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Color Psychology: How To Use Colors In Marketing And Branding

Color is the beautiful phenomenon that occurs when the human eye views light reflecting off an object. The ability to see in color is something that most people take for granted, so some may not realize the powerful effects different colors can have on people. In fact, most designers and artists have long thought that colors can change moods and evoke human emotion. It’s become a cornerstone for marketing, as many big brands realize just how important it is. So today, we will discuss everything you need to know about color psychology.

What is Color Psychology?

Color psychology is the study of hues and how they affect human behavior. The ultimate goal is to gain an understanding of the psychological effects of color and how it impacts daily decisions, such as what items we buy.

Does the color of clothing compel you to purchase it? Do colors used on the packaging make you choose a certain brand over others? Does an icon’s color make a person more likely to click on it? Simply put, the answer is yes! However, the more complicated part is why this occurs.

Researchers have found that color meanings impact why people prefer certain colors, and the same color can have different meanings for different people.

Colors and Emotions: How Colors Impact Emotions

Colors are closely linked to emotions. It’s been proven that cool colors evoke different feelings than warm colors, and muted colors make people feel different than bright colors. However, this depends on how the psychological effects of color are used. Some colors will make you feel sad or hungry, while others make you happy and relaxed. These are natural reactions rooted in cultural imprinting, biological conditioning, and the psychological effect. This is why they’re not only important for business, but colors are also very important in your home.

Let’s take a look at some specific psychological effects of color association and how they affect an average person.

Cool colors

Purple, blue, and green are considered cool colors. These hues are known to promote feelings of calmness and relaxation but can also be used to show sadness. Purple is a mix of red (intense) and blue (calm), so this is a great color to use to increase creativity. Cool colors are perfect for when a company wants to display security, health, or beauty.

Warm colors

Yellow, orange, and red are warm colors, and they usually evoke feelings of energy, optimism, and happiness. These colors help grab attention, as they are commonly used to signal danger or make a person take action. Red is also known to make a person hungry.

Sad colors

Sad colors are generally those that are muted and dark. The most quintessential of all sad colors is gray, but other muted hues of green, blue, or even neutrals such as beige and brown can signal sad emotions if they’re used the right way. In the Western World, the most common color used for mourning is black, but East Asian countries use white.

Happy colors

Happy colors are those that are warm and bright such as pink, yellow, red, and orange, but can also be pastel shades such as peach, baby pink, and lilac. It’s been found that the lighter and brighter a color is, the more optimistic and happy a person feels.

Energizing colors

Energizing colors are those that are bright, strong, or neon. Colors such as neon green, bright red, and electric yellow can make a person feel more alert and energized while at the same time irritating your eyes after exposure for too long. These colors are most likely to grab a person’s attention and really stand out in the background. Strong, highly pigmented colors such as magenta, royal blue, emerald green, and turquoise can also invoke stimulating feelings that leave you energized and feeling refreshed.

Calming colors

Cool colors such as green and blue are the best color combination for invoking feelings of calm. However, so are pastel shades that are cool tones such as lilac, mint, and baby blue. Other more neutral and softer colors such as grey, beige, and white can also make you feel calm. Designs that are simple with fewer colors used are very good for creating feelings of peace and calmness.

How colors impact emotions
How colors impact emotions, happy friends celebrating holi festival.

Color Emotion Associated With Specific Colors

Now that we’ve discussed the different color groups, let’s look at some individual colors and see how they affect a person psychologically.

White

White signifies simplicity and minimalism, so using a lot of the color white for design reasons creates a simple, clean, and fresh look. Many cultures use white to refer to innocence, purity, and virginity (hence, wedding dresses), but it’s also the ultimate neutral color.

Black

Black is a color that gives off a classic, sophisticated, serious vibe.

The color black is used to evoke feelings of elegance, power, and luxury, but it can also signify neutrality, professionalism, and simplicity. Black is the color that represents mystery and is powerful and bold. In some cultures and contexts, black represents feelings of sadness or mourning.

