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How to Use the Psychology of Colour to Spark Brand Success

How to Use the Psychology of Colour to Spark Brand Success

Colour is something we often take for granted.

After all, colour is everywhere, but when was the last time you took notice of a particular tone and its impact on you?

Yes, colours can and do have a definite effect on our emotions, thoughts, and behaviour, even though this is often on a subconscious level.

Just think of these common expressions where colour and emotion are linked: ‘blue Monday', ‘red-letter day', ‘tickled pink' or ‘green with envy.'

Psychology of colour is a fascinating field that, if studied and implemented astutely, can create the impact that you intend.

This is especially true in areas like branding, logo design, and web design.

Psychology of colour in web design is the topic of an intriguing infographic created by DesignAdvisor, showing that the colours you choose for your business can have a significant impact on its success with your clientele of choice.

Colours can either draw your customers in or drive them away.

So let's have a look at how you can spark your brand success with the psychology of colour.

Meanings Associated with Colours

Colour Meanings Theory

Although generalisations can often backfire, when it comes to the psychology of colour, there are specific, fairly universal meanings associated with various colours.

Here is an overview of the different psychology of colour:

· BLUE – True Blue, Trustworthy and Tranquil

Blue is the all-time favourite colour, worldwide and it's no wonder what with so much of our planet being blue – the sky and the sea. Many banks and businesses use blue in their branding to convey a sense of trust, stability, and reliability.

· GREEN – Go Green, Growth, Health, and Harmony

In nature, green is the second most plentiful colour after blue. It is often associated with growth and health and is also a calming and relaxing colour. Not only is green used for environmentally friendly brands, but it's also a popular choice for giving the perception of wealth.

· RED – Boldness, Energy, Urgency and Passion

Whether it's a clearance sale or a fast food outlet, red works well when you want movement and excitement. It's the ultimate colour of emotion and has even been proven to have physical effects such as increasing the pulse rate and encouraging appetites.

· YELLOW – Mellow Yellow, Sunshiny, Bright and Optimistic

Like the Sun and sunflowers, yellow is associated with being warm and cheerful. It is also a rich colour reminiscent of gold. Given its radiant properties, the colour yellow tends to stand out from surrounding text or background and can, therefore, be used in branding and design with powerful effect.

· ORANGE – Orange Juice, Confident, Enthusiastic and Ambitious

Orange is a toned-down version of red and is just as warm and exciting, but with somewhat less aggression. Its cheerfulness conveys confidence, and it is believed to stimulate the logic centre of the brain. Orange is a firm favourite with kids and is thought of as a creative and youthful colour.

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· PINK – Pretty, Calming, Charming and Cute

Pink is a positive colour that engenders warm, calming and comforting feelings. Like red, pink is also the colour of love, but a more delicate version. In colour psychology, pink represents hope, compassion and caring.

· PURPLE – Royal Purple, Powerful, Wealthy and Wise

Purple reeks of royalty, with a tinge of mysticism, grandeur, and wisdom. It is often used in the beauty industry, especially for anti-ageing products. Purple stimulates problem-solving and creative centres of the brain.

· BLACK – Black Beauty, Elegance and Authority

Black is often used for luxury brands and products. It is professional and timeless, especially when combined with white, silver or grey. Black is symbolic of strength, power, and authority and has a beauty on its own when used in moderation.

· GREY/SILVER – Silver Lining, Sophisticated and Stylish

Grey (and its shiny version – silver) is a useful neutral colour that can do wonders when matched with other shades such as black or red. Silver speaks of sleek perfection while grey brings balance, solidarity, and practicality.

· WHITE – Snow White, Clean, Pure and Perfect

White is associated with cleanliness and purity. It also conveys a sense of safety and can encourage creativity as white space gives the open feeling of a clean page or a fresh start. White combines well with any other colour and as such is extremely useful and versatile.

Some Cultural Cautions

Colours By Culture

Having noted all of the above, it's important not to oversimplify the psychology of colour, as there are numerous so-called ‘layers' to unwrap – one of which is the aspect of culture.

If your brand or business is geared towards a specific culture or part of the world, it's worth delving a bit deeper into local customs and beliefs before you make your final colour choice.

