The attentional capture of colour in visual interface design

Emil Andersen, Anja Maier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution book

6 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


The use of colour is an integral component in visual interface design for creating separation between objects and for conveying meaning. It has previously been established that colours can be separated in a hierarchy of primary colours and secondary colours, and that colours are consistently associated with specific mood tones. However, it has thus far not been investigated whether these two factors, which we refer to as the perception-primacy and emotion-conveyance, are associated with attentional capture in a congruent manner. To investigate this, we conducted a visual search task study in a controlled environment, in which 11 participants scanned a 20 item display for a coloured target amongst coloured distractors. We found evidence to support that primary colours capture attention significantly more than secondary colours, and inconclusive evidence that colours convey their meaning at a sufficiently early level of processing to influence attention. We end by discussing implications of our results for design practice and research in psychology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED17), Vol. 8
Subtitle of host publicationHuman Behaviour in Design
EditorsAnja Maier, Stanko Škec, Harrison Kim, Michael Kokkolaras, Josef Oehmen, Georges Fadel, Filippo Salustri, Mike Van der Loos
Place of PublicationGlasgow
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2017
Event21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED17) - The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada., Vancouver, Canada
Duration: 21 Aug 201725 Aug 2017
Conference number: 21

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Conference on Engineering Design
PublisherThe Design Society
NumberDS 87-8
ISSN (Print)2220-4342


Conference21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED17)
Abbreviated titleICED17
Internet address


  • attention in design
  • emotional design
  • communication
  • human behaviour in design
  • visualisation


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