The trick you might be missing for successfully using colour in design
In the quest to distill the huge topic that is colour psychology in to a short, snappy, bite-size, explain-all solution; there have been quite a few ‘infographics’ put out there.
Under the umbrella term of colour psychology, various colours are depicted and their meanings explained using a mix of popular colour symbolism and the results of marketing surveys. But, very little of the information appears to be from an authentic study of colour psychology – the influence of colour on human emotion. Nor, does it account for how the difference between shades, tints or tones of the same colour might affect colour choice.
For example, we might have a resistance to a fiery pimento red, but a softer, more pinkish tone might be more pleasing.
When I ask an audience to think of their response the colour yellow, quite often it seems to provoke somewhat of a ‘marmite’ like it/don’t like it reaction, as many people usually have the primary yellow colour in mind! But the colours of soft butter, lemon yellow, ochre, daffodil, primrose and saffron – to name but a few, are also tones of yellow that may appeal more to our senses.
Each colour can evoke a negative or positive response in us. The positive qualities of yellow are that it can uplift our emotions, boosting our self -esteem and confidence. A negative response would be that the colour may make us feel anxious, nervous or even nauseous. This negative or positive reaction to a colour is determined by our individual personality and the particular tone of the yellow used.
In one of my previous blogs “Why do we have colour?” I mention the research of Anya Hurlbert founding Director of the Institute of Neuroscience, who says – “there is an underlying universality to colour preference but, there is also individuality in choice, which underpins the understanding of those of us that work with the psychology of colour”.
There are so many more layers to the understanding of colour psychology and how to use it intelligently in design, than just a ‘one size fits all’ approach. That said, once understood, the principles are beautifully simple and have the ability to revolutionise the approach of any designer working with colour.
In general, individually we are more likely to be drawn towards groups of colours which share certain characteristics in their composition. For example, one person might respond more positively towards softer, bluish tones which seem more sophisticated and appealing to them than bright, clear tints which may seem ‘child-like’.
Another individual may be more drawn to warm, earthy shades and find strong, contrasting, clear colours overwhelming.
So, the most ‘colour savvy’ designer should be thinking creatively about the most appropriate version of yellow to use and what they want it to convey; is the bright, cheerful, friendly, optimistic yellow more appropriate than the dusty, quietly confident yet sophisticated soft yellow?
The secret to then making the whole design more cohesive, is to work with other colours in your palette that share the same characteristics. They will have a natural visual harmony which will appeal to us instinctively, whilst also promoting each individual colour’s positive ‘emotive’ qualities.
For more insights on the use of colour psychology for branding and product design, you might like to view my presentation on Slideshare – “Why your brand colours matter – and how colour is your sales tool”
You might also like to read any of these blogs!: Chocolate brand captures quality with colour, How does colour influence your customer’s purchasing decisions?, Blue is the colour, Packaging design for wholesome premium foods, Colour psychology for children’s brands, Luxury branding – the power of purple, Pink branding – it’s not just for girls!, Which colour turns you off?, Going for gold, Brit-branding – is red, white and blue good for you?, 3 quick tips for using colour in branding, Going green – McDonalds?, Red and the Virgin empire