Color plays a vitally
important role in the world in which we live. Color can sway thinking, change
actions, and cause reactions. It can irritate or soothe your eyes, raise your
blood pressure or suppress your appetite. When used in the right ways, color
can even save on energy consumption.
As a powerful form of
communication, color is irreplaceable. Red means “stop” and green
means “go.” Traffic lights send this universal message. Likewise, the
colors used for a product, web site, business card, or logo cause powerful
reactions. Color Matters!
Our world is awash
with color. In a single day, we see thousands of different hues that our brains
interpret as robin’s egg blue, fuchsia, or olive drab, to name a few. Nature
employs color with unparalleled artistry, making sunsets more breathtaking,
flowers more exquisite, and wildlife more captivating. Though few compare with
Mother Nature, designers also use color in a meaningful, emotive way. Whether
it’s an interior designer choosing a color palette for a new restaurant, a
graphic designer crafting a brand for a new company, or a product designer
finding the most desirable color for his new product, a tremendous amount of
care and thought goes into the selection of every color.
Colors balance our chi,
triggers emotions and memories, connect us to nature, inspire us, and can even
seem to slow down time.
When you look at a sunrise or sunset especially over beautiful blue water it
can make your heart sing or bring you to tears. The colors orange, red, blue
and purple both separately and in natures unique majestic sequence twice a day
inspires joy. Walking in the moonlight is another color experience where the
world seems to slow down.
Walk through a lush green forest forest and
feel the effect of the color green. As
you breathe its essence it fills your soul, increases your connection with
love, truth ,hope, new life and the opening to wonder. Green is relaxing and
balancing. Notice that hospital use shade of green for walls and scrubs to calm
and center patients and staff.
Blue calms stress.
It brings the feeling of peace and connection. Look at all the blue pills
marketed these days for sleep and anxiety. It is also a color used for self
expression and associated with the throat chakra and speaking your truth.
Emotion and Meaning of Colors
Picture your favorite color.
Is it a calming green? A vibrant yellow? Classic black? How does seeing that
color make you feel? We don’t always realize it, but color is closely tied to
human emotion. Even our language reflects this. We are “tickled pink”, “seeing
red”, or “feeling blue.”
To Americans, the colors
below typically represent the following emotions or characteristics:
Colors can also have a
positive or negative association within a specific industry.
Because being “in the red” is a
negative financial term, most banks avoid using the color red in their
brand and marketing materials.
Young children prefer bright
colors, so toy manufacturers steer clear of grays and subdued shades in
their packaging to make the items more appealing to children browsing the
Studies have shown that the
color yellow can increase the severity of nausea; therefore airlines avoid
using the color on the interior of commercial airliners.
Drug company studies have shown
that the color of a pill affects a patient’s feelings about taking the
drug. For example, patients with acid reflux are more reluctant to take
medication that is bright green, a color most people associate with
acidity and sourness, preferring a soothing pink pill.
First, you see it on fashion
models in New York City, Paris, and Milan. The alluring purple of a fresh
orchid. Soon, you notice it popping up everywhere – on linens and dishes at
Target, as a popular new paint at Sherwin Williams, as a background color on TV
How does this happen? Color
trends. Who makes it happen? Color trendsetters.
One of the most prominent
color trendsetters in the world is a company called Pantone. Pantone was
founded in 1963 to create “an innovative system for identifying, matching, and
communicating colors to solve the problems associated with producing accurate
color matches in the graphic arts community.”2 Since then,
Pantone has expanded its color matching system into every other color-intensive
industry including fashion, interior design, architecture, product design, and
more. Pantone’s profound expertise and research, coupled with their influence
in a variety of industries, makes the company a world authority on color.
Pantone’s Color Institute® was
formed to “study how color influences human thought processes, emotions and
physical reactions, furthering its commitment to providing professionals with a
greater understanding of color and help them utilize color more effectively.”3 Twice
a year – in May and November – the Pantone Color Institute holds a closed-door
meeting in Europe. The meeting attendees are a hand-selected group of
individuals from a variety of industries.4 Their names are
never revealed to the public. The walls of the meeting room are pure white to
prevent any interference with the colors being viewed by the committee. By the
end of the meeting, the committee has chosen the “Color of the Year”, a
distinctive hue christened by the committee with a memorable name such as
Tigerlily or Radiant Orchid. It doesn’t take long for designers to pick up the
“Color of the Year” and start weaving it into their work, first in the fashion
industry and then trickling down to everyone else.
Psychological Properties Of Colours
There are four psychological
primary colours – red, blue, yellow and green. They relate respectively to the
body, the mind, the emotions and the essential balance between these three. The
psychological properties of the eleven basic colours are as follows:
courage, strength, warmth, energy, basic survival, ‘fight or flight’,
stimulation, masculinity, excitement.
Defiance, aggression, visual impact, strain.
Being the longest
wavelength, red is a powerful colour. Although not technically the most
visible, it has the property of appearing to be nearer than it is and therefore
it grabs our attention first. Hence its effectiveness in traffic lights the
world over. Its effect is physical; it stimulates us and raises the pulse rate,
giving the impression that time is passing faster than it is. It relates to the
masculine principle and can activate the “fight or flight” instinct.
Red is strong, and very basic. Pure red is the simplest colour, with no
subtlety. It is stimulating and lively, very friendly. At the same time, it can
be perceived as demanding and aggressive.
Intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, serenity, duty, logic,
coolness, reflection, calm.
Coldness, aloofness, lack of emotion, unfriendliness.
Blue is the colour of
the mind and is essentially soothing; it affects us mentally, rather than the
physical reaction we have to red. Strong blues will stimulate clear thought and
lighter, soft blues will calm the mind and aid concentration. Consequently it
is serene and mentally calming. It is the colour of clear communication. Blue
objects do not appear to be as close to us as red ones. Time and again in
research, blue is the world’s favourite colour. However, it can be perceived as
cold, unemotional and unfriendly.
Optimism, confidence, self-esteem, extraversion, emotional strength,
Irrationality, fear, emotional fragility, depression, anxiety, suicide.
The yellow wavelength
is relatively long and essentially stimulating. In this case the stimulus is
emotional, therefore yellow is the strongest colour, psychologically. The right
yellow will lift our spirits and our self-esteem; it is the colour of
confidence and optimism. Too much of it, or the wrong tone in relation to the
other tones in a colour scheme, can cause self-esteem to plummet, giving rise
to fear and anxiety. Our “yellow streak” can surface.
balance, refreshment, universal love, rest, restoration, reassurance,
environmental awareness, equilibrium, peace.
stagnation, blandness, enervation.
Green strikes the eye
in such a way as to require no adjustment whatever and is, therefore, restful.
Being in the centre of the spectrum, it is the colour of balance – a more
important concept than many people realise. When the world about us contains
plenty of green, this indicates the presence of water, and little danger of
famine, so we are reassured by green, on a primitive level. Negatively, it can
indicate stagnation and, incorrectly used, will be perceived as being too
Spiritual awareness, containment, vision, luxury, authenticity, truth, quality.
Introversion, decadence, suppression, inferiority.
The shortest wavelength
is violet, often described as purple. It takes awareness to a higher level of
thought, even into the realms of spiritual values. It is highly introvertive
and encourages deep contemplation, or meditation. It has associations with
royalty and usually communicates the finest possible quality. Being the last
visible wavelength before the ultra-violet ray, it has associations with time
and space and the cosmos. Excessive use of purple can bring about too much
introspection and the wrong tone of it communicates something cheap and nasty,
faster than any other colour.
comfort, food, warmth, security, sensuality, passion, abundance, fun.
Deprivation, frustration, frivolity, immaturity.
Since it is a combination
of red and yellow, orange is stimulating and reaction to it is a combination of
the physical and the emotional. It focuses our minds on issues of physical
comfort – food, warmth, shelter etc. – and sensuality. It is a ‘fun’ colour.
Negatively, it might focus on the exact opposite – deprivation. This is
particularly likely when warm orange is used with black. Equally, too much
orange suggests frivolity and a lack of serious intellectual values.
tranquillity, nurture, warmth, femininity, love, sexuality, survival of the
Inhibition, emotional claustrophobia, emasculation, physical weakness.
Being a tint of red,
pink also affects us physically, but it soothes, rather than stimulates.
(Interestingly, red is the only colour that has an entirely separate name for
its tints. Tints of blue, green, yellow, etc. are simply called light blue,
light greenetc.) Pink is a powerful colour, psychologically. It represents the
feminine principle, and survival of the species; it is nurturing and physically
soothing. Too much pink is physically draining and can be somewhat
Negative: Lack of
confidence, dampness, depression, hibernation, lack of energy.
Pure grey is the only
colour that has no direct psychological properties. It is, however, quite
suppressive. A virtual absence of colour is depressing and when the world turns
grey we are instinctively conditioned to draw in and prepare for hibernation.
Unless the precise tone is right, grey has a dampening effect on other colours
used with it. Heavy use of grey usually indicates a lack of confidence and fear
Sophistication, glamour, security, emotional safety, efficiency, substance.
Oppression, coldness, menace, heaviness.
Black is all colours, totally
absorbed. The psychological implications of that are considerable. It creates
protective barriers, as it absorbs all the energy coming towards you, and it
enshrouds the personality. Black is essentially an absence of light, since no
wavelengths are reflected and it can, therefore be menacing; many people are
afraid of the dark. Positively, it communicates absolute clarity, with no fine
nuances. It communicates sophistication and uncompromising excellence and it
works particularly well with white. Black creates a perception of weight and
sterility, clarity, purity, cleanness, simplicity, sophistication, efficiency.
Sterility, coldness, barriers, unfriendliness, elitism.
Just as black is total
absorption, so white is total reflection. In effect, it reflects the full force
of the spectrum into our eyes. Thus it also creates barriers, but differently
from black, and it is often a strain to look at. It communicates, “Touch
me not!” White is purity and, like black, uncompromising; it is clean,
hygienic, and sterile. The concept of sterility can also be negative. Visually,
white gives a heightened perception of space. The negative effect of white on
warm colours is to make them look and feel garish.
Seriousness, warmth, Nature, earthiness, reliability, support.
Negative: Lack of
humour, heaviness, lack of sophistication.
Brown usually consists of red
and yellow, with a large percentage of black. Consequently, it has much of the
same seriousness as black, but is warmer and softer. It has elements of the red
and yellow properties. Brown has associations with the earth and the natural
world. It is a solid, reliable colour and most people find it quietly
supportive – more positively than the ever-popular black, which is suppressive,
rather than supportive.