Gray

Gray is a serious color that can also represent professionalism. This hue is responsible and mature but conveys positive connotations that can include dependability and formality. However, this color can also be used with negative connotations meaning something is too conventional, conservative, or it lacks emotion. The color gray is subdued and reserved yet safe.

Brown

The color brown is associated with feeling humble or down to earth. Brown can also create a sense of support and stability because it’s practical, warm, dependable, and friendly. It can also be used to represent feelings of being well established or old-fashioned.

Purple

In color psychology, purple is synonymous with creativity and can also represent wealth, mystery, and royalty. The lighter shades are known to provoke feelings of calm and are known for being soothing. A good example of this is the beauty industry, as the use design looks that utilize lighter purple shades to represent wealth and luxuriousness.

Pink

Pink is a color used to invoke feelings of romance and playfulness. The color pink represents romance, femininity, tenderness, and sensitivity because it’s an inherently charming, sweet color.

Red

The color red is powerful and leaves a person feeling energized and passionate. It’s the most dynamic and warmest of all the colors, and red is often associated with love, passion, danger, and anger. Seeing the color red can cause a person’s heart rate to increase as they become excited. So, anyone wanting to draw attention to specific design elements should use the color red, but keep it as an accent, as it can be overpowering.

Orange

The color orange invokes feelings of enthusiasm and energy. This color is known for enhancing people’s moods and leaving them with vitality and happiness. Similar to the color red, orange draws attention and can signify movement but is not as overpowering as red. While orange is still an aggressive color, it remains balanced and portrays energy while remaining friendly and inviting. Orange is the perfect color for those designing a call-to-action button for subscribing or buying a product.

Yellow

Yellow is well-known for making a person feel spontaneous and happy. The color yellow is easily the most vigorous of the warm shades. It’s usually associated with sunshine, hope, and laughter, and using accents of it can help your company leave the consumer with feelings of cheer and optimism. On the downside, yellow reflects more light and can irritate a person’s eyes with constant exposure, so too much can be overpowering.

Blue

Blue is used to promote relaxation and safety feelings and can also work to make someone feel spiritual, calm, secure, and trusting. Since the body creates calming chemicals when the color blue is viewed, it’s no surprise that it’s the most common “favorite color” among people.

Companies going for a professional vibe should lean more toward dark blue, just don’t overdo it because it could come off as disengaging and cold. Alternatively, lighter hues of blue are great for providing a feel that’s friendly and more relaxing; this is why it’s common among social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Green

The color green makes people feel refreshed and optimistic. This is the perfect color for symbolizing wealth, new beginnings, and good health. Not only is green the easiest on the eyes, but it can help create balance within your designs. When a company wants to signify security, growth, or possibility, then green is a great choice.

The Psychology of Color (Infographic)
The Psychology of Color (Infographic), courtesy of  paintersoflouisville.com

Psychological Effects of Color on Human Behavior

So, does color affect human behavior? Yes, significantly. In fact, something as small as changing the color of buttons can increase the desired behavior by nearly double, sometimes even triple-digit percentages. Overlooking this component can be devastating and is easily avoidable with a little research. Since color psychology is important for branding and design, it’s something every business owner should understand.

Why does color affect human emotions?

This is something that experts do not completely understand, but there are believed to be a number of factors that can influence why a person feels certain emotions when looking at different colors. One such factor is personal association. Say a child’s favorite blanket is green; he or she may keep a fondness for the color throughout their life. Or, on the other hand, if a woman was hit by a red car as a child, she may grow up with a negative emotional reaction to seeing the color red.

Yet, thanks to human experiences that are universal, it is possible to predict how most people respond to certain colors. For example, most people associate blue with calmness and green with growth and nature.

Another important factor is culture. For example, purple is often associated with royalty and luxury because the dye was expensive and very rare in some ancient cultures. Hence, only royalty could obtain it. While this may not be a natural association, if it’s part of a culture for long enough, it will eventually become embedded into the human psyche.

