The psychology behind colors, part one

July 7, 2009

One of the most important elements to any graphic project is color. Especially when it comes to logos, color is a widely used stimulant to evoke a feeling, memory, state of mind or mood.

Knowing how colors affect people will help you in directing your client’s target audience to be more favorable to your client and their business. Here is the break down of five of our basic colors and their affects on people’s feelings, how it makes people perceive others and associations that have been made with these colors in the past and present. Black Black is the absence of all color. Because of this, you would think that it’s only association would be emptiness, darkness and death. Not entirely true. Although these associations have been and are still currently relevant, black also gives off many other different feelings when used correctly. How it makes people feel:

  • Thinner
  • Stylish
  • Inconspicuous
  • Mysterious
  • Submissive (Priests wear black to signify submission to God)
  • Black implies weight — people will think a black box weighs more than a white one.
  • Sophisticated — (tuxedos, limousines and judge's robes are all typically black)
  • Intelligent — (graduation robes)
  • Rebellious — (some villains wear black)

How black is viewed by others:

  • Empowered
  • Not easily manipulated
  • Elegant
  • Appreciates classics

Associations with the color black:

  • Authority
  • Power
  • Timeless
  • New
  • Absence
  • Formality
  • Wealth
  • Death
  • Fear
  • Seriousness

White White is a color that is normally associated with being fresh, clean and airy. According to Pantone Inc., it is the best-selling color for the American T-shirt. It continues to be the preferred backdrop on websites, and brides often wear white to show purity and virginity dating back to Ancient Greece. In Eastern Culture as well as some African Cultures, however, it is associated with death and mourning. Remember to know who your client is and how their target audience associates colors with events and memories. How it makes people feel:

  • Aids mental clarity
  • Encourages the clearing of clutter or obstacles
  • Evokes purification of thoughts or actions
  • Enables fresh beginnings

How white is viewed by others:

  • Innocent and Pure (brides)
  • Sterile (doctors and nurses)
  • Fastidious

Associations with the color white:

  • Light
  • Neutral (surrender flag)
  • Reverence
  • Truth
  • Peace
  • Simplicity
  • Humility
  • Death (in Eastern cultures)
  • Life
  • Bland

Gray Gray is a color associated with stability and strength. A well-known favorite suit color, gray can mix well with any color. Most people don’t say gray is their favorite color due to its connection with gloomy days, depression and pollution. How it makes people feel:

  • Unsettled
  • Expectant

How gray is viewed by others: Represents non-involvement

  • Intelligent (the brain is composed of “gray matter”)
  • Pessimistic
  • Loves futuristic looks
  • Cool (silver cars)
  • Neutral (Between white [good] and black [evil])
  • Blasé

Associations with the color gray:

  • Elegance
  • Humility
  • Respect
  • Subtlety
  • Wisdom
  • Old age
  • Boredom
  • Dullness
  • Pollution
  • Urban sprawl
  • Formality

Red Red is an emotionally charged color. Recognized as a stimulant, red is exciting, and the amount of red is directly related to the level of energy perceived. Red draws attention and is often used as an accent color to focus attention on something important. In art, red makes the medium it’s used on appear larger and is also the first color you loose sight of at twilight. How it makes people feel:

  • Increases enthusiasm
  • Stimulates energy
  • Encourages action and confidence
  • Gives sense of protection from fears and anxiety
  • Stimulates a faster heartbeat and breathing
  • Makes people hungry

How red is viewed by others:

  • Noticeable
  • Wearing it makes people appear heavier
  • Focuses attention
  • Sexy
  • High energy
  • Dynamic
  • Passionate

Associations with the color red:

  • Love
  • Prosperity
  • Strength
  • Fire
  • Romance
  • Excitement
  • Speed
  • Ambition
  • Leadership
  • Power
  • Danger
  • Blood
  • War
  • Anger
  • Revolution
  • Communism
  • Aggression

Blue Blue is the color of the sky and the oceans. It has been proven to cause the body to produce calming chemicals, so it is often used in bedrooms. Blue can also be cold and depressing. Fashion consultants recommend wearing blue to job interviews because it symbolizes loyalty. People are more productive in blue rooms. Studies show weightlifters are able to handle heavier weights in blue gyms. During the past decade, scientists have reported the successful use of blue light in the treatment of a wide variety of psychological problems, including addictions, eating disorders, impotence and depression. Blue is the favored color choice for toothbrushes and mosquitoes are attracted to the color blue twice as much as to any other color. Blue is one of the least appetizing. Food researchers say that when humans searched for food, they learned to avoid toxic or spoiled objects, which were often blue, black or purple. When food dyed blue is served to study subjects, they lose their appetite. How it makes people feel:

  • Calming and sedate
  • Cooling
  • Aids intuition
  • Peaceful
  • Tranquil
  • Depressed (depending on the shade)
  • Productive

How blue is viewed by others:

  • Loyal (blue suits recommended for interviews)
  • Trustworthy
  • Dependable
  • Committed
  • Credible
  • Confident
  • Non-threatening
  • Stable
  • Secure (police uniforms)

Associations with the color blue:

  • Constant
  • Spiritual
  • Men
  • Skies
  • Peace
  • Conservatism
  • Water
  • Technology
  • Winter
  • Air
  • Wisdom
  • Royalty
  • Nobility

Check back tomorrow to read five more on the list of colors and their psychological influence.

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