Light or dark? Hot or cold? North or south? These are polar opposites that establish the parameters of the world we live in. As designers, we have the entire color landscape to play with, but having too many options can be overwhelming and lead to a lack of clarity. Especially when designing for clients.

In this post, we will show you how to visually hone in on what a client is looking for by narrowing down the entire color landscape into specific spectrums.

What is a spectrum?

A spectrum is a means of classifying something, or suggesting that it can be classified, in terms of its position on a scale between two extreme or opposite points. 

How are spectrums used?

Here at DT, we use spectrums as a collaborative toolset during the research phase to define key elements like content density, color, typography, photography style, illustration and other basic design elements. This allows us to get on the same page with our clients from the very beginning to ensure that we don’t get too far down the wrong path.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]We use spectrums as a simple way to define a visual range or define a particular aesthetic problem.[/inlinetweet] It’s important to present and collaborate on these ideas during the earliest part of the project so that we determine which direction we want to take our various visual designs. We typically aim to present these during the research phase.

What do spectrums look like?

Here are a few sample spectrums that we’ve created for some of our clients.

Harmless Harvest:
Harmless Harvest




To help you create your own, here are some steps to get you started:

  1. Create a line with polar opposite ideas on each end. Then populate a variety of ideas on that line that transition to each side. Five to seven ideas should suffice.
  2. Discuss with your clients which direction you should go in. You should take the lead as the design professional. However, if the client has a specific vision in mind, have them dictate the direction with your support.
  3. For clients who aren’t sure of what color scheme they would like to go with, we start at a high-level. Hot or cold? Okay, cold. Now green or blue? Keep narrowing it down until you get a well-defined spectrum.

These questions help you understand which parameters your designs should live in. Leave a comment to let us know how spectrums help you design more collaboratively!