Colour is a strong factor in any design or visual project. It is used to convey emotion and express personality. Further than that, consumers are acutely aware of whether or not a brand and a logo colour really connect. Research reveals that people make a subconscious judgement about a product or environment within 90 seconds of initial viewing – and between 62%-90% of this judgement is based on colour alone.* That’s an awfully important visual decision.
Colour psychology is the study of these hues and how they drive human behaviour.
Understanding Color Psychology
Our personal and collective associations may affect our experience of a certain colour. As consumers, we rely on the familiarity of Coca Cola red, the craftsmanship behind Tiffany blue, or the motivation sparked by Nike’s fluorescents. Individually, there are a myriad of responses to colour that we just can’t predict. John’s grandfather may have always worn that shade of burgundy, Lisa’s terrible high-school sports jersey may have borne a yellow mascot.
The emotional responses evoked by colour have very real and significant value. Let’s dive deeper into each colour’s significance and how you can harness these responses to create meaningful visual systems.
A quick breakdown of each colour and it’s general emotional response (Of course, remember that each individual also brings a different history and experience with a given colour):
Excitement, energy, passion, courage.
- Used to stimulate appetite in the food industry
- Used for pulse shoppers/creates urgency
- High visibility; used to draw attention to critical elements
Enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, strength
- Used to communicate fun and playfulness
- Darker shades are more aggressive and create a call to action
- Lighter shades can appeal to an upscale market
Cheerfulness, intellect, energy, spontaneity
- Used to communicate optimism and positivity
- Used to stimulate creative thought and energy
- Bright shades used to grab the attention of consumers
Health, freshness, serenity, wealth
- The easiest colour for the eyes to process
- Used to create relaxing environments in stores
- Used to communicate eco-consciousness
Trustworthy, dependable, secure, responsible
- Most popular choice for a brand color
- Suggests precision in high-tech products
- A calming color, darker shades communicate a message of stability and inspire
Nobility, mystery, wisdom, spirituality
- Perceived differently depending on age and gender
- Liked by creative types
- Balances red’s stimulation and blue’s calm; purple can take the characteristics of these undertones
Natural, simple, earthly, durable
- Used to show wholesomeness and dependability
- Used in place of black to add warmth to a color scheme
- Can be combined with green to promote earth-friendly ideals
Glamour, exclusivity, sophistication, power.
- Used to show a brand’s authority in the marketplace
- Used to show sophistication and timelessness
- Paired with other power colours (red/orange/yellow) it becomes more aggressive
Purity, cleanliness, simplicity, perfection
- Used to suggest simplicity in high-tech products
- Used in the food industry for low-fat foods
- Can add strength or sophistication without the aggressiveness associated with black
“In order to use color effectively it is necessary to recognize that color deceives continually” – Josef Albers
Next week, we’ll continue this discussion surrounding colour by looking at the evolution of colour trends throughout history, and what the most meaningful and prominent trends are today. I’m excited to blast into the past and discover some radical colour possibilities!
*Source: Secretariat of the Seoul International Color Expo 2004 and CCICOLOR – Institute for Color Research