The Psychology of Colour and How to Use it Effectivly
Before we start talking about how colours make us feel and why it’s important in logo design and branding, we should first explain what colour psychology is.
What is colour psychology?
Colour psychology is the study of the relationship between colours and human behaviour. The goal is to determine how colour affects our day to day decisions like the items we buy. Does the colour of a dress or shirt compel us to purchase it? Does the colour of the packaging make us choose one brand over another? Does the colour of an icon make it more likely that we click it? In short, the answer is yes! However, the why part is a lot more complicated. The meanings behind colours can have an impact on why we prefer certain colours over others. The same colour can have different meanings depending on our upbringing, gender, location, values and a whole host of other factors.
Why is colour psychology important in logo design and branding?
Like the logo and branding themselves, colour evokes strong feelings one way or another. They stir up emotions. And it’s no different when it comes to selecting the colours for your logo and branding.
Choosing the right colour for your logo and branding can mean the difference between your business standing out fro the crowd or blending in. Which would you prefer? By being strategic with your colour choices, you can get your target market to see what you want them to see and have them perceive your business the way you want them to. This is why understanding the psychology of colour can be very useful in your branding efforts.
Below we have listed some commonly used colours and the psychology behind them.
Red Colour Psychology:
Colours like red capture attention. Red is associated with excitement, passion, danger, energy and action. You might notice brands using this colour in their logo to standout when on a cluttered shelf. The psychology behind this is that it is an intense colour and can provoke the strongest of emotions. Red can also trigger danger, so use it sparingly. If it’s to be used as the primary colour in your logo and branding, then use a secondary colour to help balance it out.
Iconic brands like Coca-Cola and YouTube use red as their primary colour. Red can encourage appetite and is why brands like Coca-Cola use it in their branding. Words like happiness are also used in conjunction with red to help build excitement. Brands like YouTube use red to draw you in and entice you into watching videos online.
Orange Colour Psychology:
In colour psychology, the colour orange represents creativity, adventure, enthusiasm, success and balance. The colour orange adds a little bit of fun and zest to any logo. Despite it’s attractive colour, it’s not as commanding a colour as red.
Orange’s colour meaning shines through in logos like Nickelodeon, Home Depot, and Soundcloud. Nickelodeon being a children’s channel and so the logo represents the creativity, and enthusiasm that a children’s show would need through their playful orange colour.
Yellow Colour Psychology:
The colour meaning behind yellow revolves around sunshine. It evokes feelings of happiness, positivity, optimism, and summer. However, it also evokes feelings of deceit, and warning. Some brands choose a cheerful yellow as a secondary colour in their logos. A little hint of yellow can help your clients/customers associate your brand with something positive.
Yellow is used by iconic brands such as Ferrari, Ikea and McDonalds to name a few. Seriously, who doesn’t dream of driving a Ferrari? This luxury brand is associated with the feeling of happiness, summer, and a carefree lifestyle. Wouldn’t you feel happy and carefree if you were driving a Ferrari? We know we would. The Ikea brand uses the colour yellow in their branding as well. Now, you might be wondering what happiness has to do with buying furniture? Let’s look at part of their demographic. A large number of people who just bought their first home or who are moving out for the first time (like a college or university student) will likely head to Ikea to buy their products to furnish their new home, apartment or dorm room. These milestones are usually filled with happiness and optimism making yellow a great colour to associate with the brand.
Pink Colour Psychology:
Pink is the colour of choice for brands that primarily serve a female audience. In colour psychology, the colour meaning revolving around pink leans heavily towards femininity, playfulness, immaturity, and unconditional love. Most toy brands use the colour pink in their product packaging, especially if the toy is for a female audience. In contrast, other brands might use pink in their logo, website or to draw attention to key messages.
Since the colour meaning for pink includes femininity, it’s not surprising that brands like Victoria’s Secret and Mattel’s Barbie use the colour exclusively. Heck, Victoria’s Secret even has a brand named Pink! Their website uses a combination of pink and black to highlight key marketing aspects. Their logo and most marketing messages even use the colour pink as the primary colour. On the Barbie website, every CTA is a bright pink. It can even be found in their top navigation and drop down menus. And let’s not forget their logo and packaging, all of which reinforce the feminine pink in their branding.
Green Colour Psychology:
In colour psychology, Green is heavily rooted in nature and money — see what we did there? Growth, fertility, health, and generosity are just some of the positive colour meanings for green. Like every colour, there are some negative associations for green, like envy for example. If you’re in the business of health and fitness, you might want to add green to your online store. Take for example, your homepage banner image or logo might include green.
The colour green has been made popular by brands such as John Deere and Roots. The entire brand for John Deere revolves around nature. The core of their product line centres on three key pillars — landscaping, agriculture, and lawn care equipment. The colour green is so tightly ingrained in their branding that even their equipment is the same shade of green as their logo. That way, when someone sees their products, even though they might not be aware of their brand, they’ll immediately know that it’s a John Deere product. Roots, a fashion retailer, you’ll often find their models in natural outdoor settings in all of their banner images and marketing materials. Their green logo combined with nature imagery helps them to attract outdoor enthusiasts — as that’s their target market. Even if your products don’t necessarily tie to a specific niche you can use colour to attract a specific demographic.
Blue Colour Psychology:
In colour psychology, the colour blue is closely tied to the sea and sky. Stability, harmony, peace, calm, and trust are just some of the feelings your customers or clients may feel about your brand when you integrate blue into your branding. However, blue can also have some negative colour meanings like depression and can bring a sense of coldness. You can use blue in your logo or in your websites top navigation. Some retailers even use blue in their guarantee, trust certification or free shipping icons to strengthen the trust aspects that the colour blue is known for.
