A Nostalgic Shade of Orange

Perhaps no other part of the design process brings me greater joy than finding the perfect color palette. It's easy enough to say "I want to use Halloween colors". But the minute you start fiddling with the HSV sliders something else becomes immediately clear.

There's No Such Thing As Orange

I'm pretty sure that orange doesn't exist on my computer. The same can be said of brown, green, blue, and purple. Really, it can be said of any color except for pure red (if anyone can explain why this is they will be my hero for the day). Finding the colors we like to see is tricky, not just because we're using digital color wheels and sliders. It's also because every color has a unique character and personality that, once you find it, immediately becomes more important than the color itself.

Take, for instance, the orange that I've chosen for this website's banner. It's not a pure orange. It's slightly burnt, a little bit worn and dirty, but still polished enough to look presentable. There's something slightly vintage about it, like an old Kodak photo where the pinks were always just bit too prominent, and they somehow all managed to get taken at the same beach. Where is that beach? Who are these people and why did they think it was okay to wear that shade of pink? Do I know them? Or do they know me? What about that beach did they think was so special? What are they smiling about? Why does everyone look so happy in old photographs? What was different then from what I have now? And why does that place seem so magical?

Those are questions a good color makes me ask.

A Feelings Palette

You don't see a good color, you feel it. You become attached to it. Just ask Google.

There's no such thing as orange, just a light shade of nostalgia. When building a color palette, you're building a collection of memories and emotions for someone else to discover when they see your work. And if you can make an entire color palette of feelings, more power to you. Because that's the kind of stuff that makes a good design and, more to the point, that's actually pretty cool.