Color Me What?

Color Psychology

Color has a major influence on our emotions and decisions.

One extremely important aspect of design is color. Many people (especially those without an eye for design) would not give a second thought about color usage and how it affects people’s emotions. Yet it is an extremely powerful tool (so powerful that there is a plethora of color psychology courses out there that delve deeper into the effect color has on the brain). I’m here to simply go over the basics with you and to help you understand why it’s so important when creating your company branding materials.

Think about your past experiences at the doctor’s office; how often was it that the walls were painted red or orange? I’m going to venture to guess…never. Why? Because the interior designer for the building knows that reds and oranges are colors that have a stimulating effect. It has even been proven that when walking into a room painted with red, your blood pressure can actually rise. When you’re taking a trip to the doctor’s office, you are most likely looking for a calm and comforting atmosphere, which is why they often use soft color palettes in their décor with colors like blues and purples. Now, most likely you are not consciously aware of this effect, but next time you start to feel a strong emotion without an obvious reason (such as being very calm or being very tense), take a look at the colors within your immediate environment, you might make some connections.

Let’s take this theory into the business world. If I told you that I was sitting here sipping some soda that was in a red and white can, what brand of soda would you automatically assume that I was drinking? I trust that you probably said Coca Cola. Why? Because they have strategically and consistently branded themselves with those colors since the beginning of time (…Coca Cola time, that is). Taking into account what I previously said about the color red, why do you think they chose that color to represent their company? I assume it might have been because red is the color that is associated with energy and excitement. Usually you aren’t popping a can of soda if you are trying to wind down and go to sleep. See the correlation?

Believe it or not, ALL colors have some type of subconscious association and it’s important to think about these when branding your business. Here are a few examples:

  • Red:
    Red Stop Sign

    Red as a warning.

    This is the most emotionally intense color. As we already discussed, red is often associated with feelings of excitement and stimulation. In addition, it is connected with love and passion and stimulates a faster heartbeat and breathing. In many cases, this color is also associated with danger. (e.g. stop, do not enter, no smoking signs etc.)
  • Orange: Taking a look at origins, this one makes complete sense; the sun is basically one big fireball and fire happens to be the color of orange, so it’s no wonder that orange symbolizes energy and warmth. It’s also an indicator of fun and enjoyment.
  • Yellow:
    Yellow Tulips

    Yellow tulips send the message of cheerfulness.

    The last main color in the warm color palette, yellow is often associated with cheerfulness and optimism. However, since yellow reflects a large amount of light, it can become very strenuous for the eyes to take in large doses so it is to no surprise that it’s been recorded that feelings of frustration are more prevalent in rooms painted in all yellow. This is an “attention-getting” color which is why it is often used in street signage to warn drivers of conditions ahead.
  • Green: This one’s a given – green is highly associated with nature and the organic world. It tends to represent health, healing and fertility. It happens to also be the color of jealousy (“green with envy”) and money. Oddly enough, it’s been proven that students that lay a transparent sheet of green paper over their reading material increase their speed and comprehension. And it also has a calming effect.
  • Blue:
    Blue Ocean

    Look at this picture, how do you feel?

    Blue is most often related to feelings of serenity, but also is related to feeling of sadness (“I’m feeling blue.”) It is in the cool color palette and lowers the heart rate and body temperature. Researchers say that people working in rooms painted with blue tend to be more productive, most likely because of the calming effect of the color.
  • Purple: This color is most often associated with royalty, wealth, and wisdom. It is not often that purple appears in nature so it is often linked to the impression of insincerity and pretentiousness.
  • White: It’s to no surprise that white represents purity and innocence, but it has also been defined as being unfriendly and sterile. Ever heard of the term “white room”? Hospital rooms and workers are often covered in white to give off the feeling that the room/the workers are sterile.
  • Black: You know this one, when you’re told to illustrate an evil place/person what color do you usually use? Black. Black symbolizes evil, death and mystery. Yet it is also a sign of power, seductiveness and sophistication.

These are a just a few of the implications that are associated with the basic color spectrum. Be aware that if you are a global business, colors will affect your American consumers a lot differently than those that live in another country such as China; culture is a big influencer on color connotations. There are so many layers to the psychology of color and I’m merely scratching the surface, but I’ve given you enough information so that you can hopefully appreciate the fact that color highly influences the minds of your potential customers.

Briana Nobrega

Briana is the Graphic Designer at inConcert. She also has the responsibilities of Assistant Project Manager. She creates all web, print, and promotional item artwork for our projects. She has an Associates Degree in Graphic Design from Mount Wachusett Community College and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Graphic Communications from Franklin Pierce University.

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