The psychological effects of colour in design

Have you ever considered the psychological effects of colour?

Yes, that’s correct. Colours can have a psychological and emotional impact on us. Some colours, for example, can increase our hunger. It’s no accident, then, that some of the biggest fast food chains (we’re looking at you golden arches) use these colours in their branding. Not considering the psychological effects of colour when it comes to your design and branding is a big mistake. It’s also one that many businesses make unwittingly.

When it comes to choosing the colours associated with our brand, we tend to make choices based on our own preferences. However, when we do this, we lose the opportunity to take advantage of the emotional and psychological effects that colours have on our customers. If you’ve never heard of colour psychology, you can understand more about it in this informative article by Very Well Mind.

As designers, we’re well aware of the psychological effects of colour and take this into account when creating anything for our clients. We consider your target market, the ethos of your brand as well as the product or service you are offering in the marketplace. In doing so, we can harness the powerful psychological effects that colours have on us and use them to your advantage. Let’s take a look at some colours and their psychological and emotional effects to help guide you with your branding decisions.

What does the colour Red say about my brand?

If you guessed red as a colour that can increase hunger, you were correct. Other psychological effects of the colour red include evoking a sense of urgency, danger—or on the flipside—romance. It’s considered a power colour, hence why it became the colour of choice for women’s power suits in the 80s. It’s probably one of the more stirring colours in the spectrum so it only fits with particular brand strategies. If you’re looking to communicate power, energy, strength or passion, red is an excellent choice.

Psychological effects of colour – Red

What does the colour Yellow say about my brand?

In just the right amounts, yellow is a cheery colour with psychological effectsthat include eliciting warmth, happiness and optimism. Since it has been shown to increase metabolism, you can begin to understand why it is also a common colour used in fast food brands. It’s also one of the more eye-catching colours on the spectrum and is considered to be stimulating. If you want your brand to convey cheerfulness, creativity, optimism, outgoingness and intelligence, use the psychology of this colourto your advantage. But be careful, if used too much it is also associated with anxiety, fear and caution.

Psychological effects of colour – Yellow

What does the colour Orange say about my brand?

Also a warm colour associated with enthusiasm, orange is a fun colour that is comforting while being correlated with value. If you think about the things that are orange in nature, there are sunrises and sunsets and foods like oranges and pumpkins. As a colour that catches the attention, it’s a good one to use to hook people in. The psychological effects of the colour orange are associated with confidence, vitality, audacity, approachability, innovation and warmth. So, use it if you wish to convey these feelings with your brand.

Psychological effects of colour – Orange

What does the colour Blue say about my brand?

The psychological effects of the colour blue include inducing a sense of calm and serenity. It is, however, also a very cold colour and associated with sadness. The prevalence of blue in our everyday lives (think the sky, ocean, lakes and other bodies of water) makes it a very non-threatening colour. So, the psychological effects of the colour blue also include communicating a sense of reliability and stability. Use blue to establish trust and convey a sense of dependability, loyalty and serenity.

Psychological effects of colour – Blue

What does the colour Green say about my brand?

Like blue, we have green all around us. Since it’s the colour of nature, the most prevalent psychological effect of the colour green is conveying a sense of calm and safety. Trees and plants are life-givers since their conversion of carbon dioxide into oxygen is what keeps us alive. That said, green is also associated with envy and illness. It’s the perfect colour for eco brands and other brands hoping to convey confidence, wellbeing, affluence, evolution and nature.

Psychological effects of colour – Green

What does the colour Purple say about my brand?

Purple is, of course, the result of mixing blue and red together. This gives it a curious blend of both warm and cool, yet neither at the same time. It is a colour associated with royalty and often used in bravery medals. It exudes a sense of luxury, wealth and elegance. The psychological effects of the colour purple include communicating creativity, spirituality and contemplation. Use it with a brand that wishes to speak of imagination, sophistication, wisdom, affluence, and luxury.

Psychological effects of colour – Purple

What does the colour Black say about my brand?

Black can be used as both a colour and to create a sense of contrast. The psychological effects of the colour black include eliciting a sense of power, authority and foreboding. When used in combination with white, it exudes elegance, taste and gravity. Black is a colour that is associated with timeless style but it’s also the colour that most communicates evil. Choose black in your branding (though usually sparingly to avoid heaviness) to align your company with a sense of authority, power, sophistication and substance.

Psychological effects of colour – Black

What does the colour White say about my brand?

The perfect complement to black, white represents the absence of colour. The psychological effects of the colour white include evoking a sense of purity and innocence as well as sterility and cleanliness. There is a sleekness to white and as the most minimal of colours, it assists in the heightening of a sense of space. It can communicate new beginnings, freshness and chic but also emptiness, indifference and remoteness. Use white in your brand to add newness, elegance, simplicity, innocence, minimalism and order.

Psychological effects of colour – White

What does the colour Brown say about my brand?

As the colour of the earth, brown is a robust, dependable colour. It is a practical colour that can convey the same severity as black but with a softer tone. Materials like leather and wood conjure a sense of authenticity and honesty. If, used wisely, brown can bring sophistication. The psychological effects of the colourbrown include warmth, earthiness, dependability, genuineness and support—and it should be used in brands that wish to convey these sentiments.

Psychological effects of colour – Brown

What does the colour Turquoise say about my brand?

This is the colour of transformation since it holds both the organic straightforwardness of green and the pensive safety of blue. It’s a great way to convey cleanliness without sterility and, since it suggests both self-expression and imagination, it’s a colour commonly found in the tech sector. Harness the colour psychology of turquoise if your brand is associated with communication, inspiration or healing.

Psychological effects of colour – Turquoise

What does the colour Magenta say about my brand?

With a softness that sets it firmly apart from red, magenta elicits empathy, compassion and kindness. It’s another colour of transformation and is a wonderful colour choice for those brands who are either creative or bucking industry conformity. While definitely softer than red, it is still a bold and vibrant colour so it can convey both innovation and extravagance in equal measure. The psychological effects of the colour magenta include eliciting passion, imagination, creativity, revolution and originality.

Psychological effects of colour – Pink

What does the colour Grey say about my brand?

A colour that can fade into the background, grey is also a modern colour that is associated with sophistication and power. It can be a balancing tone that can have a significant effect on the colour used in combination with it. Don’t underestimate the power of its subtlety. Psychologically speaking, the effects of the colour grey include communicating detachment, equilibrium, might, endurability and intellect. That said, it can also be a depressing colour associated with bad weather and the cold winter months so use it wisely.

Psychological effects of colour – Grey

Having read this, we hope that you choose your branding colours with careful consideration and avoid opting for colours simply that you like or are drawn to. As you can see, there’s quite an art to it! If you’d like to know more, watch our helpful video on how to influence your customers simply by harnessing the psychological effects of colours.

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CSQD (est. 2005) is a Gold Coast graphic design studio staffed with people who live and breathe outstanding design. We bring our hearts as well as our heads to your project, we want to surprise and delight you with artful creations that clearly transmit your branding message. Don’t mistake our modest size for modesty. We’re happy to tell anyone that we punch well above our weight when it comes to our talent, energy and technology.