Even though color psychology has been studied and analyzed for many years, there’s still much debate about the exact impact that color has on human psychology. But the question is: why are there so many misconceptions about the psychology of color and its meaning? One of the reasons is because when it comes to the psychology of color there are many variables in place. There’s a chance that different people perceive colors differently. How you perceive a certain color may have a lot to do with your personal preference, experiences in the past, cultural differences, gender differences, and so on.
1. What color psychology means and how it works?
2. What factors brands need to take into account when selecting colors?
3. Typical emotions that colors usually generate.
1.WHAT COLOR PSYCHOLOGY MEANS AND HOW IT WORKS?
Color psychology is the study of colors in relation to human behavior. It aims to determine how color affects our day to day decisions such as the items we buy. Does the color of a dress compel us into purchase? Do the colors of a package make us choose one brand over another? Does the color of an icon make us more likely to click on it?
The short answer is yes. But the why part is a bit more complicated. Color impacts our brain which in turn impacts our feelings and senses. The effects can be both physiological and emotional. Research shows that color and light can affect our mood, heart rate, sleep and even our well-being.
An interesting example can be seen in our everyday lives; blue and green light (e.g the sky and nature) stimulate us and wake us up in the morning which is why many doctors and scientists recommend not using our mobile devices before we go to sleep as the screen’s light wakes us up and can cause insomnia.
In 2015 a study found that the color blue reduces stress, slows down heart rate and lowers our blood pressure. Many countries use these techniques to their advantage, for example, the government of Tokyo has been known to use the color blue in their train stations to reduce suicide rates, resulting in 74% fewer suicides. However, this research is still inconclusive and gets challenged all the time by different scientists.
While the question of what color creates which effect continues to be a debate, one thing is clear to all scientists: Color does indeed affect our physiology, our brains and our emotions.
2. WHAT FACTORS BRANDS NEED TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT WHEN SELECTING COLORS?
Unsurprisingly color means one thing in one culture and another in a different culture. As a quick example, in the Western world white is more commonly seen as a pure color worn at weddings and festive events, while in China it’s perceived as a mourning color.
Before choosing a color for your audience, be sure to understand their culture and what the different colors represent for each. A few other examples:
- In the Western and Japanese culture, red symbolizes anger while in Hindu anger is represented by black
- In Japanese and Hindu culture purple represents wisdom, while for Native Americans you would use brown and for Eastern Europe you’d use the color blue.
- Love takes on different colors in different cultures too: red for Western and Japanese, green for Hindu, Yellow for Native American and blue for African
The same exact colors with completely different emotions and meanings all over the world.
Research shows that color preference changes as people get older. The basic “popular” colors such as red and blue stay high on most people’s lists but preferences to other colors such as yellow, green and others tend to change a lot.
“With maturity comes a greater liking for hues of shorter wavelength (blue, green, purple) than for hues of longer wavelength (red, orange, and yellow)” Color Psychology and Color Therapy, 176
If your audience belongs to a very specific age group, you may want to consider the chart above. Specifically with a more elderly audience, the colors will also impact their ability to read your content and feel safe.
Compiling the results of many studies, the Kissmetrics blog came up with an excellent infographic on how men and women experience and react to color differently. Men and women have different color preferences
Another study showed that men prefer bright colors and shades, while women prefer soft colors and tints.
While these studies show that men prefer the color blue significantly over women and that women place orange as the least favorite color, unless you have just one gender as a target market, I wouldn’t rush to change my color pallets without doing a more profound research, including all the metrics I mentioned above.
3. TYPICAL EMOTIONS THAT COLORS USUALLY GENERATE
Marketing colors like red can capture attention. The red color meaning is associated with excitement, passion, danger, energy, and action. You might’ve noticed that some brands use red for ‘order now’ buttons or for their packaging as a way to stand out on the shelf. In color psychology, red is the most intense color. And thus, can provoke the strongest emotions. Red can also trigger danger so you want to use the color sparingly. If you add the color red to your website, save it for the call to action or sale icons if it’ll contrast well with your store design.
Red is the iconic color used for brands like Coca Cola and YouTube. The color red tends to encourage appetite hence why brands like Coca Cola use it often in their branding. They also use words like happiness in their branding so they use the color red to build excitement. YouTube likely uses the color red due to the excitement of watching videos online. Notice how the red part of their logo is the play button which can help compel someone into action. It encourages you to want to press play on their videos.
In color psychology, orange represents creativity, adventure, enthusiasm, success, and balance. The color orange adds a bit of fun to any picture, website, or marketing material it’s on. Despite it’s attracting color, it’s not as commanding as the color red. Many marketers still use the color for call to actions or areas of a website that they want to draw the eye too.
Orange’s color meaning shines through in logos like Nickelodeon and The Home Depot. Nickelodeon is a children’s channel and so the logo accurately represents the creativity and enthusiasm that a children’s show would need through their playful orange color. The Home Depot sells products that you can use for your home. Many Do it Yourselfers (DIY) head to Home Depot to buy products to renovate their home or make adjustments. The orange logo here also represents creativity.
In color psychology, the color meaning for yellow revolves around sunshine. It evokes feelings of happiness, positivity, optimism, and summer but also of deceit and warning. Some brands choose to use a cheerful yellow color as the background or border for their website design. You can also choose to use yellow for your ‘free shipping’ bar at the top of your website if it matches the rest of your website’s design. A little touch of yellow can help your website visitors associate your store with something positive.
