If you ask anyone here at Gravity what their color is, they’ll have a quick answer for you. It won’t be their favorite color, or the color of their aura, but their Gravity color. Okay, there’s a good chance it might be their favorite color, but for the sake of this post, it’ll be their Gravity color.
As someone who grew up loving math and science, I found graphic design to be the perfect balance of the right and left brain. You’re using the colors, shapes, and emotions from art to create a clear, organized message for the viewer. However, this doesn’t just apply to marketing materials. Whether it’s creative briefs, calendars, project tasks, or even emails, we’re always trying to communicate information effectively in the office. This is where I’ve found incorporating some graphic design concepts, such as color-coding, has helped us with our project management.
What Is Color-Coding, and Why Does It Work?
Color-coding is a way of organizing information by using specific colors across items to group them together. For example, the previous sentence used the color green to group together words beginning with vowels. It’s a bit hard to read, isn’t it? That’s because your brain wants to separate this information, reading all the green and all the black together. Our brains, when provided a large amount of information, will try to break down the information into sections to process it more easily. Therefore, visual connections like color groupings can convey the same amount of information faster and with less confusion, if done correctly.
How Do We Use It at Gravity?
As mentioned above, each person at Gravity Group has a color. That color is used on our whiteboards, in our emails, and in our project management software, Wrike. Lindsey’s color, for example, is purple. Her icon on Wrike is purple, assignments that are with her are labeled with a purple flag, and when we send our check-in emails, her name is in purple.
We also use colors to label the status of a project, whether it’s in progress, with the client, completed, etc. This helps us to quickly identify if a project needs attention, or if it’s currently in development.
For example, each day we could send out an email that looks like this:
Instead, we have an email that looks like this:
Since we each know our color, we can quickly see how many projects are with us and need our attention without having to read through the entire list.
Can You Color-Code Too Much?
The short answer is “yes.” Despite what my coworkers may believe, even I know there is such a thing as too many colors. Just like bolding text, if everything is bold, then nothing is.
If we decided, for example, to also color-code our clients and projects in the email, we’d end up with something like this:
In our typical email, names are bold and colored, so those are noticed first. Then, we notice the status because of its color and finally the project/client. That order is thrown out of whack when everything has a color. You’re essentially throwing a handful of darts at a dartboard and hoping some of them stick, instead of throwing one at a time. This overload of information makes you have to read through each word individually, making parsing it the same difficulty as if everything was the same color.
That brings us back to graphic design fundamentals, where hierarchy, layout, and order help to clarify a message. While color-coding doesn’t go as far as conveying emotions (e.g. through colors or typography), this is an aspect of graphic design that anyone can use to improve their internal communication and project management in the office.