Have you ever given any thought to how colour can help your brand? Are the colours in your logo just there because you like them or because everyone in your industry uses them. The colours you use in your brand and marketing can have a huge impact on how you are perceived.
The way colour is used can trigger feelings and emotions in us and subliminally communicate ideas and messages. Big business spends thousands on colour psychology, investigating how different colours and hues have the potential to make people feel a certain thing, or inspire a certain feeling.
The concept of colour theory goes back to the 15th century with Leone Battista Alberti c.1435 and then c.1490 in the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci.
The fundamental colour wheel was developed by Sir Isaac Newton who took the colour spectrum and created a circle. The order of the spectrum is always the same, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo (blue-violet), and violet.
The colour wheel is made up of three groups:
Primary – red, yellow, and blue. Primary colours can’t be made up out of any other colours in the spectrum and are the first colours we recognise as we grow up. The majority of nursery toys are made up in these colours, think lego, duplo etc.
Secondary – green, orange, and purple. Secondary colours are made up of a combination of two primary colours and are often used to complement the primary colours. Known as complimentary colours, those that are opposite each other on the colour wheel.
Tertiary – yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green, and yellow-green.
When designers and developers launch products and brands they understand that the colours they use can have a huge impact on how the product is seen and interpreted. It’s important to choose your colours wisely, not just because it’s your favourite or because everyone in the industry uses it. All colours have their own meanings and emotions that they stimulate in our subconscious and it is important to understand the positive and negative meanings that they stand for.
Red is a warm and positive color, a very physical color which draws attention to itself and calls for action to be taken. In color psychology red means energy, passion, action, strength and excitement.
Meanings: action, power, energy, speed, passion, desire, lust, strength, courage, attention-getting, motivating, stimulating, energising, driven and determined, exciting, warm, spontaneous, assertive and confident.
Orange is a warm, vibrant and flamboyant color. It is energetic, fun, the color of the risk-taker, the extrovert and the uninhibited. In color psychology it means adventure, optimism, self-confidence and sociability. Orange vitalises, inspires and creates enthusiasm. It is stimulating to the appetite and social conversation and therefore works well in restaurants and other food outlets.
Meanings: adventurous, risk-taking, vibrant, flamboyant, stimulating to the senses, affordable, warm, sociable, optimistic, enthusiastic, cheerful, self-confident, independent, extroverted and uninhibited, creative flair, warm-hearted, agreeable and informal.
Yellow is a warm and happy color which creates a sense of cheerfulness and playfulness. Psychologically, it is optimistic, uplifting and illuminating, brightening people’s spirits. Yellow stimulates the logical side of the brain and mental clarity. It promotes wisdom and academic proficiency and mental activity.
Meanings: cheerful, happy, playful, fun, optimistic, uplifting, illuminating, logical, mental clarity, aids decision-making, confidence, originality, creativity, challenging, academic and analytical, wisdom and logic, communication of new ideas.
Green is a color of growth and vitality, associated with new life and renewal. Psychologically it relates to balance and harmony of the mind, the body and the emotions. It assists in decision making by helping us to see all sides clearly. It balances people’s emotions, creating a sense of calm. Associated with nature, health and healing, and the environment, it encourages generosity, kindness and sympathy. Darker greens often relate to money, wealth and prestige, while lighter greens relate to growth and freshness.
Meanings: growth and vitality, renewal and restoration, self-reliance, reliability and dependability, emotionally balanced and calm, practical and down to earth, adaptable and flexible.
Turquoise represents clarity of thought and communication. It inspires self-expression, calms the emotions and recharges the spirit, inspiring positive thought. Turquoise is said to be a beneficial color for any business related to communication, including teaching, training, public speaking, media IT. A good color for health clinics and practitioners as it balances the emotions and calms the spirit. Often used for cleaning products is ideal as it reflects cleanliness and purity without being too sterile.
Meanings: clarity of thought, balance and harmony, calmness, creativity and inspiration, healing, purity.
Blue is the most used color of all. It relates to trust, honesty and dependability, indicates confidence, reliability and responsibility. It inspires wisdom and higher ideals but is also conservative and predictable. Physiologically, blue is calming, reducing tension and fear. It slows the pulse rate and reduces appetite. Being a cool color it creates a sensation of space. Blue works well for the corporate world and is often used for more conservative types of businesses such as accountants, insurance companies, banks and other financial companies where trust and reliability are important.
Meanings: loyalty, trust and integrity, tactful, caring and concerned, reliability and responsibility, peace and calm.
Purple suggests wealth, extravagance and luxury. It enhances spiritual pursuits and enlightenment. Physiologically, it heightens people’s sense of beauty and their reaction to more creative ideas. It is often used to denote a high quality or superior product, such as Chocolate or cosmetics.
Meanings: unusual and individual, creative and inventive, luxury, wealth and mystery.
Pink is associated with compassion, nurturing, love, and romance. It is feminine and youthful in its softer shades, with more passion and energy in its deeper shades. Pink is inspiring, warm and comforting, suggesting hope for the future. It is calming and non-threatening.
Meanings: romantic, love, warmth, hope, calming, sweetness, naiveté, feminine.
Gold is seen as the color of inner wisdom, quality and wealth. It is associated with prestige, luxury and material wealth, suggesting that a product or service is expensive and exclusive. Physiologically, it can induce great feelings of happiness and bliss or alternatively, deep anxiety and fear. It implies generosity of time, money and spirit. It is the color of victory, hence the use of gold medals for winners.
Meanings: wealth and prosperity, abundance, value, quality, luxury, expensive, opulence, victory, achievement, grandeur, importance, happiness, beauty, excellence, prestige, nobility, extravagance, attraction, wisdom.
Silver is a color associated with prestige and wealth. It is seen as a sophisticated color related to female energy, prosperity and modernity. Physiologically, silver is calming and soothing, with a lightness that is more uplifting than gray. Silver is a fluid color, ever changing, calming, purifying.
Meanings: modern, sleek, high-tech, scientific, glamorous, distinguished, elegant, conservative, prestige, calming and balancing, illusion, intuition, imagination, sophisticated, wealth and riches
Black means authority, power and control. In many situations it can be intimidating, unfriendly and unapproachable. Alternatively, it can be seen as sophisticated, dignified and serious. Physiologically, it is intimidating and controlling, although its power can instill confidence in some. Black creates an air of mystery and secrecy.
Meanings: authority, power, control, protection and comfort, strong, contained, formal, sophisticated, seductive, mysterious.
White is the color of new beginnings, the blank canvas waiting to be written upon. While white isn’t stimulating to the senses, it opens the way for the creation of anything the mind can conceive. Physiologically, white is calming as it creates simplicity, organization and efficiency out of chaos. It clears the way forward. White’s basic feature is equality, implying fairness and impartiality, neutrality and independence. It is a reassuring color which helps to create order and proficiency.
Meanings: innocence, purity, cleanliness, equality, complete and whole, simplicity, immaculate and neat.
When you design your brand or product, it is important to think about the colours you use, the context they will be used in and what they will be used for. It’s rare in this age to have single colour logos and packaging so you need to make sure that the colours you put together are the right ones. Yellow is a happy, cheerful colour, but put in the wrong combination with black for instance it can mean something totally different – danger, think of wasps and the emotion that stirs.
Use your colours wisely, use them as an extension of you and your aspirations. Don’t just use the colours the rest of the industry does just because you think you should. Get your point across, be memorable, stir emotion, send a message. Most importantly be you!