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Using Color Psychology in the Design Process

Published November 23, 2016 by PLATFORM

Every brand we know, every website we create and every product we love contains a carefully chosen combination of colors. Colors have important meaning, different cultures even hold some of them sacr. The moment we see color, we are conditioned to process it, often times subconsciously. Nobody really knows whether we are socialized to perceive colors in a certain way or whether our DNA has this processing encoded, however our reactions are very predictable. As long as we can see the colors (do not have some form of colorblindness), we can perceive them very precisely including their many different shades.


Professional designers have long been interested in understanding how colors influence us. There is ample evidence that suggests that simple color change in a logo, web design or even wall paint can have a far reaching effect on people. 


Brand identity as a business tool

"Choice of color in your branding is an important visual element representing your company, it is on your business cards, website, letterhead. It is an important signal you send out to the world about who you are."

The color scale of your web design is very important for your business. If you are not careful in choosing the colors intentionally, you may end up deterring potential customers instead of attracting them. Designers should understand at least the most basic meaning of colors and also how to best combine them with other colors. Seasoned designers will also know the negative meanings some colors may have and will watch out for these hidden messages as well as the cultural meaning of some colors. If the designer does his job properly, you should end up with something that is memorable, color-optimized and also a product that signals the meaning of your brand.


Basics of color psychology


There are eight main colors, of course in combination or with a variation in gradient, the number of colors grows exponentially. The main colors to consider are white and black, yellow, orange and red, purple blue and green. The meaning of each of these colors will be described below.


Red is the color of fire, food and power


Red is associated with energy strength, power, courage, leadership, determination as well as passion, desire, and love. Red is a very emotionally intense color, people have a strong reaction to it, it enhances human metabolism, increases respiration rate, and raises blood pressure.


Use of red color in a design for a food provider


Orange represents enthusiasm and creativity


Orange combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. It often represents enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and stimulation it is also associated with strength and endurance. Orange increases oxygen supply to the brain, produces an invigorating effect, and stimulates mental activity. It is highly accepted among young people. It is also associated with healthy food and stimulates appetite.


Use of orange in design targeting a millenial audience


Yellow is the color of sunshine and happiness


It's associated with joy, happiness, intellect, and energy also represents honor and loyalty. Yellow produces a warming effect, arouses cheerfulness, stimulates mental activity, and generates muscle energy. Yellow is often associated with food. Bright, pure yellow is an attention getter, yellow is seen before other colors when placed against black and this combination is often used for warning signs. However be careful, when overused, yellow may have a disturbing effect.


yellow


Green is the color of nature and safety


It symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness, hope and fertility. Green has a strong emotional correspondence with safety. Dark green is also commonly associated with money stability and endurance. Green has a great healing power, it is the most restful color for the human eye.


green


Blue symbolizes trust and calmness


Blue is the color of the sky and sea and it is often associated with depth and stability and symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, cleanliness, precision, intelligence, faith, truth, sincerity and heaven. Blue is considered beneficial to the mind and body. It slows human metabolism and produces a calming effect, it is strongly associated with tranquility and is linked to consciousness and intellect.


blue


Purple is associated with royalty


Purple combines the stability of blue and the energy of red. It symbolizes power, nobility, luxury, and ambition. It conveys wealth and extravagance. Purple is associated with wisdom, dignity, independence, creativity, mystery, and magic.


purple


White is considered to be the color of perfection


White is associated with light, goodness, innocence, faith, purity and virginity. White means safety, and cleanliness. White can represent a successful beginning. It can also be associated with coolness because it's the color of snow.


white


Black is the color of mystery and prestige


Black is associated with power, elegance, formality, tradition, death, mystery and the unknown. Black also denotes strength and authority; it is considered to be a very formal and elegant color.


black


Creating harmonious color combinations


It is also important to understand the principles of color theory, which guide us in choosing harmonious color combinations. According to color theory, harmonious color combinations use any two colors opposite each other on the color wheel, any three colors equally spaced around the color wheel forming a triangle, or any four colors forming a rectangle (which are actually two pairs of colors opposite each other). Color schemes remain harmonious regardless of the rotation angle.


color wheels


When do you really need the help of a professional designer?


Today, we are all conditioned to try to do our own work or to try to do things as inexpensively as we can. We believe that if we watch enough youtube videos we can learn to do anything. And to a certain extent, this is true.

“There are times when it is necessary to ask a professional to help us and web design and mobile app design may be one of those investments that are worth every penny.”

Professional designers understand the design principles that back timeless brands. They understand how to visually represent the character of your organization, they have the abilities to create winning designs. Color psychology and their design talents are a perfect example of how these professionals can often outdo our amateur attempts.


Perhaps now you can see that McDonald’s choice of yellow and red was not accidental. They created a brand that grabbed people’s attention, made them more hungry while feeling joyful and happy. Used the colors to enhances human metabolism and at the same time stimulated people to make quick decisions.


We hope you enjoyed learning more about the meaning of colors. If you happen to need help with web or app design, we are the design agency that is always here to help.

Anna McNab is a product strategist at PLATFORM and an associate professor at Niagara University

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