What is colour psychology?
Colour psychology is the study of colour’s impact on human behaviour. It aims to understand why and how different hues affect our feelings, behaviour, and decision-making processes. It’s used in many fields, from branding and marketing to interior design, art, and more, to use colour optimally to reach a certain goal.
For example, how would you feel going to sleep in a bedroom filled with pale, neutral colours? Would a room paint with purple walls make you feel more or less relaxed? In the world of button design, are you more inclined to click on a green or red button? Did colour play a part in the last item of clothing you purchased?
The likelihoods are that you have a strong gut feeling for most, if not all, of the questions above. Answers may indeed differ from person to person, depending on factors like culture, upbringing, location, age, and more. However, some colour meanings are more universal. For example, we naturally relate warm colours like red, orange, and yellow to warmth and sunshine, whereas cool colours like blue, green, and purple tend to be calming and refreshing.
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Colour meanings From Zawafi
While each colour can be used in a never-ending range of shades, tints, and tones, the psychology of colour offers general guidelines that can help with your palette choices. Here’s a list of colours and their meanings:
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Blue colour psychology
Ranging from teal to navy to indigo and more, the colour blue tends to be perceived in different ways depending on the shade. It’s now often used in corporate logos, making its business connection and especially to the tech industry somewhat inherent in certain areas of the globe. Social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter come to mind, as do other high-tech companies like IBM and HP.
The reason it’s become so popular amongst corporations could be to do with the fact that blue is generally seen as reflecting loyalty and stability. It’s also often connected to feelings of tranquillity, harmony, and calmness, reminding us of the sea and sky. In fact, as part of their World’s Favorite Color survey, paper manufacturer G.F Smith found dark blue to be the most relaxing colour in the world.
However, blue also has another side to it; it’s often connected to feelings of depression, hence the term “feeling blue.” Throughout art history, it’s been used by various artists, most notably Picasso, to express a sombre and negative mood in their works.
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Green colour psychology
The colour green is widely associated with nature. In colour psychology, it’s also often used to symbolize ecology and sustainability, making it a popular choice among brands that want to position themselves as environmentally friendly. It can also relate to growth and freshness.
For example, Spotify’s use of a vibrant shade of green suggests that the company is full of life and vitality. American supermarket chain Whole Foods also use colour, opting for a darker shade that brings across a feeling of the outdoors, suggesting that their products are natural, organic, and healthy.
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Yellow colour psychology
Yellow is a great colour for capturing attention. Our eyes naturally process it first, making it a smart choice for warning signs, reflective vests, ambulances, and more. It’s used for the same purposes in nature. For example, a wasp alerts us of its sting through its yellow and black exterior, as does the yellow-banded poison dart frog.
However, as well as symbolizing caution, yellow is also very much associated with optimism, sunshine, and warmth. These positive connotations of yellow are prevalent around the globe and among many different cultures. This fairly universal perception of yellow could explain the use of yellow for emojis. It’s also used in branding to suggest a fun, happy vibe, for example in Burger King’s logo or McDonald’s’ famous Golden Arches.
More recently, a certain shade of the colour has been popping up. It’s become such a trend that it’s even been coined “gen z yellow,” marking it as a fresh, contemporary colour. This specific hue can be found throughout popular culture, from fashion design to music videos, graphic design, and more, supposedly taking over from the equally popular millennial pink.
Orange colour psychology
What came first, orange the colour or the fruit? As a colour, orange ranges from dark, earthy tones like terracotta, to more pinkish hues like salmon and coral. Generally, the colour is perceived as cheerful, but certain hues also relate to caution, which is why it’s often used for traffic cones and police vests.
Named after the fruit (in response to the above-mentioned question), the colour orange naturally exudes a sense of freshness and vitality. Falling under the category of warm colours, it also emits a feeling of heat and summer, while its darker tones are often connected to autumn.
In marketing, orange is often used as a slightly softer alternative to red. It draws attention without being too obtrusive, which is why we can see many call-to-action examples that make use of colour.
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Red colour psychology
Red is generally seen as an extreme colour – in all its meanings. It holds strong connotations of love, desire, and seduction, while on the other hand also be associated with feelings of danger, anger, and violence. It also evokes a sense of energy and instantly grabs attention, thanks to its high visibility. This makes it an appropriate colour for warning signals like stop signs and fire engines.
Different cultures around the globe perceive red in diverse ways. For example, in China’s stock markets, the colour red is used to symbolize a price increase, whereas the extreme opposite (the stock going down in price) holds in many other countries. Why? Because red is a lucky colour in Chinese culture, also used for bride’s wedding dresses and to symbolize celebration and fertility.
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