The color yellow is used by brands such as Ferrari and Ikea. Many people dream of driving a Ferrari. The luxury brand is associated with this feeling of happiness, summer and a carefree lifestyle. The Ikea brand also uses the color yellowing in their branding. What does buying furniture have to do with happiness? Well, let’s look at who’s likely buying those products. Many people who’ve just bought their first home or are moving out for the first time, will head to Ikea to buy products to furnish their home. This milestone is usually filled with happiness and optimism for the new change making yellow a great color to associate with the brand.
In color psychology, green is highly connected to nature and money. Growth, fertility, health, and generosity are some of the positive color meanings for the color. The color meaning for green also carries some negative associations such as envy. If you’re in the health or fitness niche, you might choose to add more green to your online store. For example, your homepage banner image or logo might include a green background.
The use of green is made popular by brands such as John Deere and Roots. John Deere’s entire brand revolves around nature. Their product line centers around landscaping, agriculture, lawn care equipment and more. The color green is so ingrained into their branding that even their equipment is the same shade of green as their logo. That way, when someone sees that product, they’ll immediately know it’s a John Deere. Roots is a fashion retailer. However, when browsing their banner images and marketing materials, you’ll often find their models in natural outdoor settings. The green logo blends well with their nature imagery helps them attract outdoor enthusiasts as their target market. So even if your products don’t necessarily tie to a niche, you can use color to help you attract a specific demographic.
In color psychology, blue’s color meaning ties closely to the sea and the sky. Stability, harmony, peace, calm and trust are just some of the feelings your customer may feel about your brand when you integrate the color blue into your branding. Conversely, blue can also carry some negative color meanings such as depression and can bring about a sense of coldness. Blue can be used in your website’s logo or on your website’s top navigation. Some retailers add their guarantee, trust certification or free shipping icons in a blue color to strengthen the trust aspect the color is known for.
Tech brands like Facebook, Twitter and Skype often use blue in their marketing. But retailers like Walmart and Oral B also use the color. The blue in the Walmart logo can help position the brand as trustworthy, reliable, and relaxing. After all, Walmart is a place where you can buy groceries and do shopping all in one convenient location. Oral B is a dental health brand that sells toothbrushes. Healthcare niches, like Oral B, typically use blue in their branding to help people associate the brand with a quality, reliable and safe product.
In color psychology, purple is a royal color. The color meaning for purple is connected to power, nobility, luxury, wisdom, and spirituality. But avoid using the color too much as it can cause feelings of frustration. Some perceive its overuse as arrogant. You can add hints of purple to your website’s design such as on your free shipping bar, your logo, and as an accent color in your graphics.
Purple is a color brands like Hallmark and Yahoo use. When browsing both websites, you’ll notice that purple is an accent color. On Hallmark, the logo and the top navigation are purple but the rest of the website uses a variety of other colors. On Yahoo, the logo, top navigation words, and Yahoo icons like Mail use the color purple.
Pink is a popular color for brands that primarily serve a female audience. In color psychology, pink’s color meaning revolves around femininity, playfulness, immaturity and unconditional love. Some brands have chosen to use the color pink for the product packaging especially for girl’s toys. Whereas other brands highlight the pink color in their logo, website design, or to highlight key messages.
Since the color meaning for pink includes femininity, it’s no surprise that brands like Victoria’s Secret and Barbie use the color so heavily. Victoria’s Secret even named one of their brands Pink. On their website they use a combination of pink and black to highlight key marketing details. Their logo and certain marketing messages also uses the color pink. On Barbie’s website, CTA’s are in a bright pink color. Their top navigation and drop down menu also subtly use the color. And of course, their product packaging and logo reinforce the feminine pink color in their branding.
Black is a popular color in retail. In color psychology, black’s color meaning is symbolic of mystery, power, elegance, and sophistication. In contrast, the color meaning can also evoke emotions such as sadness and anger. Many fashion retailers have used black in their logos. Black is also a popular color for text as it’s an easy color to read. Some brands choose to use black and white photos for lifestyle banner images or icons to create a certain tone or consistency on their website.
Black is a color retailers such as Chanel and Nike use. Chanel uses black for their logo and has several black and white images on their website to maintain a consistent look. Once you start browsing their website, a thick black top navigation background appears. They use a black font on their graphics for images and for their text. Noticeably, their call to actions are also black. Many retailers in the fashion niche, especially, use black call to actions that contrast well against a white background. Nike also uses a black, white and grey color scheme for their website. Their logo and font is black throughout their website. Thus, making the website easy to read. Like Chanel, their call to actions are also black which draws visual emphasis to add to the item to your ‘bag’ (cart).
In color psychology, white showcases innocence, goodness, cleanliness, and humility. Keep in mind, that this is the meaning in North American culture. In some parts of the world, white has the opposite meaning. You’ll want to keep this in mind based on the target audience you serve. The color meaning for white also has a negative side where it symbolizes sterility and cold. On an ecommerce website, white tends to be the most used color. You’ll likely use it as the background color for your product photo. Your pages will likely have a white background with a black font. This is because, black font on a white background is the best color combination for readability.
White is the color ASOS and Adidas uses in their marketing. On ASOS, the words in the header, logo, and background are white. When the background is grey or black, the font is white and when the background is white the font is black. On Adidas’ online store, the top navigation is black. The use of a white logo helps create contrast. Since their background is white, they’ve chosen to use grey as a background for product photos to add another tone to the mix. Many brands who have white as a central color tend to pair it with black or grey.
Even though color psychology has been studied and analyzed for many years, there’s still much debate about the exact impact that color has on human psychology.
But the question is: why are there so many misconceptions about the psychology of color and its meaning?
One of the reasons is because when it comes to the psychology of color there are many variables in place. There’s a chance that different people perceive colors differently. How you perceive a certain color may have a lot to do with your personal preference, experiences in the past, cultural differences, gender differences, and so on.
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