So here are some variations in associations different cultures have with the colours mentioned above:

· BLUE: In many cultures, blue symbolises spirituality or immortality because it is the colour of the sky or the heavens. For some cultures in the middle east, on the other hand, blue signifies protection from evil.

· GREEN: In Islamic countries, green is considered to be a holy or sacred colour. Green is also a lucky colour, associated with four-leafed clovers, St. Patrick and Ireland – the Emerald Isle.

· RED: Red can be a symbol of revolution, bloodshed and political movements. It can also represent good fortune, and in some eastern cultures, brides wear red on their wedding day.

· YELLOW: Although yellow may be a happy colour for many, it is the colour of mourning in some African and Latin American cultures.

· ORANGE: In India orange (or saffron) is a sacred colour and in Japan orange is the colour of love.

· PINK: In some cultures pink is considered a feminine colour, so if your target market is mainly men, you may want to check out the prevailing sentiment about pink.

· PURPLE: Purple is the colour of mourning in Thailand and certain South American cultures.

· BLACK: In Egypt black is associated with rebirth while in other cultures it is the colour of mourning. It can also be a symbol of bad luck, magic or superstition.

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· GREY: In some cultures, grey is considered dull and depressing, like the sky on a rainy day.

· WHITE: White is often a symbol of peace, such as the white truce flag, but in China white is the colour of mourning.

Psychology of Colour Theory Considerations

Design Principle Color

By now you may have zoned in on a primary colour choice for your brand – but maybe you still need to decide on some accents.

Which colours will you bring in alongside your main colour?

This is where some psychology of colour theory considerations can be very helpful.

· The Colour Wheel: The traditional way of arranging colours is in a circle or wheel divided into 12 segments as follows:

Primary colours: Red, Yellow, and Blue

Secondary colours: Green, Orange, and Purple

Tertiary Colours: Yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green, and yellow-green.

Creating Colour Harmony: This is where the fun part comes in as you try out different combinations that will look good together and give the right feel to your brand. Here are some options:

Monochromatic: If you want a subtle and more conservative look, try this scheme where you use shades, tones, and tints of the same colour – for example, a range of greens from light to dark.

Analogous: This is where you choose a combination of colours that are adjacent on the colour wheel – for example yellow-green, yellow and yellow-orange.

Complementary: Complementary colours are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel – for example, red and green, yellow and purple, blue and orange. These create high contrast and bring a lot of energy and intensity to your theme.

Split Complementary: This is where you use any colour on the wheel plus the two colours that flank its complement- for example, blue, yellow-orange, and red-orange. Although still contrasting, this is somewhat softer than the straight complementary combination.

Triadic: Here you take any three colours that are evenly spaced on the colour wheel – such as purple, green and orange.

Tetrad (or Double-Complementary): The idea here is to use two complementary pairs, and it can create some very eye-catching and colourful results. A good idea would be to make one colour dominant and use the others as accents or backgrounds.

Finally, Find What Fits Best

Colours By Industry Branding

There's nothing wrong with having a favourite colour, but when it comes to branding, you may have to put your personal preferences aside and focus on what colours will be most successful for your business.

Here are three questions to help you find the best fit:

1. What are the commonly occurring colours for my industry?

Does your industry have a particular colour association, such as green for environmentally friendly companies and blue for banks?

If so, you might want to stick with that and choose a specific shade or tint of the primary colour.

Alternatively, you could decide to be different and come up with something equally or more impressive.

2. What are the expectations of my target audience?

Who are you primarily catering for?

Is your target audience young and playful, or more mature and traditional?

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If you service big corporate companies, you may need a more conservative approach compared to a more personalised one you would take when working with small businesses.

3. What shades and tones will work best?

You probably have a pretty good idea of the colours you would like to use, but remember, there are scores of shades, tints, and tones.

Deciding on the colour blue, for example, is only the beginning – you then have to think carefully about whether you want a bright, vibrant blue, light pastel blue, or something in between.

As you keep these tips and pointers in mind, the time and patience you invest in finding the best colours and colour combinations will be sure to benefit your business in the long run.

So follow the psychology of colour rainbow and discover how you can spark your brand success.

Psychology Of Colours Infographic
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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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