The interiors of fast food restaurants are often decorated in shades of orange and brown, because those colors promote a healthy appetite. Lawyers routinely instruct their clients to wear blue suits during court appearances, because blue equates with trustworthiness. The room where performers hang out before going onstage is called the “green room” and traditionally has green walls, since green promotes relaxation.
The impact of color on our emotions and behavior has been observed throughout human history. From the interiors of hospitals to corporate logos, color influences the way people feel and act. There’s no denying that color has a significant impact on the way we see the world around us. In the hands of a skilled designer, a color scheme can give a sense of peace, make us anxious, influence our opinions about a product’s perceived value or put us in the mood for love.
In eLearning, we are always attempting to dictate the learner’s behavior. We want to instill a state of open-minded relaxation in which the viewer feels comfortable and confident enough to absorb and retain new information. We don’t want to take them out of this frame of mind by introducing startling, jarring colors which might break the learner’s concentration. With this idea firmly in mind, the graphic design of an eLearning course can be formulated so that it optimizes the user’s ability to get the most out of the course and sets them up for success.
There are, of course, considerations other than emotions to take into account when designing the visual look and feel of an eLearning module. More often than not, there is a customer whose brand identity must be preserved. This sometimes means working within strict guidelines, including adherence to a client-mandated color palette. It becomes that much more important, then, for a designer working within dictated parameters to craft a user experience that not only preserves the integrity of the client’s brand, but fulfills their learning objectives as well.
In addition to the emotional impact color can have, there’s a very real correlation between color and an individual’s ability to learn. A study by the University of Georgia College of Education showed that the colors of the walls in schools can have an impact on a number of factors, including:
- Eye fatigue
- Spatial organization
- Developmental processes
The effects of color aren’t universal, however. One must be cognizant of one’s audience. The study referenced above found that while warmer, brighter colors were most advantageous to learning in preschool and elementary schools, upper grades benefitted more from cooler colors which promote focus and concentration.
Geographic and cultural differences can often change a color’s emotional impact, as well. While Western audiences might equate the color white with cleanliness and purity, many Eastern cultures associate white with funerals and mourning.
Here’s some additional reading to help you when choosing appropriate color schemes for your eLearning offerings:
Be mindful of these considerations when designing your eLearning programs to ensure you convey the message you intend.