I've previously written about how to effectively use fonts to convey ideas and emotions in your eLearning courses. Effective use of color is equally important and is often overlooked and under utilized.
What is the purpose of your eLearning course? Are you presenting somber, factual material? Are you welcoming new employees? Maybe you are passing along important factual information that will need to memorized? Or maybe you are teaching a complex process?
All of these scenarios would benefit from different color stories. Over the next few weeks I'm going to discuss how you can use color in eLearning to affect mood, encourage learning, resonate in different cultures and be accessible to those with color sight deficiencies as well as provide some color resources to make your design process a bit easier.
How Color Affects Mood
The right color can put your learner in the right mood for optimal participation. The following is a breakdown of commonly accepted psychological effects of colors.
Red is a stimulant. Too much red can trigger anger or anxiety. When used appropriately, red can evoke passion and excitement, increase blood pressure and metabolism, and can even make food taste better when surrounded by it. Use it: to draw attention to key points, but don't overdo it as it could turn your learner off. Red would be a perfect color for pointing out things not to do.
Orange is an antidepressant. Similar to red it can be used as a stimulant. It is seen as warm and welcoming and can be beneficial when used in relation to food or creative processes. Use it: to appear more personable to your learners, particularly when dealing with boring content that just has to be presented.
Blue is in many ways red's counter--it lowers the pulse, encourages serenity and reduces appetites. Blue is often used in offices and gyms to stimulate productivity. Use it: to calm learners when presenting information that may initially seem complicated or overwhelming. Be sure to thoughtfully accent blue with other colors so as not to lull your students to sleep.
Green is known to bring tranquility and peacefulness. It is seen as refreshing and is the easiest color on the eyes. Green helps to relax muscles and deepen breathing. Use it: wherever you want, as much as you want. With good design, green can be a very effective eLearning color.
Yellow is a brain stimulant and promotes memory, clear thinking and decision-making. Yellow should be used sparingly as it is the harshest color on the eyes. It is known to cause tempers to flare and babies have been shown to cry more in yellow rooms. Use it: to highlight points that should be memorized or that are often forgotten in your content. Yellow would also be a good color to incorporate into the quiz sections of your learning. Don't overdo it, or risk giving your learners a headache.
Purple is a mind-balancer that promotes good judgment and spirituality. Traditionally the color of royalty, it can now be used to express any number of moods depending upon the color with which it is paired (with blue it becomes calming, with red it becomes stimulating). Use it: in conjunction with another color to achieve your desired mood. Purple is a very well-rounded color that could be used to express anything from lightheartedness and fun in learning to sophistication of a company or brand.
Black is technically the absence of color and typically elicits feelings of power, formality, mystery, fear and sexuality. Use it: for fonts. There are a lot of jazzy things you can do with font colors but I find that sticking with traditional black is often the best choice for the bulk of text. Black can be a beautiful color for design and can evoke a lot of powerful moods, but for eLearning courses it is not one of my favorites.
White is technically the perfect balance of all colors and is seen as pure and clean, which is why brides and many nurses opt for this color. Use it: all over the place. Don't be afraid of well-thought-out white space. White is also a strong choice for fonts when text is on a darker background.
About the author: AJ George is IconLogic's lead Technical Writer and author of both "PowerPoint 2007: The Essentials" and "PowerPoint 2008 for the Macintosh: The Essentials." You can follow AJ on Twitter at http://twitter.com/andrayajgeorge.