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Psychology of Color

Contributed by Logan Rhea

A Basic Understanding for Business and Marketing

The study of colors and how they affect us, individually and/or as a group, is something some people base their entire careers on. Even though it’s not as simple as one color stimulating a universal emotion or way of thinking in everyone — largely due to personal preference, gender, upbringing and context — there are still broader messaging patterns. Did you know that color is also culturally subjective? What is meant to be happy and uplifting in one country can be somber in another.  Something as simple as changing the hue just slightly can bring about a new feeling/reaction. 

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The importance of color in branding is enormous. Below are some specific examples of how much it dictates what people think about your brand. We also give a brief synopsis behind each color family and the industry in which it works best.

Color in Branding

The study “Impact of Color on Marketing” found that “people make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products. About 62‐90 percent of the assessment is based on colors alone.” (http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/00251740610673332)

Another study titled “The interactive effects of colors and products on perceptions of brand logo appropriateness” found that the relationship between a brand and color depends on the perceived appropriateness of the used color(s). Does the color fit with what is being sold? Does it line up with the overall message of the brand?

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Credit: The Logo Company

Warm Colors

Warm colors consist of red, orange and yellow and all of those in between those three.  These colors can be energizing, passionate and positive. Think of a sunset, fall leaves or a fire.  

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Cool Colors

Cool colors consist of green, blue and purple and are typically more subdued. These colors can be relaxing, calming, professional. 

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Basic Understanding of Colors and Their Associated Emotions

Red:  Attention grabbing/passionate. An emotionally intense color. Red gets people to make quick decisions. 

Industries that can benefit from red: Automotive and Food. 

Orange: Fun/Playful. Not as aggressive as red. 

Industries that can benefit from orange: Healthcare and Technology.

Yellow:  Warmth / Happiness / Energetic.  Think the color of the sun! Positive / Creative / Motivational. A great eye-catching color. 

Industries that can benefit from yellow: Energy and Household

Green: Safety / Growth / Health / Wealth / Serenity / Stability / Renewal. Darker greens, think money. Lighter Greens, think nature! Also has calming attributes w/ blue tones and energetic attributes with yellow tones.  

Industries that can benefit from green: Finance, Nature, Energy. 

Blue: Tranquil / Calm / Secure / Dependable / Trustworthy / Responsible. Widely affected by the shade/hue.  Light blues can be calming and relaxing while brighter/darker hues can be energizing / refreshing.  Dark blues make excellent corporate colors. 

One of the most popular choices for brands.

Purple: Royal / Sophisticated / Spiritual. Associated with creativity and imagination. Sometimes seen as mysterious. Lighter purples, like lavender, are considered more romantic / renewing (think spring).  

Industries that can benefit from purple: Finance / Creative / Technology. 

Black: Power / Elegance / Authoritative / Formality / Timeless / Prestigious.  Commonly used with edgier / modern designs as well as very elegant. Black can be almost anything depending on what colors it’s combined with. 

White:   Safety / Cleanliness / Success / Pure / Soft. Like black it can work well with almost any color. In design it’s often considered as a backdrop and lets other colors do the talking. Popular with minimalist designs. 

Industries that can benefit from white: Healthcare and Clothing.

Gray: A neutral color on the cool end of the spectrum. Can sometimes be considered moody. Light grays can be used in place of white and dark grays in place of black in some designs.  Conservative / Formal / Modern. Commonly used in corporate designs. Professional / Formal. Can be a very sophisticated color. Pure grays are shades of black, but can also be mixed with other colors around the spectrum. 

Brown: Earthy / Dependability / Grounded.  Think wood, stone, etc. Can also be considered as dull or bring a feeling of wholesomeness to designs. 

Tan/Beige:Is a unique color. Can take on both a warm and a cool tone depending on surrounding colors. Little effect by itself and on the final design because it can take on characteristics of other colors in the design. Sometimes seen as dull. Common in backdrops.

Cream/IvoryCalm / Elegant / Pure. Warmth of brown and coolness of white.  Can take on an earthy quality.  Can also be used to lighten darker colors without the stark contrast that comes from pure white.

Sources:

https://www.ferraricolor.com/color-guide-the-colors-associated-with-emotions-holidays/

https://www.helpscout.net/blog/psychology-of-color/

https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/01/color-theory-for-designers-part-1-the-meaning-of-color/