Does color affect performance?

Yes! Color doesn’t only affect emotions and mood; it also has an impact on performance. A study published by the Journal of Experimental Psychology explained how the color red had a negative impact on performance tests. Each participant was given a different colored participant number printed on their test; some numbers were green or black, and others were red. The data showed that the participants given red numbers performed on average up to 20% worse than participants with other color numbers.

Still, this doesn’t prove that red always hinders performance because it’s been shown that sports teams wearing red uniforms have an obvious advantage. Experts realized this during the 2004 Olympics when athletes were given a random red or blue uniform or protective gear. The athletes wearing red won 19 of 29 weight classes, and other studies conducted among soccer players found the same to be true.

Most agree this is probably because red has a historical connotation with anger and aggression. Either the red uniforms intimidate the opponents, or they make the team wearing them more aggressive.

Why Color Psychology is Important in Marketing and Branding

Color is an emotional cue that’s important in visual marketing. To help your marketing stand out among the crowd, it’s important to choose the right colors. This is ultimately how you will get your audience to see what you’re showing them and do as you plan. The shades of color chosen affect the content’s readability and usability. This is the number one reason business owners and managers should understand color psychology or hire someone who does to help.

Understanding this concept can help avoid choosing the wrong color and giving the wrong kind of vibes. This is a crucial part of protecting a brand. If the colors are wrong, regardless of how great the content is, it will be ignored. Hues are so important that even NASA offers free courses that teach would-be designers how to choose the perfect shades.

The bottom line is that people are affected by color, and it can affect conversions. The wrong color choice can cause the audience to ignore the call-to-action button or ignore your pop-up. The Institute for Color Research found that people create an opinion about content in less than 90-seconds. Furthermore, nearly 90% of said opinions are influenced by the colors shown. The big companies understand that color helps with brand recognition by about 80%, so it’s important to choose a color and keep it.

How Your Online Brand can Benefit From Color Psychology

Colors can be used to convey your brand’s most important values. So, just because your favorite color is orange, it doesn’t mean this is the color you should choose for your logo unless you’re trying to youthfulness, adventure, energy, etc. Viewing a company’s website or packaging tells the consumer everything they need to know about a company, such as what they sell and what they’re about.

Here are a few of the main ways colors can impact a customer’s perception:

  • Brand perception. It’s a fact that customers make a judgment on a product in less than 90-seconds. Furthermore, between 60% and 90% of these judgments are only based on the colors.
  • Brand recognition. The right color choices can increase brand recognition up to 80%.
  • Conversions. Roughly 90% of consumers base their purchase decisions on brand colors.

What Your Brand Colors Say About Your Business

The most prominent brands in the world are defined by their colors. Think of McDonald’s golden arches, the name Jet Blue, and UPS’s slogan, “What can Brown do for you?”

These companies, and many others, strategically use colors in their logo, website, and product to appeal to customers. As a B2B marketer, it’s important to think about how you utilize colors and what the colors you choose, say about your business.

A good real-world example is Fanta which was created in 1940. It’s among the oldest brands of soda and remains one of the most recognized brands. Throughout the years, the logo changed several times, but the one thing that never changed was the blue letters that overlay an orange background. Why did Fanta stick with orange? Because, as we mentioned earlier, the color represents youth and energy, and it’s a friendly and playful color. The exact logo using different colors wouldn’t give the same feeling as it does with the orange.

What Your Brand Colors Say About Your Business (Infographic)
What Brand Colors Say About Your Business (Infographic), courtesy of Marketo.com

Color Psychology in Design

Color psychology is essential in design. As we’ve discussed, different colors represent different feelings and values. So, it’s important to consider that color is the basis of branding but not with the emotions of the user. Still, it’s clear that using different colors trigger different feelings, and this information helps gain the upper hand with direct competition.

