The Role of Color in Enhancing Visibility and Legibility


One feature which sets the wallpocket sign holder apart from the usual kinds you can get at your local office supply store, is that our holders have colorized borders, text and sometimes colored backers. Research shows that colorful items receive more attention that mono-colored items. So, let’s look at some color research. I found this information from Marc Green, PhD: Certain color combinations enable better detection, discrimination and recognition of objects and improved legibility of text. Brightness contrast, along with size and viewing distance, is the prime determinant of print legibility. High brightness contrast is created by some color combinations but not by others. It is not the colors per se that matter, but rather that different colors have different brightnesses.

Black/white is the best combination because it provides the highest brightness contrast. There is also good apparent contrast for black/yellow, the color pair that has the next highest brightness difference. Research studies (e. g., Hackman, & Tinker, 1957; Tinker & Patterson, 1931) have confirmed this prediction by experimentally showing black/white and black/yellow produce best legibility. Other color combinations produce lower brightness contrast and legibility, ranging from good (blue/white) to moderate (e .g., yellow/blue and red/white) to very poor (e/ g., yellow/white). In sum, although many color combinations might theoretically be used, the number that produce good legibility of print is small: black/white and black/yellow are best. In sum, the high brightness contrast between black and yellow enables drivers to see the price information 1) at a greater distance, 2) with smaller sized numbers, 3) in peripheral vision, 4) under poorer weather conditions and 5) in spite of eye disease or visual loss due to aging. It also allows them to respond faster.

Further, contrast perception is affected by polarity, whether the contrast is light on dark or dark on light. “Positive contrast” is the case of a light object on a dark background, such as yellow print on a black field. Conversely, “negative contrast” occurs for a dark object on a bright background – black print on a light background, as in the price monuments. Although the physical contrast is equivalent in the two situations, the distinction is important because human sensitivity to negative contrast can be twice as great as for positive contrast. That is, both the yellow/black color pair and the exact rendering of the black letters on the yellow background increased brightness contrast and hence legibility.

We hope you found this useful in selecting your sign holder and designing your notices.

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