April 4, 2014  ·  style

Sophisticated Colour Deployment

When a designer refers to a "sophisticated colour" it probably refers not to a colour used in a sophisticated context, which let's face it is probably going to be black, but to the composition of the colour itself. And as a general rule, a sophisticated colour can be identified by a few related methods:
  • On a colour wheel it'd be found far away from the outer ring of primary or even clear-cut secondary or tertiary colours.
  • If you were mixing it up from red, green and blue in Photoshop's picker, you'd use non-trivial amounts of all three.
  • You probably don't have an obvious name for it.
Sophisticated colours aren't necessarily light in shade and desaturated, although those are the easiest to work with as you can mix them more or less with impunity and then add any strong saturated colour of your choice. This is the basis of everyone's favourite fallback summer palette of All Kinds Of Tan plus navy. The eye is surprisingly sensitive to subtle differences in pale, light colours, which is why you can go to a paint store and find literally hundreds of variants of eggshell, swan, cream, ecru, ivory, and off-white, none of which—incredibly—will look good on your wall.

British retailer Reiss (shown) should win some sort of lifetime achievement award for this concept, and even they will get amusingly tripped up on nomenclature. You'll see some sort of pale pinkish tan offered as "deer" and a kind of greyish olive as "petrol" but they also have no shortage of situations where someone threw up their hands and went "f**k it, we're calling it grey". Which it usually isn't, but we'll opt for a general idea over decoding the unduly creative license of a marketing type with a thesaurus any day.

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