The Psychology of Color

Color is a powerful communication tool and can be used to signal action, influence mood, and even influence physiological reactions. Certain colors have been associated with increased blood pressure, increased metabolism, and eyestrain. So how exactly does color work? How is color believed to impact mood and behavior?  And in our world of marketing and branding, how can color influence your place in the larger marketplace?  

Marketing and advertising firms and professionals are well-known for utilizing color psychology whether intentional or not. More recently, companies have invested in this type of research. The proof that many others have followed through in implementing the concepts of color psychology in their advertising, branding and general marketing is showing producers and consumers that there is in fact a link to sensory reactions to the use of color in every single thing we see and touch.  

Since every part of our perceivable surroundings is saturated with color, you would expect that color psychology is a well-developed area. However, there’s little empirical and theoretical work that has been conducted regarding the relationship between color and psychological phenomena. And findings that have been made were mostly driven by practical concerns, rather than scientific precision.  However, even as you’ve read through this, you’ve likely pondered colors you find more appealing than others, and perhaps noticed something in your periphery that evokes a certain emotion.  Talk about a little color psychology in the wild!  

Color is consistently used in an attempt to make people hungry, associate a positive or negative tone, encourage trust, feelings of calmness or energy, and countless other ways.

Your physical surroundings may be influencing your emotions and state of mind.  Do you ever notice that certain places especially irritate you, even if you’ve never been there before? Or that certain places are especially relaxing and calming? Well, there’s a good chance that the colors in those spaces are playing a part.

There are also commonly noted psychological effects of color as it relates to two main categories: warm and cool. Warm colors – such as red, yellow and orange – can spark a variety of emotions ranging from comfort and warmth to hostility and anger. Cool colors – such as green, blue and purple – often spark feelings of calmness as well as sadness.

Much of a color’s effect may be due to meanings assigned to that color within a given culture, which can vary widely from one culture to another. In the US, for example, brides wear white, but in some asian cultures white is associated with death and mourning.  Even within the same culture, colors can have different (sometimes even opposing) meanings based on context. The villain may wear black, but so do judges in the courtroom. Red can be a warning of impending danger, but cards bearing red hearts are exchanged on Valentine’s Day.  With color being weaved so deeply into culture, it is important as professionals to bring conversations and considerations of the impact of unintentional appropriation to the surface.  Impact can outweigh intent, and the consequences can be irreversible.  

Best to have a professional at the table when exploring this component of branding.  At MadCap, we are creative, informed, professional, and pretty darn savvy.  Want to talk more about color?  We’re ready for you!  

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