas together and show how to find the right theme fast for your new website project.

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