We’re completely color illiterate on our team. Our internal site has a lot of black and white, but I’ve heard that too much contrast is bad. And people don’t respond well to the look of our site.
Where can we go for guidance about default colors for text and background?
There is no way you’re going to get the colors right without bringing in someone who knows how it’s done. Color is just not the kind of thing you learn from a text book or white paper.
If you must do it yourself, there are lots of other questions around here that might be of assistance.
How to pick large color palettes?
What colors are good to avoid eye fatigue in dark environments?
Do high-content areas of a website need to be white/light-colored?
Designing interesting looking websites in greyscale, minimal tones
The bottom line is, if you aren’t good at this, keep things simple. Pick a limited palette of understated colors (greys for instance) and one or two brighter colors for critical actions. This site is a good example of that approach, though even the blues could get you in trouble if you’re not careful.