True colours: setting the tone

One of our designers Brigitta looks at the power of colour, and how it can be used in publishing to evoke certain feelings or moods.

7 Jun 2015

by Andrew Hearn

As a designer at ILN, one of the things I love most about my job is the power of colour. It plays a huge part in every aspect of my work. This year, several magazines have devoted whole issues to a single colour and I loved looking at their different takes on this subject

covers BabyLondon edition InStyle

Aston Martin Magazine, published by ILN, has been devoting its style features to a single shade that is a special Aston Martin paint colour, with Sunshine Yellow accessories featured in the next issue.


In the world of fashion, colour has enormous influence, reflecting not just seasonal trends, but also a designer’s personal feelings. Tomas Maier, creative director at Bottega Veneta, was using mood lifting colours (red, pink and orange) to brighten up autumn days in his 2016 pre-summer collection (below).


We associate brighter colours with the sunnier summer days, with cooler colours for winter. Burberry, for example, has very colourful accessories for spring/summer 2015, in contrast to its traditional, more neutral colour palette.

Trend forecasting organisations, such as WGSN and, predict forthcoming styles in fashion, as well as the colours that will be popular. When it comes to marketing products, most logos and branding communicate meaning through their colour. Research has shown that some of the world’s most powerful brands tend to lean towards either green/blue or red/orange tones. According to technology blogger Eric Dye: “Blue generally receives a cool, calm, trustworthy, knowledgeable response. The colour red, in contrast, is exciting, eye-catching, fast acting and powerful.”



survey carried out by Dulux Paints found that blue was the world’s favourite colour, and yellow the least favourite with only 5% of people. The survey also found that men and women increasingly disliked the colour orange as they get older ! And blue continues to be favourite with Dulux expecting its tropical blue to be one of its most popular colours in 2015.

Pantone is known across the world as a colour authority. Each year, it selects what it considers to be the colour of the year. This year, Marsala was the winner. When I first saw this colour, I was not immediately impressed, but when I imagine it used for luxury leather or silk textures, I can see how appealing this beautiful, deep Sicilian wine colour is – it is the perfect autumn colour.


According to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director, Pantone Color Institute®: “This hearty, yet stylish tone is universally appealing and translates easily to fashion, beauty, industrial design, home furnishings and interiors. Marsala is a subtly seductive shade, one that draws us in to its embracing warmth.” Magazines such as InStyle (below) have certainly embraced the colour.


Pantone’s annual colour choices in previous years have ranged from tangerine tango to turquoise.



We all, of course, have favourite colours. Some just like the sheer beauty of their chosen favourites, while others believe they have a spiritual meaning. For example, in China red symbolises good fortune.

Last year, I attended a spiritual wedding during which the bride and groom celebrated with a ribbon ceremony. This is a beautiful way for a couple to make promises and vows to each other by binding their hands together with different coloured ribbons.

Each colour represents a part of the wedding vows: Green: symbolises earth, representing the physical and material Yellow: symbolises air, representing mental and intellectual Red: symbolises fire, representing passion Blue: symbolises water, representing emotion and love White: symbolises spirit, representing the spiritual and philosophical


Colours can give such a feel-good feeling that whole events are organised around them, such as the Holi One colour festival, where thousands of people dressed in white come together to enjoy music, dance, performance art – and being doused in brightly coloured powders. Originating in India, this memorable event now takes place across the world, from New Zealand to Casablanca.


And my own particular favourite colour? It is blue. I’m drawn to earthy colours like blue and green – it reminds me of the sea, the sky and the earth in general.

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