For instance, choosing a background color that makes all text stand out better, or giving all hyperlinks a background color the opposite of the color of the actual hyperlinks. An example of this is my HappyUser proposal where the page's background color is a shade of green that makes the blue hyperlinks stand out better than if the background color were white.

I'm sure there's a name for this technique, but I have no idea. Anyone know?

5 Answers 5


I'd just call it using contrast in a usable way. Make sure you also make it usable for people who can't perceive color!

  • 3
    Exactly, as a great designer Andy Rutledge says, contarast is the most fundamental element of meaning: alistapart.com/articles/contrastandmeaning - and in my opinion, working with contrast is not 'special technique', you would hardly be a designer without using it... Commented Aug 27, 2010 at 16:52
  • It's interesting, because this is what I've always called it, but I felt like (not having a trained design background) I wasn't using the proper name for it. But it looks like there isn't a name for it, after all.
    – Rahul
    Commented Aug 27, 2010 at 20:00

... also, sorry for thread hijacking, but I think it would be worth mentioning the gestalt principles and Andy Rutledge's excellent series of articles about using it to make the visuals more 'navigatable':

  • Fantastic links! Too bad they're not about contrast, but I kind of want to accept this as the best answer...
    – Rahul
    Commented Aug 27, 2010 at 19:58
  • The gestalt of similarity covers contrast "things that are similar are perceived to be more related than things that are dissimilar"
    – Erics
    Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 5:07

Contrast? Complementary colors? Not sure if it's really a "technique", though. More a design approach.


In the study of art it is called Chiaroscuro

link text

  • Chiaroscuro doesn't seem to fit here. More of a painting style to achieve dramatic effect. Like Rembrandt paintings. Still high contrast but a wide range of tones. Complementary colors definitely come to mind like Max stated, but that is about the colors opposite each other on a color wheel. Not sure what opposing contrasts would be. The biggest opposing contrast is black and white :) Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 20:45

There are design principles called Proximity, Alignment, Repetition and Contrast. See The Non-Designers Design Book by Robin William (recommendable).

She uses the term contrast in a large sense: not only contrasting colors, but also contrasting font sizes, font families etc ("different things should look different".)

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