Are you choosing the right colors?
What do you know about colors? I am sure you probably have a particular favorite that you plaster around the house. If someone were to ask you to describe why that particular color is your favorite, could you tell them? Sure, you like it but is it the right color for your branding?
Colors have hidden psychological meaning and when used in combination, they can actually evoke specific emotions or cravings. For example, McDonalds did not just pick their world famous yellow and red combination out of a hat. So then why did they choose these colors? Well, each color has their own purpose separately (such as red being the most striking color) but when used together, these two colors can actually stimulate hunger. Many restaurants actually use at least yellow or red (both in combination or one with another color) in their branding. Millions of dollars went in to researching how people react to certain colors.
Different cultures can change the perspective on particular colors but some do reach us on a subconscious or near primal level. Let`s take a look at the basics and help you get a feel for what colors you should be using.
WARM COLORS: As mentioned, warn colors normally include shades or tints of red, orange and yellow. We are reminded of flame and warmth. These colors are normally associated with happiness, passion, energy, impulsiveness, coziness and comfort. These colors draw instant attention and leave a strong impression while being inviting and harmonious.
COOL COLORS: For simplicity sake let`s define cool colors as green, blue and purple (or violet). These are more commonly the colors of nature which can be associated with calm, trust and professionalism. These colors are nicer to look at for longer periods of time while warm colors are great attention grabbers. Most software program will utilize these colors over warm colors for this reason. However, they can bring on feelings of sadness and melancholy and radiate a feeling of cold. The transition point between warn and cool colors is between purple-red and green-yellow. An interesting point is that primary colors are the most commonly used colors in branding and logos by far (red, yellow and blue).
RED: Is the most emotionally powerful color. It is also the quickest to draw attention because of its relation both strong negative and positive traits. It is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination, action, confidence, courage, vitality, passion, hatred, anger, desire and love. Psychologically this color can enhance your metabolism, increase respiration and raise your blood pressure. Pretty cool, right?
ORANGE: combines the energy of red with the happiness of yellow. It`s not as striking as red and commonly reminds the view of healthy foods (citrus, pumpkins etc.). Orange is associated with the tropics, joy, sunshine, enthusiasm, fascination, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, stimulation and strength. Orange is quickly becoming a favorite amongst tech companies that are tired of saturating the marketing with only blue.
YELLOW: is the color of the sun. Bright yellow can attract all sorts of attention but can start to irritate if stared at too long (just like the sun I guess). Yellow is associated with joy, happiness, wisdom, riches, and intellectual energy. It stimulates mental activity and produces a strong muscle memory. Again like the sun, yellow produces a warming effect, it can instantly lighten your mood and evoke pleasant feelings. Although, shades of yellow can become dingy or produce a sickening or unpleasant effect. A nice golden yellow can suggest luxury or wealth.
BLUE: is connected with colors of the sky and the sea. Interestingly enough, it has the opposite effect of red and slows down your metabolism, breathing, and heart rate. The color is associated with trust, loyalty, wisdom, intelligence, expertise, confidence, stability and depth. It can actually suppress an appetite (so you can guess not a lot of food companies use blue) and has been considered beneficial to both body and mind. Is is no accident that blue is the most commonly used color in the service industry.
GREEN: reminds of us of health and nature. It symbolizes growth, hope, freshness, and fertility. In many countries, especially those with green currencies, it can symbolize wealth. Be wary of using darker shades of green with food products or the viewer may relate your product to mold or sickness (especially in combination with other dark colors). Green is associated with healing, stability, endurance, harmony, safety, life and well being. It can sometimes signify a lack of experience and is often used to indicate the safety of drugs and medical products in advertising. There are quite a few food chains using it to portray a fresh or healthy product for a better lifestyle, such as Subway.
PURPLE: combines the stability of blue and the energy of red. It conveys wealth and extravagance and is seen as the color of royalty. It symbolizes power, nobility, luxury, and ambition. Purple is associated with wisdom, dignity, independence, creativity, mystery and magic. Light purple (or pink) is seen as feminine and purple is a popular color with children. Purple occurs less frequently in nature and some may consider it artifical or poisonous. In Catholic cultures it is representative of death in some Islamic nations it is associated with prostitution. In the recent release of the iOS-8 and Windows 8 operating system, the user-interface uses bright pinks and purple much more than in the past. Many users enjoy it as it gives off a sort of techno-futuristic type of feel.
WHITE: is associated with light, purity, innocence, virginity and cleanliness. It usually has positive connotations and is seen as clean and safe. In China and other parts of Asia, people normally wear white during funerals. Doctors and scientists wear white for the purpose of transparency and sanitation. However, white can also leave viewers feeling empty or cold if too much is used (kind of like looking at a massive open area filled with only snow). That being said it is a much better choice for a background with content than using a darker color such as black.
BLACK: is associated with power, elegance, formality, death, evil and mystery. It denotes strength and authority, and can bring forth feelings of fear and the unknown. It is a thinning color and can actually make a product or person wearing black, appear slimmer than without. Using black as a background with white text is much most visually stimulating that using black text on a white background. However, it is very strainful on the eyes and should not be used when a viewer will take more than about 30 seconds reading that content. Some websites with black backgrounds and bright text have been known to cause headaches and blurred vision.
GRAY: is the color of sorrow, detachment, gloom and isolation. It connotes responsibility and conservative practicality. It`s a neutral color and can create a warm, non-invasive feeling. It is associated with security, maturity and dependability. It can be used to reduce or balance the intense energy of another color and to emphasize a willingness to comply. Some people who prefer gray may be seen as the lone wolf type or narrow-minded. Using shades of grey on various text or content areas can create separation and improve the comfort of viewing.
BROWN: is the color of the Earth and it tends to blend well into backgrounds. It`s associated with material things, order, and convention. It`s connection to the earth gives it stability. Brown can convey a solid and wholesome feeling. It produces a warm feeling with calm as opposed to red or orange. It is probably one of the least used colors in branding unless you are opening a coffee shop or bakery.
If you are not sure which color(s) to use in your branding, just think of the visual image you want to convey and use the corresponding colors. Think about the psychological impact it will have upon the viewer and not just your own personal preferences. Sure, you have to enjoy looking at your own branding (which would probably be everyday) but most importantly, your target market has to enjoy it and properly connect it your product or service.
If you were to open a new business, which colors would you use in your branding? And why?