Here are a few misconceptions of which everyone should be aware:

  • Colors are organized naturally on the Color Wheel.
  • Some colors are beautiful, and some colors are ugly.
  • All humans see color the same.
  • Color preferences are only personal.

Designers should also understand that there’s no secret or universal color that’s thought to be the best color to use for design. Rather, the focus should remain on who the design is for and try to get feedback and ideas from these people during the design process’s early stages. Doing so will ensure a design that’s supportive and offers the best user experience.

Color Psychology in Infographic Design

If you’ve ever tried to design an infographic, then you know they’re not as easy as they seem and can be quite time-consuming. Some people decide to utilize free infographic tools and give it a try, while others hire infographic design agencies to help. Either way is acceptable, but if you plan to do it yourself, then there are some things you should know regarding color psychology in infographic design.

Create a plan and stick with it!

Save yourself future headaches and time by creating a simple list, plan, or other visualizations you’ll use in the infographic:

  1. Look at your content and find areas where it can be better explained by using data visualization tools.
  2. Now, decide what types of graphs or charts would work best.
  3. Decide how many pieces of data will be shown in each chart.
  4. You will need a certain number of colors, so choose a color scheme that makes sense.
  5. Visualize your data!

Avoid bland colors

Avoid bland colors such as black and grey only. Let’s be honest; they’re not even colors per se; they’re shades. Adding a splash of color in the right places will help your data stick out and ensure the information won’t be overlooked.

Use brand colors

While this seems like a simple concept, it’s probably the most overlooked, particularly by beginners. Additionally, it makes choosing colors easier because you’ll be looking for hues that complement your brand colors.

Don’t let the colors overpower your data.

Remember, the data is the most important detail included in the infographic. So, using too many colors can be distracting, thus causing your audience to miss out on the point of the infographic.

Use tones, tints, and shades

This is a trick that some designers overlook but can be very useful and effective for conveying data. For example, if you have a shade of red that you like for a pie chart or bubble graph, consider using different shades or tones of the color to represent each piece of information rather than using different colors for each section.

Keep the colors consistent.

When it comes to creating a visualization, it’s best to remain consistent rather than trying to make sure each design is unique. This is especially true if you have a piece of content that will contain several visualizations.

Use the color wheel

When creating a color scheme, the color wheel is your friend and the easiest way to choose colors that complement each other. There are three types of matching techniques used in color psychology for design, and they are:

  • Complementary. This is when the color with the highest contrast is chosen.
  • Monochromatic. This technique uses tints, tones, and shades of the same color.
  • Analogous. This is when you choose colors based on what it’s next to on the color wheel.
Designer working at her desk holding color wheel
Designer working at her desk holding color wheel

Our Favorite Color Picker and Color Palette Collection

In honor of our love of infographic design tools, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite color pickers and color schemes that we recommend for your next design.

Color picker

First, let’s take a look at the best color picker tools. These are great color tools that are free to use for information about any color or for help matching colors for designs. These tools can help choose analogous, tetradic, complementary, monochromatic, or triadic color schemes. All you have to do is type any color value in the site’s search field, and you will be provided with everything you need to know about any hue.

Color palette

When it comes to choosing what colors to use in infographics, nothing makes it easier to get colors from your photos than using a color palette. Suppose you’re looking for a color scheme that matches your favorite images perfectly or trying to create color combinations within seconds. In that case, the following color palette tools are perfect for you. Let’s take a look at our top infographic color palette recommendations:

In conclusion, color psychology is very important for designs of all types, such as interior design, logo design, marketing designs, infographic design and more. Understanding this vital concept will help you create designs that increase conversions and ensure that your audience gets the right feels.

Sebastiaan Laan

Sebastiaan is the founder of Infographics Archive. He is the man behind everything. He has dedicated to building a website solely focused on collecting the best infographics on the internet. Career-wise, Sebastiaan has also been an online marketing consultant for over 20 years. He is a proud husband, father, and family man.

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