Colors stir emotions and affect human behavior. Flashing red lights near train tracks signify danger, causing us to stop suddenly. But a bold red carpet at an event can indicate status and draw our attention to the people walking it. The hue, shade, and saturation of colors can have a big impact on designs and the feelings they invoke. Think about how light blues are often calming, yet bright blues are energizing and refreshing.
Color has the power to influence customers’ decisions, increase brand recognition, and keep people on a webpage. Color—and our perception of it—plays a central role in graphic design and branding.
What is color psychology?
Color psychology explores how colors affect our feelings and behaviors. In branding and graphic design, it focuses on how colors impact the way we view brands and their visual materials: websites, print ads, logos, and more. It also looks at whether colors persuade consumers to consider brands or make purchases. Colors have a powerful effect on our emotions. And these emotions influence how we behave as consumers.
Studies show that colors stimulate different areas of the brain: they can incite excitement or tranquility. Different hues can affect heart rates, inspire learning, or relax people. In one study, pale colors were calming, while vivid colors notably improved performance.
Studies also point out that colors impact how consumers view a brand’s personality. Think about how those little blue Tiffany & Co boxes (and logo and website) embody elegance and charm. And, who would buy a Harley Davidson if they didn’t get a rebellious and rugged feeling?
Our brains prefer recognizable brands. So color is crucial when creating a brand identity. Colors can match a brand’s desired personality. For instance, think of Apple’s use of white and black on their website to express their love of clean, simple design.
Consider how colors on your website and design materials can influence your viewers. How can your color choices grab attention and spark different emotions?
Types of colors
Warm colors: Red, yellow, and orange (and their variations) make up the warm colors. Each of these colors incite their own emotions and meanings. But, in general, they are energizing, passionate, happy, and positive. For example, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and many other food and beverage brands use bright, warm colors. It stirs excitement and happiness in viewers.
Cool colors: Blue, green, purple, and all their variations are cool colors. They tend to be more relaxing, professional, and calming than warm colors. They can work great with medical, financial, and yoga and wellness sites.
Neutrals: White, black, grey, brown, and beige make up the neutral colors. They are vital to graphic design since they often function as backdrops. Neutrals also produce flattering effects alongside brighter colors. But they can speak volumes on their own. And each carries complex meanings and feelings.
Keep in mind: Colors can have both positive and negative associations. Think about how green can convey health and growth, but also jealousy and greed.
Colors can also mean different things based on personal experiences and culture. For example, in China, red is the color of prosperity and luck. But in South Africa, red is the color of mourning.
When designing your branding materials, think about the personality that you want your brand to portray. Colors can align with specific traits. Focus on the feeling, mood, and image that the colors you use can create. And consider how the emotions you stir up can persuade your audience.