A breath-taking fact, color is the most important element to your branding. If you are setting out in design, stop, pause and just consider; what is the right color for your business? What color mood are you wanting to present? Once you know your initial color, then you can head on over to a color theory chart for the complimentary colors for your brand. The Meaning Of Colors vary from person to person and culture to culture, so this guide looks at the psychology for those living in the Western world.
When choosing your color for design, please don’t fall into the obvious trap. Most amateurs start thinking about their favourite color. Then it becomes their branding color. Finally it’s all over their website like measles. Think about it. Instinctively we know the color red is associated with danger and stop, the color green is associated with environment or good to go. Would a red design look great for a company offering Eco-friendly services?
Interestingly the above examples are instinctively taught from birth, what about the 100’s of other emotions and feelings that are subconsciously stored in your clients head? That’s why I’ve written this article. Let’s explore the meaning of color in design and branding.
From the outset in this article I’m going to spell color that way. I live in the Dorset UK and the local way to spell it is colour, both are correct but the word color is the only correct spelling in style sheets.
The expression WYSIWYG or “What You See Is What You Get”, is used for various apps and tools on the web. But when it comes to color, its actually, “What You See Is NOT What You Get”! This is due to the fact you see a banana and say hey the banana is yellow (or brown a few days later) But is the banana truly yellow?
Take the example below.
Color is in light. White light to be precise. When light is broken up, the wavelengths give us visual separation. When white light is separated we see colors. Each color has a particular wavelength and each wavelength bends at a different angle.
Colors are all around us, different hues, shades, tints and saturations. It’s an incredibly exciting science that you can never get to the bottom of. Below is my advice on where you can be creative with colors. Hopefully the comments words, logos and examples will provoke a reaction and help you build up your creative juices on your next project, design or even branding your start-up business. If you need any help, then I’m just an email away or fill out the contact form.
What would you consider to be the meaning of colors such as Burgundy, Maroon or Crimson All various forms of red. The red color is often associated with the need to grab someone’s attention, so its ideal in marketing and branding terms. Red is energetic, powerful and an assertive color. Often red is used as a warning. In design it is often used to shout or the need to excite and stimulate a person. Red also is stands out as it excites our emotions. Often it’s used as a great way to trigger passion and deep feelings.
The orange color is often associated with enthusiasm and excitement. It’s quite closely linked to the idea of attention grabbing like the color red is. Orange can come in dark terracotta and types of browns all the way to peach, amber, mango, pumpkin and pink-orange like salmon. Orange is full of energy but not as passionate as red. It’s stronger than yellow but softer than red. Orange is ideal for exciting emotions in a positive but not overbearing way.
Let’s get personal, my favourite color is Yellow. Yet it’s a very difficult design color because the bulk of paperwork and web screens have a white background. Thereby yellow struggles to stand out often disappearing on the screen or printed page. Few designers will use yellow unless it’s on a contrasting background. Some strong yellows like Gold are just about strong enough to stand alone. Yellow is stunningly optimistic. It’s full of energy and warmth. Yellow always brightens up a place. Take the yellow pencil, crayon or felt tip from your pack of pencils and notice how all the other colours are affected.
Green is one of the most common colours on earth. Variant greens include Emerald, Lime, Olive and Aqua. It was often said “blue and green, should never be seen. I’m not sure if this was limited to fashion or design in general. Design in the last 10 years is about challenging old views, so if anything nature tells us there is a beauty in green grass and blue skies. Green has an interesting and conflicting appeal. It’s often considered a peaceful, safe and a healthy color. Yet greed, envy and money are also associated with it. The color green is safe and positive yet it’s a fascinating contradiction.
For a designer, Blue is my default color. I actually don’t have any affection for blue. The only reason I use it, Blue is professional looking and the least controversial color. Generally it’s the most corporate color on the spectrum. Variant blues include Sky Blue, Navy Blue, Royal Blue and forms of Turquoise (Is it green or blue?) Blue is often given the idea of being cold. Cold taps are blue. We can’t ignore the sadness or having the blues is also associated with this trustworthy color. Maybe it’s a humble color? Blue is a dependable color that works well on white. It looks smart, loyal and builds trust in your customers.
