Colour in interface design
Study plans 2016-2017 - IMT4315 - 7.5 ECTS

On the basis of

IMT4309 Usability and Human Factors in Interaction Design

Expected learning outcomes

The aim of this course is to provide an understanding of colour perception and its potential impact on the design of computer interfaces. The course will draw on the rich body of literature and recent research in colour, perception and design.  Students will be able to apply high-level principles to their evaluation of interface design and the creation of new user interfaces, and to ensure their interface designs are consistent with universal design principles

On completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Describe features of the human visual system and colour perception applicable to interface design.
  • Show how the principles of user-centred design apply to the design of computer interfaces.
  • Describe the use of colour in semantic design.
  • Demonstrate principles of colour harmony.
  • Apply an understanding of colour perception to interface design.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of universal design principles in the use of colour in user interfaces, especially in relation to vision defects
  • Show how research in affective aspects of colour, such as emotion, can be applied to interface design.


  • Light, colour and the human visual system
  • Colour mixing principles on computer systems
  • Colour harmony
  • Colour semantics
  • Colour and theory of signs
  • Affective aspects of colour
  • Using colour to enhance user interaction
  • Colour-related aspects of universal design
  • Use case specification and task analysis for colour

Teaching Methods

Laboratory work
Net Support Learning
Mandatory assignments
Project work

Teaching Methods (additional text)

Lectures, seminars, workshops, demonstrations, laboratory work, projects and activities contributing to a portfolio of work

Form(s) of Assessment

Home exam, 12 hours
Portfolio Assessment
Evaluation of Project(s)

Form(s) of Assessment (additional text)

  • Portfolio 30%
  • Coursework project (40%)
  • Computer-based exam, 12 hours (30%)
  • Each of the assessments must be passed individually.

Students will prepare a portfolio of four items of interaction design, annotated to show how these apply principles developed during the course.

Students will also undertake an individual project on colour in interface design and provide a written rationale, analysis and discussion of results.

In the exam, students will use their own computer (or one at NTNU in Gjøvik) to undertake a specified task which applies knowledge obtained during the course.

Grading Scale

Alphabetical Scale, A(best) – F (fail)

External/internal examiner

One internal examiner on the coursework, portfolio and written exam. External examiner is used periodically, next time spring 2017.

Re-sit examination

Ordinary re-sit examination in August for the computer-based home exam.

Coursework Requirements

The schedule for the course sessions will be announced before the start of the semester, and where possible support is provided for those who wish to participate remotely or to access session materials at a later time. Students are required to complete four items of interaction design for their portfolio, and a coursework project.

Teaching Materials

Basic textbook:

  • Berns, R. (2000)Billmeyer and Saltzman’s principles of colour technologyNY: Wiley

Additional books:

  • Green, P. J. (1999) Understanding digital color.(2nd edition) Sewickley, PA: GATF Press
  • Barthes, R, (1987) trans. Lavers, A.Image, music, textNew York: Hill and Wang
  • Boynton, R. M. (1996) Human color vision(2nd edn) New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  • Cage, J. (1993)Colour and culture: practice and meaning from antiquity to abstractionLondon: Thames and Hudson.
  • Horton, W. (1991)Illustrating computer documentationWiley
  • Laurel, B. (ed) (1990)The art of human-computer interface design, Addison Wesley
  • Rivlin et al (eds) (1990)Guidelines for screen designBlackwell Scientific Publications
  • Mitchell, W. (1992)Reconfigured eye: visual truth in the post-photographic eraCambridge, MA: MIT Press
  • Shneiderman, B. (1998)Designing the user interface(3rd edn) Reading, MA: Addison Wesley
  • Riley, C. A. (1995)Color and codesHanover, NH: University Press of New England
  • Cage, J. (1999)Colour and meaningLondon: Thames and Hudson.
  • Chisholm, W. and May, M. (2008) Universal Design for Web Applications: Web Applications That Reach Everyone, O'Reilly Media

Minor changes may occur. Final list is presented at the beginning of the semester.

Replacement course for

IMT4212 Colour in interface design