Blue is often used in the marketing of tech brands like Facebook, Twitter, and Skype. However, retailers like Walmart and Oral B use the colour as well. Blue can even be found in the branding for social media marketing companies like YEGTweetup. By using blue, Walmart can position themselves as trustworthy, reliable, and relaxing. In the healthcare niche, Oral B uses blue in their branding to help people associate the brand with a quality, reliable, and safe product. Social media marketing companies like YEGTweetup use blue in their logo and marketing to position themselves as reliable and trustworthy and help people associate the brand with the quality service that they provide.
Purple Colour Psychology:
In colour psychology, purple is a regal colour. The colour meaning behind the colour purple power, nobility, luxury, wisdom, and spirituality. But we caution about using the colour too much as it can cause feelings of frustration in your customers and clients. Some may perceive it as arrogant if overused. Adding hints of purple to your website’s design for example on your free shipping bar, your logo, and as accent colours in your graphics is the best use of the colour purple.
Purple can be seen in branding for companies like Hallmark and Yahoo. When you look at both websites, you’ll notice that purple is used as an accent colour. On the Hallmark website, you’ll notice that the logo and top navigation are purple, however, the rest of the website is a variety of other colours. Moreover, on the Yahoo website, the logo, top navigation, and Yahoo icons like Mail use the colour purple as well.
Brown Colour Psychology:
Like green, brown is an earthy colour. It’s the colour of earth, wood, and stone. Naturally, the colour psychology highlights the comfort, security, and down-to-earth nature of brown’s colour meaning. For marketing, brown is often used for natural products and food. Brown can be found in logos, banner images, and sometimes it can be found in text — this is primarily due to its contrast on a white background.
UPS is a prime example of a brand that takes full advantage of the colour meaning for brown in their branding. You can see on their website that the brown in their logo is emphasized in the navigation and drop-down menus. In combination with the brown, UPS also uses a complimentary neutral yellow and green. Take for example, the yellow could represent the sun and the green could in turn represent nature. When these three colours are put together, they help UPS position their brand as a secure, reliable and down-to-earth company. Which is exactly what you want from a delivery service.
White Colour Psychology:
In colour psychology, white exemplifies innocence, goodness, cleanliness, and humility. Be mindful that this is the meaning in North American culture. In other parts of the world, white has the opposite meaning. You will need to be mindful of this when looking at your target audience. The negative side of white symbolizes sterility and cold. For e-commerce websites, white tends to be the go to colour. It’s commonly used as a background colour for product photos. The majority of websites, including your own will have a white background and black text as this is the best combination for readability.
White is the primary colour used in the marketing for ASOS and Adidas. On the ASOS website, the links in the top navigation, logo and background are all white. When the background is a contrasting colour like grey or black, the text is white and when the background is white, the text changes to black. You’ll even find this on our own website. On tithe Adidas website, the top navigation is black and the text is white. The use of a white logo helps to add contrast. Considering that their background is white, they’ve chosen to use a grey background for all of their product photos to add another tone to the mix. The majority of websites that use white as the primary colour will tend to pair it with either black or grey.
Black Colour Psychology:
Black is by far a popular colour in the retail industry. In colour psychology, the colour meaning for black is symbolic of mystery, power, elegance, and sophistication. Hmm… maybe that’s why our logo is black? In contrast, the colour meaning can in some instances evoke emotions of sadness and anger. A large number of fashion retailers have used black in their logos. It’s also a popular colour for text as it’s easy to read when on a contrasting white background. Some brands elect to use black and white photos for lifestyle banner images or for the icons on their website to help create a certain tone or consistency on their website.
For retailers like Nike and Chanel, black is the primary colour. For Chanel, black is used in their logo and in several black and white images on their website to maintain a consistent look. When browsing their website, a thick black navigation bar appears. They use a back font on their images and for their text. Notably, their CTA’s are also black. Numerous retailers in the fashion industry in particular use black CTA’s that contrast well against a white background. Nike uses black, white and hints of grey for their colour scheme. Black is seen consistently throughout their website in both their logo and in their text. Consequently making their website easy to read for their customers and clients. Chanel uses black in their CTA’s that draws visual emphasis to their add item to your ‘bag’.
Grey Colour Psychology:
Grey represents neutrality and balance in colour psychology. This more than likely comes from being the shade in-between black and white. Now, with that being said, grey does have some negative connotations, particularly regarding depression and loss. It’s absence of colour can make it a tad dull. However, that don’t mean that it’s not a useful colour. It can be used for fonts, headers graphics and products to appeal to a mass audience. We used two shades of grey in the Shack à Patate logo and one for their menu — both online and in store.
Apple is a great example of a brand that uses grey in their branding. Many of their laptops are either a grey or silver tone as its neutral tone doesn’t elicit strong emotions in either direction. They use grey in their top navigation to contrast against their white logo. However, you’ll notice a balance between black, white, and grey throughout their branding which helps to maintain a clean look and feel.
Common Misconceptions Around Colour Psychology
Although there has been a lot of study and analyzing when it come to the psychology of colour, there’s still much to be debated when it comes to the overall impact that colour has on the human psychology.
But one question still remains: Why are there so many misconceptions regarding the psychology of colour and its meaning.
One pottential reason could be that there are a lot of variables around the psychology of colour. For example, people perceive colours differently. One colour could mean a multitude of things to two different people. How one perceives colour depends a lot on personal preference, past experiences, cultural and gender differences, and so on.
- Red - exciting
- Orange - friendly
- Yellow - optimistic
- Green - peaceful
- Blue - dependable
- Purple - creative
- Grey - calm
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