Everyday at work, we think about color. A lot. It’s an incredibly powerful communication tool. What happens, though, when you remove it? Do we lose out on crucial information? Does the story suffer? Not necessarily. Instead, we start to focus on other elements of an object and its environment, such as texture, light, and negative space. Frequently, it forces us to examine a piece more closely and engage with it more intimately. And when done with thought and careful consideration, the removal of color can be just as (if not more) impactful than its inclusion. Below are a few of my favorite examples.
How do you make a color-centered game usable for someone who can’t see those colors? Texture, in the form of braille words for each color, becomes the element that differentiates each side of the cube in this clever piece by Konstantin Datz.
This gorgeous poster by Ven Gist abandons the printed concentric rings of your classic 2D topographic map in favor of a multi-level blind emboss to communicate San Francisco’s many elevations. Again, texture and dimensionality stand in for the use of color, and arguably communicate the concept more strongly.
In this brilliant campaign, the Toronto Zoo highlights polar bears’ ability to camouflage themselves in their natural environment with this monochromatic coloring book that is chock full of white space (literally). Even the 6 provided crayons are white. Genius.
It’s a simple idea: removing street names and other traditional elements of a printed map leaves behind a web of intersecting lines. But when Karen M. O’Leary meticulously cuts a city out of plain white paper, it becomes a beautifully intricate and abstract image resembling lace. (Don’t worry, she makes an SF map, too.)
A collection of 100 everyday items painted white, this experiment by Andrew Miller explores the effects of reducing objects to their simplest and purest form. It forces us to examine contour and shape, and is a fascinating browse to see which ones lose and which ones maintain brand recognition.