Natalya Shelburne

Practical color theory for people who code


Something that sounds as simple as picking a color palette is often the very thing that scares developers away from diving into design. Design decisions feel so open ended and exposed, and everyone's a critic. Plus, there is no compiler throwing an error or tests failing if your colors clash. No wonder I’ve seen amazing developers clam up when it’s time to make some design decisions, deferring to “someone creative, who knows more about design” even if I know they want to learn more about design themselves.

After my presentation, developers will be able to do the basics of color theory, and to feel confident about learning more if they are inspired. How will I do this? The developer way - by abstracting away my domain knowledge as an artist into variables and functions and sharing that information with others. My goal is to demystify design decisions and reveal them to be logical, predictable, and driven by principles that anyone can learn. Designers get something out of this talk too, not only do I encourage every developer in the room to appreciate the domain knowledge designers have to internalize, the many decisions that they have to make, and the hard work it takes to wield color intentionally and skillfully, I also show them how to better communicate these decisions to developers.

  • Along the way, we’ll answer a lot of the following questions:
  • How can I improve accessibility with my use of color?
  • Why are most ‘call to action’ buttons a warm color like red or orange?
  • Why shouldn't I use #000000 on my website?
  • Why can red and green color schemes troublesome in design?
  • What happens if you mix exactly equal parts red and green? How about blue and orange?
  • Why do highlights always go on the tops of buttons?
  • Why do some colors look good together?
  • Why does a color look good in a color picker, but can look so bad when you use it on your site?
  • Why does using more white space make things look so much better?
  • Why are Sass variables and color functions such an awesome tool for developers?

Again, this isn’t a talk about how colors make us feel - this is science! I will be talking wavelengths, old school fine art resources, and code!

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