Designers tend not to use purple in design. It’s a little unique. Purple tends to be associated with a very specific psychological meaning. Royal, Spiritual and Luxury are strong messages for a business to present. Variant of purples include violet, lavender, mauve and plum. Purple is a powerful color. Purple was used as a branding by Prince. That in itself is the perfect match of branding when you consider his work and qualities in his early years. Think of the purple wrapper on a Cadbury chocolate bar or Milk Tray and you get the idea of smooth luxury.
Pink is said to be the symbol of unconditional love. It’s often used as a feminine color. Pink is seen in Beautiful roses and is the naive and innocence of the childhood. If you are designing and want sincerity, playfulness or passion, pink works well. It’s often used to say everything is good with “Rose tinted glasses”. Pink could be used to excite and being kind and impulsive, so a design that requires these elements will really benefit from pink. The feminine Barbie and Cosmopolitan magazine naturally sell using the color pink.
Brown is probably one of the most natural colors. Because its neutral, it is often the complimentary color rather than the primary choice in design. Brown is associated with organic growth and is the common colour of the world around us. With coffee, chocolate, pastries and pies, it has plenty of calories to offer. Add to that nuts and beer and you can see why it’s a comforting color. It offers a warm experience for visitors. Surprisingly few designers use brown in branding. I can’t say why, possibly it’s viewed as a dirty color?
Various browns come from various mixtures of colors. The well known browns include Beige, Ivory and the ever decorative Magnolia. Brown can be so versatile. Browns range is incredible. It’s the only color that the shade can be slightly lighter than black yet another shade slightly darker than white.
Is Black a color? When it comes to understanding the meaning of colors like black, it starts to get complicated. You could debate that Black is not a color. On the other hand black absorbs light is the result of every color. Black holes …oh, oh, but that’s another story.
One thing that’s universal is black can cause depression and mood swings. Black is a mysterious, color, often related to evil and negative emotions. It’s an extreme and can be intimidating as it absorbs color. Black has no variation; it’s an absence of color, its cold and business like. Black is in effect absorption of light.
It works really well in businesses that want to stand strong and proud. Black is a color for morning in as is seen in a funeral parlour. Most businesses need to produce a black and white version of their logo. This is to prepare for the logo being seen on an extreme background.
The meaning of colors like white is never ending. The #FFFFFF is a designer’s default background color. White does white mean to you? Goodness and cleanness are instinctively implied. White is every color in one. White and light are interchangeable. The science of light and white is mind blowing. The fact the rainbow of colours discussed in this series of articles in itself is down to the fact Isaac Newton enjoyed experimenting with light. He was the first to really understand color was a result of light. He noticed the result of a prism refracting the white light produces color.
From a designers point of view white relies on other colors. Normally White is the background and compliments and color. For the benefit of this article, light grey is used to stand out of the white page. Actually, did you realise this page isn’t white. Check it now. I use a free Chrome extension called ColorPick Eyedropper. The extension is from Vidsbee. Using the eyedropper you will notice my background page is actually #FCFCFC in hex numbers.
White Space: Apple and Google have used white in various “off-white” terms. It’s seen a lot of technology companies use white and very light greys to provide simplicity and clean lines and space. You may have heard White space when it comes to design. The space doesn’t have to be white, but often it’s the case by default.
There are many other colors we could of looked at, in fact where do you draw the line. We decided on the most popular 8 colors and their meanings along with black and white. We could of looked at other noteworthy candidates like gold, silver, gray, magenta, turquoise and indigo, but in many ways these are closely linked in meaning to their nearest parent color.
Remember “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. This proverb makes it clear that one person may find something appealing or beautiful but another person may have a very different view. This is also the same with colors. One of the reason all colors have a positive and negative quality. So don’t be put off if someone says I find your “Yellow design suggests impatience and overly analytical, when another may suggest it bright and enthusiastic” In both cases the key is making sure at least one of those meaning relates to your business. Additionally in some cultures, colors have an incredibly different meaning. Green as an example means Death in South America. In contrast, green means birth in Eastern areas.
The meaning behind colors vary from person to person and culture to culture. The psychology behind color choice is complex in design and branding. But if you have a good understanding of how color can impact your visitors, you will definitely put some thought into your choice. Feel free to let us know what color you chose for your branding or design in the comments below.